Will Sixers, Hinkie be rewarded tonight for this past season's woes?

Posted: May 21, 2014

OK, SO TONIGHT, we will find out whether NBA karma has smiled on or frowned on Sixers president/general manager Sam Hinkie, who did everything legal under the NBA bylaws to throw away the 2013-14 season and position the franchise for the 2014 draft.

Tonight in New York, the pingpong balls bounce in the NBA draft lottery and the Sixers will find out their position for the draft.

The potential outcomes are numerous.

The ideal would be for the Sixers to jump one spot over the Milwaukee Bucks to gain the No. 1 overall pick and then have nothing happen that would push the New Orleans Pelicans out of their currently slotted 10th pick, so that it transfers to Philadelphia as a result of the 2013 draft-night trade that sent All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday to the Crescent City.

For a team that basically needs anything and everything to continue on its massive rebuilding journey, being able to select the exact prospect it wants and then follow up with another top-10 selection in what is supposed to be a deep draft would be all it could ask for.

The worst scenario would be if New Orleans, whose pick is top-five protected, becomes one of three teams to move past the Sixers via the lottery.

That would leave Hinkie with only the fifth overall pick. That should still yield a solid, young building block but would fall way short of the anticipated reward for tanking his way to a pathetic 19-63 record.

That would be a devastating psychological blow to a Sixers fan base that has justified losing on purpose as a necessary evil to pull the franchise out of its decade of mediocrity it and set it on course for championship possibilities down the road.

The truth of the matter is that however the lottery ends up, Hinkie did the right thing by initiating his rebuilding plan.

I will repeat what I have said over and over: While I don't think Hinkie needed to go Mount Vesuvius with his scorched-earth burning of all competitive decency by placing a D-League quality product on the court, his concept of resetting the Sixers from scratch is the correct policy for this moment in the franchise's history.

The devastating fallout of the Andrew Bynum fiasco demanded a fresh approach from Hinkie when he was hired from the Houston Rockets.

I'm not ready to blindly coronate Hinkie as the can't-miss analytics wonder that some, including Sixers owner Josh Harris, have, but I will be interested to see how he navigates the next move in his game plan and, for the sake of this long-suffering fan base, I'd like to see Hinkie fully armed coming out of the lottery.

I want to see what he can do.

For all the credit Hinkie got for working as an assistant general manager for the Rockets, he was not in charge.

And even if he had been, what exactly did the Rockets do that leads one to automatically assume Hinkie knew what he was doing?

When Hinkie joined Houston as a special assistant in 2005, they were a 51-win team that was coming off a first-round playoff loss to Dallas.

During Hinkie's run in Houston, which included promotions to vice president and then executive vice president, the Rockets had three 50-win seasons but won only a single playoff series.

If Hinkie gets praise for helping usher in the trade that brought in All-Star James Harden and freed cap space for Houston to sign All-Star center Dwight Howard after he left to run the Sixers, Hinkie must also be held responsible for his part in such bad moves as the albatross contracts given to forward Trevor Ariza ($33 million in 2009), point guard Jeremy Lin ($25 million in 2012) and reserve center Omer Asik ($25.1 million in 2012).

Hinkie's analytics with the Rockets helped bring in first-round draft picks Rudy Gay (eighth overall in 2006), Aaron Brooks (26th in '07), Nicolas Batum (25th in '08), Patrick Patterson (14th in '10), Marcus Morris (14th in '11) and Nikola Mirotic (23rd in '11). In Hinkie's last draft with the Rockets in 2012, Houston used three first-round picks to take Jeremy Lamb (12th), Royce White (16th) and Terrence Jones (18th).

Jones is the only first-round pick from Hinkie's tenure who was on the Rockets' roster this past season.

And, by the way, with Harden, Lin, Asik and Howard, Houston won 54 games this season, but was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by Portland.

Bottom line, Hinkie's run with the Rockets was about as successful as the Sixers' during the same period.

That isn't to say that Hinkie won't have success running the Sixers.

His first major moves, trading Holiday for rookie center Nerlens Noel and the Pelicans' first-round pick and then selecting rookie of the year Michael Carter-Williams with the 11th overall pick have to be credited as winning ones.

But recreating the Sixers is far from a one-step process. It is way too early to label Hinkie as a success or a failure.

We know Hinkie can tear things down. Tonight, we find out what kind of bounty he reaped to continue building it up.

Email: smallwj@phillynews.com

Columns: ph.ly/Smallwood

Blog: ph.ly/DNL

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