I have never seen any other NBA front office executive like Hinkie. While some criticized his methods and others mocked them, I just wanted to see what happened because of them. We have never seen a GM pull off so many draft pick trades in such a short period of time and then do it again the next year and the next. We’ll never know if he could have guided Philadelphia to a championship, but that won’t stop me from evaluating him. I updated Jason Kubatko’s NBA draft value chart a month ago, and I will be using that to see just how well I think Hinkie did in those trades.
I believe that the ultimate measure of whether or not a GM did his job well is the answer to the question, “would you rather take over his team before or after he got there.” If that is the measure of a good GM, then Sam Hinkie certainly did well in that regard. I am just going to go through his trades involving draft picks to see how many of them he won and by how much he won. Salary complicates things a little bit, but we’ll do our best. Since second-round picks are not guaranteed contracts and have negative value, I will not be discussing trades involving only second round draft picks. I also will only be taking into account the value of the draft slot. Joel Embiid didn’t play for Hinkie, but that doesn’t matter because I will be treating him as though he has the same value as every number three overall pick. Let’s get to it:
76ers get: 6th pick in 2013 (Nerlens Noel) and the 10th pick in 2014 (Elfrid Payton)
Pelicans get: Jrue Holiday and Pierre Jackson
This was Sam Hinkie’s first major trade and it was a huge one. This was our first taste of the new 76ers and it looked to be a steal for the Sixers at the time.
The pick involving Payton was later traded, but let’s take this one trade at a time. Front offices tend to value picks years later less than ones that can be used sooner because, well, they want to keep their jobs now. If they trade away future picks, then the effects of those trades won’t be felt until a few years later, when they hopefully will have more job security. A smart general manager will not care when he gets his picks (unless it is for strategic reasons like Danny Ainge taking every pick the Nets own after the team fell apart).
Therefore, we will treat the 10th pick the same as any other draft pick, even though it was conveyed a year later. The 6th pick is worth 9.0 Win Shares above replacement and the 10th pick is worth 6.2 Win Shares above replacement. By my model, the 76ers got 14.2 points of value in this trade over the course of the rookie deals of these players.
Holiday’s contract covered the next four years at the time, which is conveniently the length of a rookie deal. He has earned 8.3 Win Shares to this point, and if we add another 3.4 (the number he has earned in each of the past two seasons), the projection comes out to 11.7 Win Shares. That number sounds impressive, but it is really only around 6.7 Win Shares above replacement. He is barely worth the number ten pick. When we factor in salary, the Sixers definitely won this trade. Pierre Jackson ended up setting scoring records in the developmental league, but he never played for the Pelicans. Hinkie started his tenure as general manager off the right way, netting 7.5 value points by my model.
Adding something for nothing
76ers get: Tony Wroten
Grizzlies get: Top 50 protected second round draft pick
Wroten actually ended up earning negative Win Shares during his time in Philadelphia, so on paper it looks like Memphis actually got the better of the two assets. However, this was classic Hinkie. One team wants to dump salary so he takes a chance on a player for a pick that had little chance of working out. Keep in mind that Wroten was a first round pick the previous year, so this was really a late first-round pick for a late second-round pick that just didn’t happen to work out in anyone’s favor.
Acquiring Second Round Picks
76ers get: Earl Clark (never played for Philadelphia), Henry Sims, 2 second round draft picks (39 and 52)
Cavaliers get: Spencer Hawes
Hinkie had a reputation for seeking second round draft picks in trades. The 2014 NBA trade deadline had a lot to do with that. Prior to this deal, Hinkie traded one second round pick for two plus Eric Maynor (who played all of eight games in Philly). In this trade, he acquired two second rounders plus the surprisingly average Henry Sims for Hawes. My model obviously disagrees with the idea of acquiring second round picks in exchange for anything, but at least they got Sims. The difference in salary was not enough to make up for the two Win Share difference in play, but this wasn’t a total loss. Hawes was really worth a mid-to-late first round draft pick at the time, but at least Sims had more time remaining on his deal. The next trade, however, is what sometimes got Hinkie into trouble.
More Second Round Picks
76ers get: Danny Granger (never played for Philadelphia) and the last pick in the 2015 NBA draft
Pacers get: Lavoy Allen and Evan Turner
Turner had one year left on his deal, so the 76ers were right to move him for the best offer, whatever it would be. The question, though, is why did they have to give up Lavoy Allen? Allen alone ended up being worth around the 14th pick in the draft. Add Turner in and maybe you move up one slot. If the deal was just for Evan Turner then this would have been fine. The 76ers never saw Allen improving to the point he is currently at, but he had some potential since he was already above replacement level at the trade deadline. Trying to acquire a second round pick actually cost Hinkie a valuable player here.
