Philadelphia 76ers: Tanking, Free Agency And Sam Hinkie’s Dreams

Jun 28, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers general manager Sam Hinkie during press conference at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 28, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers general manager Sam Hinkie during press conference at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports /

I guess this is as good a time to dream as there is going to be. Fifteen straight losses, five away from the franchise record and 11 away from the NBA record. Twenty-six defeats seems a little distant, but 20 is absolutely manageable for this Philadelphia 76ers’ club. Thankfully though, there are dreams that live outside the darker annals of basketball history. Visions of the future, the perfect design interlocking with optimum facilitation to enable an innumerable measure of championships. These dreams are the ones we spend our time cultivating at offices and workspaces, with friends or by one’s self. The designs of a team are not controlled in the slightest by the fans but surely one of the infinite number of possible scenarios played through the minds of dreaming supporters will have to be realized. And so we continue to dream.

The Philadelphia 76ers are currently terrible at playing basketball but come summer will likely have two lottery picks for reinforcements and a balance sheet leaving them flush with cash. That, though, does not mean that they have any intention of using it. We can only speculate of course but given the basic tenets of the “tanking” philosophy, it does not appear likely that Sam Hinkie would want to throw money at comforting, familiar names.

It is difficult to overstate how pivotal this offseason will be for the Philadelphia 76ers. In their quest to reach the NBA’s mountaintop they must first construct the vehicle to get them there. Currently, any planned designs are based on unknown quantities and optimistic projection. I would expect Nerlens Noel and Michael Carter-Williams to be definite starters next year, who else can you say that about? Thaddeus Young, of course, if he is still on the team, but that too is a large question mark. The roster is an undecorated house and Hinkie is strutting round the galleries waiting to find the perfect piece for above his fireplace.

Come draft night, the Philadelphia 76ers will be stocked with valuable draft currency allowing them to shape their future in multiple different shapes and forms. I’m not sure what type of players they may desire at specific positions, but the roster is so empty that the NFL’s common “best player available” ideal will be as close to realization as is possible in the NBA. This is a positive byproduct of Hinkie’s callous gutting of the roster; there are now so many needs that positional fit is minimized as an influence on draft choices.

Draft history is littered with players who fell too low because of allegedly “filled” positions and while you can never be sure of a team’s intention it seems to make sense that if Cleveland hadn’t put misplaced faith in Dion Waiters then Victor Oladipo have been taken No. 1 overall last year. More significantly, Michael Jordan may not have ended up No. 3 overall behind Sam Bowie without the requirement to fill needs (Clyde Drexler had been drafted the year before by Portland). I am not condoning a David Kahn triple point guard salvo by any means, but removing positional requirements only serves to increase the efficiency of acquiring talent.

Earlier, I referred to the tanking philosophy,  generally based upon the idea that becoming terrible to acquire elite talent is advantageous in the long term. This is certainly the plan the 76ers have laid out, it is one of patience and discipline. Ugliness of this magnitude does not turn to beauty overnight and so the 76ers will probably expect further dealings with the lottery in 2015 as well. Multiple high draft picks will soon turn to players needing expensive contract extensions, when the core of the team is built then that cap space will need to be expertly examined.

Playoff wannabes and potential contenders will scramble at the dawn of free agency to acquire the veterans needed to meet the season’s expectations. Entering into free agency with any sort of urgency is usually problematic, unless of course you can obtain a superstar. Fighting for the Mike Millers and Martell Websters of this world is a thankless and usually perilous endeavor.

For now, as a result of this lack of expectation, Hinkie can rise above the usual rabble that populates the free agent markets. Like one born into nobility, he can sit back and watch as the common merchants fight to overpay for Pau Gasol and Luol Deng for he knows his treasures will come to him. There is no need to put in big offer sheets for the good and not great in restricted free agency either. Gordon Hayward and Avery Bradley are no saviors after all. The 76ers, for now, will live and die by the draft.