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Reviewing “The Process”

Sam Hinkie has been out of the NBA since April of 2016, yet the Godfather of “the Process” remains a polarizing figure in NBA circles to this day. Hinkie’s 76ers went 47-199 over his three-year tenure as general manager. To many, the Sixers were a joke, trotting out G-League caliber lineups on a nightly basis.

Still, Hinkie’s time in Philly forever changed the way we look at rebuilding a franchise.

Hinkie stubbornly traded away any established talent on his roster in an effort to simultaneously acquire extra draft capital and tank for better lottery odds. To fans from afar, he may have seemed like the worst executive in sports, setting records for losing so many games. However, this is exactly what Hinkie had in mind as he sought blue-chip, franchise-altering talents.

Let’s take a look at the timeline of “The Process” and how it continues to impact the league to this day.

May 14, 2013

Sam Hinkie is hired as the GM and president of basketball operations in Philadelphia. He was previously the youngest Vice President in NBA history, working under Daryl Morey as a member of the Houston Rockets.

June 27, 2013

Hinkie’s first draft and perhaps his boldest move in Philly. “The Process” officially begins as the 76ers trade star guard Jrue Holiday to New Orleans for the sixth overall pick and a top-5 protected 1st rounder in 2014. Hinkie selects injured big man Nerlens Noel at No. 6 (who spent his entire rookie season rehabbing) and guard Michael Carter-Williams with the Sixers pick at No. 11.

August 14, 2013

Philadelphia hires Brett Brown as their head coach. He remains the coach of the 76ers (for now) after steering the team through the dark days of the rebuild.

February 20, 2014

Hinkie is very active during his first trade deadline, making four moves. By the end of the day, the 76ers ship out Evan Turner, Spencer Hawes, and Lavoy Allen, all for pennies on the dollar. Along with Holiday, these four players were all in the top five of games started for the 2012-2013 76ers. They brought in four additional second rounders during the fire sale.

June 26, 2014

After a 19-63 season, Philly enters the draft night with seven total picks, including No. 3 overall. Hinkie selects Joel Embiid, another injured big man who redshirted his first two NBA seasons. Philly uses the tenth pick, via NOLA, in a trade with Orlando for, you guessed it, more picks. The Sixers land the 12th pick and choose Dario Šarić, who also like Embiid, won’t wear a Sixers uniform for two seasons while playing out his contract in Spain.

Philly also receives a 2015 second rounder and 2018 first as part of the deal to move down just two spots. Hinkie hits on one of his second rounders this year, taking Jerami Grant with the 39th pick.

August 23, 2014

Hinkie gets involved in the Kevin Love to Cleveland deal by sending Thaddeus Young to Minnesota. Young led the Sixers in win shares the previous two seasons, yet his departure allows Hinkie to add another 2016 first round pick to his pile of assets.

At this point, all five players who started the most games for Philly the year before Hinkie was hired are now wearing different uniforms.

November 15, 2014

Hinkie shows off his eye for talent by signing Robert Covington. He had gone undrafted and played only seven NBA games prior to his time in Philly. Covington becomes a major piece in the package Philly eventually sends to Minnesota in the Jimmy Butler deal.

February 19, 2015

This is another active trade deadline for Hinkie, as he makes three trades today. His boldest move of the day is to trade Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams in exchange for a future LAL first rounder (which doesn’t convey until 2018). Hinkie also adds a 2016 first rounder as compensation for taking on JaVale McGee’s salary from DEN in a trade.

June 25, 2015

After an 18-64 season, the Sixers once again own the third overall pick in the draft. They choose another big man in Jahlil Okafor, ignoring the potential fit with Noel and Embiid, and pursuing a player they hoped could make a serious impact on the franchise moving forward. Hinkie hits on another 2nd rounder, picking Richaun Holmes at 37.

July 9, 2015

In a salary dump from Sacramento, the 76ers acquire Carl Landry, Jason Thompson, Nik Stauskas, and (of course) an unprotected 2019 first rounder and a pick swap. A very Process style move.

Philly parts ways with two international prospects who have yet to play an NBA game. Hinkie really swindled the Kings out of a future top ten pick and the right to move from No. 5 to No. 3 just for taking on some bad contracts. (I’m still not sure whether this trade says more about Hinkie or Vlade Divac’s time running the Kings.)

September 14 & 22, 2015

Hinkie once again shows his knack for finding hidden talent by signing undrafted big man Christian Wood. About a week later, the Sixers add another undrafted rookie in T.J. McConnell.

December 7, 2015

The Sixers start the season 1-21, and the NBA is starting to get fed up with the Process. Other team owners pressure Adam Silver into forcing the Sixers hand as they feel the Sixers bottoming out was bad for the league. The league forces Philly into bringing on Jerry Colangelo as chairman of basketball operations.

April 6, 2016

Jerry Colangelo brings his son Brian into Philadelphia’s front office. Hinkie decides to step down from the Sixers organization rather than give up more power to the Colangelo’s.

The Colangelos’ reign in Philly deserves its own sage. Sam Hinkie hasn’t worked in the NBA since.

The Aftermath

Hinkie missed his chance at a No. 1 overall pick by just as few months, as the 76ers drafted Ben Simmons in June of 2016. Hinkie’s tanking resulted in Philly adding a top-three pick to its roster four years in a row.

After another poor season, the Sixers swapped picks with the Kings in the 2017 NBA draft, moving from No. 5 to No. 3. They traded the 3rd pick and the Kings 2019 first rounder to Boston in exchange for the No. 1 overall pick, selecting Markelle Fultz (another story in need of its own column).

Philadelphia has attempted to build its roster around their young All-Stars Embiid and Simmons. The team lost in the Eastern Conference Semifinals back to back years, and already has over $138 million committed to the 2022-2023 NBA season. Hinkie succeeding in bringing in top tier NBA talents, yet his successors have failed to fulfill the potential of this team so far.

Who knows how things may have turned out for Philly had Hinkie continued to run basketball operations. I imagine he would have been more patient in building around Embiid and Simmons than Colangelo or Elton Brand had been. Hinkie taught rebuilding teams to value draft capital more than ever before and changed the culture for bad teams to embrace losing in chase of a better draft pick. He believed that if you weren’t capable of winning a championship, then the best course of action was to bottom out in search of the right stars to build around.

Philadelphia trusted the process and now has two of the league's brightest young talents. The success of Hinkie’s tenure will not be realized for years until we see where Embiid and Simmons can lead Philly. The more interesting league-wide impacts will be on how losing teams approach their rebuilds moving forward. Rebuilds across the league will begin to emulate “The Process” as teams and fans realize that it can be the quickest way back to contention. Hinkie may never work another day in the NBA, but his ideas and impact on the league are just beginning to truly be felt.

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