Back to the First Round
76ers get: 12th pick in 2014 (Dario Saric) and a 2017 first round pick
Magic get: 10th pick in 2014 (Elfrid Payton)
The math for this one is relatively straight-forward since we’re dealing with only first round draft picks. The tenth pick is worth 6.2 Win Shares above replacement while the 12th pick is worth 5.2 Win Shares above replacement. In order to even this trade out, the 2017 pick must be worth 1.4 Win Shares above replacement over the rookie deal. In other words, if the Magic get the 24th pick next year or a higher pick, then the 76ers win this deal.
The Magic are almost certain to end up with a pick that would give them less than what they paid, but let’s assume that they end up in the middle of the pack. If we give them the 16th pick, then the 76ers gain an expected two wins over those four years. It could be more or less, but the 76ers do come out pretty good in this one in most scenarios.
Sneaking into the Kevin Love Deal
76ers get: 24th pick in 2016, Luc Mbah a Moute, and Alexey Shved
Cavaliers get: Kevin Love
Timberwolves get: Thaddeus Young, Anthony Bennett, and Andrew Wiggins
To simplify the above summary, the 76ers only gave up Young in this deal. This was another classic Hinkie maneuver: finagling his way into a three-team deal that can only work if the 76ers are there to help facilitate the trade. Nevertheless, the 76ers did not end up getting enough value for Young. Hinkie had anticipated a higher pick than he got. The pick was actually Miami’s 2015 protected first rounder that did not go to Philadelphia for another year. The Heat were able to turn things around last year and end up with a pick that a team can’t do much with.
Hinkie knew he was taking a gamble, and was banking on the Heat not getting good again after Lebron James left. It wasn’t a stupid gamble by any means, but it didn’t work. If Hinkie had known that Hassan Whiteside would emerge, he probably would not have done this deal. Instead, he was left with two replacement level players and a pick that is worth about half of what Young is. That difference gets closer when you factor in salary, so Hinkie didn’t lose big here. There is a common theme when a trade doesn’t work for Hinkie; when he loses, he doesn’t get scammed. He finds close enough value (with the exception of giving away Lavoy Allen), and makes sure that the floor of the trade is high enough that he can’t lose big. This pick was only top ten protected and the Heat got the 10th pick in 2015. Had they fallen one spot further, then the 76ers would have received 5.7 Win Shares above replacement in draft capital. That would have been worth more than Young.
76ers get: Lakers’ protected 1st round draft pick
Bucks get: Michael Carter-Williams, Tyler Ennis, and Miles Plumlee
Suns get: Brandon Knight and Kendall Marshall
During his rookie year, Michael Carter-Williams looked really good … in the box score. He had 0.1 Win Shares above replacement that year. The next year, Hinkie flipped him at the trade deadline for what will almost certainly be worth more. Carter-Williams has played three seasons and has one more year left on his rookie deal. Through his first three years, he has cumulatively graded out as right at replacement level. There is no reason to think that he will beat that mark next year, so that means Hinkie has automatically won this trade by my model.
Then again, it wouldn’t be as much fun if he just won by a little. The 76ers have come very close to taking a very high selection from the Lakers in each of the past two years. If the Lakers don’t finish in the top three next year, then Philadelphia will receive their draft pick next year. Does anyone think that the Lakers will suddenly turn it around this year? The 76ers should be more worried about the Lakers winning the lottery again than them actually falling outside the top ten. The 76ers should end up with at least six Win Shares above replacement from that draft pick over the course of the rookie deal. Thank you Sam!
Adding Salary and Draft Picks
76ers get: JaVale McGee, Chukwudiebre Maduabum, and 26th pick in 2016 draft (Furkan Korkmaz)
Nuggets get: Cenk Akyol
The 76ers were under the salary cap floor, so they decided to use their space to add draft picks. Hinkie did this many times, but rarely got first round draft choices for it. McGee played in six games with Philadelphia before being waived. The other two players in the deal were draft and stash players that never played in the NBA.
Korkmaz might also take some time to come over, but his draft spot is worth a positive value. Considering that the 76ers were under the cap floor, they actually used nothing to acquire a first round pick. They used a roster space for six games, but that is not enough to cancel out the extra win above replacement that the should get from the draft pick. In all likelihood, Korkmaz never becomes more than a role player (based on draft slot), but it is something for nothing, which is always a good deal to make.
