Inside the Sixers: Expect lots of turnover if Sixers follow the Rockets model

James Harden (13) drives past Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant (left) and guard Thabo Sefolosha during the first quarter of Game 5 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series in Oklahoma City, Wednesday, May 1, 2013. (Sue Ogrocki/AP)
James Harden (13) drives past Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant (left) and guard Thabo Sefolosha during the first quarter of Game 5 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series in Oklahoma City, Wednesday, May 1, 2013. (Sue Ogrocki/AP)
Posted: May 21, 2013

Sam Hinkie's tenure in Houston was never about Sam Hinkie, he'll tell you. It was really about the system. Now that Hinkie has become the new general manager and president of basketball operations for the 76ers, the question is: Can he bring that system to Philadelphia?

Will Hinkie use the same methods he employed as executive vice president of basketball operations for the Rockets? Or will he do things his way, emphasizing some stuff the Rockets did and ignoring others?

"I think we just need to be opportunistic about the things that come along," Hinkie said. "There, we had a particular focus, at the time, on trying to get a star player. So we made moves that were consistent with that.

"I think here there's a lot to be determined before we decide exactly how we will attack it. But I think whatever we decide, I would hope - if not every move - almost every move is consistent with that."

The Rockets thrived under the statistical analysis approach Hinkie is bringing to the Sixers. More than just a front-office influence on player evaluation, Houston used this method in the offensive game plan. The result was a Rockets team that played at the league's fastest pace, leading the NBA in three-point attempts and having the sixth-most efficient offense.

Just as important was the added salary-cap space last summer after retired center Yao Ming came off the books. Having three first-round draft picks in 2012 also aided Houston's ability to pull off deals.

"They're building something great in Houston," Oklahoma City forward Kevin Durant said after the Thunder defeated the Rockets in six games in a first-round playoff series. The youthful Rockets, who have only two holdovers from the 2011-12 squad, made their first playoff appearance in four seasons.

The biggest acquisition was all-star guard James Harden, via a trade with Oklahoma City on Oct. 27. The Thunder received guards Kevin Martin and Jeremy Lamb, the 12th pick in the 2012 draft, and two first-round picks and a second-rounder.

The Rockets also brought center Cole Aldrich and forwards Daequan Cook and Lazar Hayward to Houston. They later traded Aldrich to Sacramento and waived Cook and Hayward.

While Harden was the key to the franchise's resurgence, Houston also benefited from offseason acquisitions and the maturing of younger players.

Two free-agent pickups, center Omer Asik and forward Carlos Delfino, had career seasons. Undrafted rookie guard Patrick Beverley and forward Chandler Parsons, the Rockets' second-round pick in 2011, contributed more to the team than might have been expected from their draft positions. The Rockets also added a high-profile free agent in Jeremy Lin.

Hinkie, who would love to bring a player of Harden's stature to Philadelphia, has decisions to make.

The Sixers' unrestricted free agents on July 1 will be Andrew Bynum - who has never played for the team - along with Damien Wilkins, Nick Young, Dorell Wright, Royal Ivey and Kwame Brown. Brown, who has a player option, probably will decide to return next season. Charles Jenkins will be a restricted free agent.

Hinkie is likely to copy in some ways what he and Rockets general manager Daryl Morey did in Houston. So don't be surprised if he parts ways with some of the Sixers' most popular players this summer and/or next summer to free up cap space. As he sees it, it's all about making the right long-term investments.

"His valuable insight regarding players and the NBA, whether building around Yao Ming or taking the multiple strategic steps necessary to acquire James Harden, has provided the Rockets with an unmatched advantage over the years," Morey told the Associated Press. "Philadelphia will realize over time what an important acquisition they have made."


Contact Keith Pompey at kpompey@phillynews.com Follow on Twitter @pompeysgridlocks.

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