Going Out on Top
76ers get: Carl Landry, Nik Stauskas, Jason Thompson, Kings 2018 first round pick, right to swap first round picks with the Kings in 2017
Kings get: Arturas Gudaitis, Luka Mitrovic, future second round pick
Note: This wasn’t Hinkie’s last trade, but it was his last involving first round draft picks.
If the Kings turn it around anytime soon, it likely will not be before the 76ers get their draft pick. If the 76ers do turn it around this year, then they still get the Kings pick. That worked out nicely! It is smartest just to assume that the Kings will be league average two years into the future, which means that the 76ers added nearly four wins over the course of the four seasons after that pick. The Kings did not even get an NBA player in the deal.
The other players going to the Sixers in the deal actually hurt them in terms of the trade’s value. Of course, they could have just released them, since they didn’t have to worry about salary issues. Thompson was traded for Gerald Wallace, who was waived, while Landry was just as much above replacement level as Stauskas was below it. Landry has one more year on his deal, and he does help, but Stauskas needs to improve. Stauskas actually makes this deal worse for Philadelphia, which is odd since he was considered one of the assets they got. If they had instead asked for another draft pick, then this trade would look even better. Nonetheless, this is still a great trade for Hinkie. In his last major trade, he sent nothing for a first rounder and a player (Landry) who can give them an extra win above replacement per year.
The general consensus is that most of Hinkie’s trades helped the team in a vacuum, but if you put them all together there is something wrong with “The Process.” I am of the belief that Hinkie generally won his trades as general manager of the 76ers. They started so far below an average team, and he was slowly building them up. It is important to remember that draftees usually do not perform above replacement level until year three or four. His teams did not perform well because he kept trading players after one or two years in order to get a team that would be better four years from now over the team he would have the following year.
I believe that there is one winner and there are twenty-nine losers in each NBA season. In order to be at the top, you need to know when you have players that are good enough to be champions or good enough to get to the playoffs. If we assume that a 60-win team is a championship caliber team, then you need to get to about 50 Win Shares above replacement in one season. If we take just the year four projection of each draft slot, that requires seven first overall draft choices and two second overall draft choices. In conclusion, you need a superstar. You need someone who blows away those expectations. The 76ers never got that guy, but Hinkie tried to put them in position to get him. He knew that he needed to get one of the league’s best players, so he kept chasing that player when he didn’t have one. He didn’t kid himself into thinking he could put together a roster of ten or twelve players that were good but not great.
As I mentioned before, Hinkie always tried to make trades with relatively high floors. His only major loss was the Lavoy Allen trade, while he came away with great returns on at least three of those deals. Even though he didn’t always win his trades, he usually himself in a position where he was probably going to acquire assets with higher trade values. Whether it would be through the draft or another big trade, Hinkie was determined to get his guy. We never saw that stage, which is why I consider “The Process” incomplete. Ben Simmons was more a product of bad play than Hinkie’s genius, but if he ends up being the guy, then it would have been fascinating to see what the former general manager could have done with his other assets. They certainly will be a huge help in building a team around Simmons, if Colangelo decides to go that route.
I originally wanted to evaluate Hinkie in terms of how many expected Win Shares above replacement he got, but when going through this I realized that wasn’t fair. He certainly improved his team that way for the long run, but that wasn’t the point. That doesn’t show what he really did. He acquired assets that were all part of some trail leading to (hopefully) a superstar. To win in the NBA, you either need to get at least one superstar or be well above average at every spot on your roster. Nobody gets seven first overall picks, so you need to pick a route quickly based on where you stand. The 76ers did not have anybody equal to even one first overall pick when he took over. Given the current state of the NBA, it’s probably easier to find one superstar than five, six, or seven really good players (seriously, check out who is starting across the league). Hinkie made it much easier to get to that point with at least six of his deals mentioned in this article. From a numbers standpoint, he still made out very well in his trades. From a basketball theory standpoint, he did even better. I have no idea how long it would have taken to get a superstar, but if my team gets as messed up as the 76ers were when they hired Hinkie, I would want them to call the man who was in charge of the unorthodox rebuild in Philadelphia. He had the right end goal in mind, and he made logical moves throughout his tenure in the front office. If you want to slam “The Process,” that’s fine. However, you should realize that he recognized what it took to win in the NBA, and Hinkie spent his time putting himself in the best possible position to complete the hardest step of putting together a championship team. His only problem was that he did not get there before he was ousted.