PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — When the Philadelphia 76ers acquired Joel Embiid and Dario Saric in the first round of Thursday evening’s NBA Draft, many fans didn’t react kindly. After tanking the 2013-14 season, basketball fans in Philadelphia were hoping for a better product to watch next year.
Due to Embiid’s injury issues and Saric’s commitment to playing in Europe, the best chance for the Sixers to become a young, ascending nucleus next season all but ended when general manager Sam Hinkie chose the route of delayed gratification.
As the NBA Draft unfolded, including the Sixers selecting five players in the second round, Twitter and social media became abuzz with snarky comments and fans questioning the basketball intellect of general manager Sam Hinkie.
In fairness, that criticism makes sense for two reasons. First, no reasonable basketball fan wants to sit through another 60-plus season in the name of long-term progress. Second, the confusion around Hinkie’s “plan” or “vision” for the Sixers has been distorted and based on an almost impossible to copy ideal.
Over the past year, WIP callers, along with respected NBA gurus, have referenced the model that the Oklahoma City Thunder used to build a juggernaut in the Western Conference. In a three-year span, the team selected Kevin Durant (2007), Russell Westbrook (2008), Serge Ibaka (2008) and James Harden (2009), setting the stage for a run to the NBA Finals in 2011.
While a team built around homegrown All-Stars is a dream to strive for at the Wells Fargo Center, perhaps disgruntled fans should focus on the rise of another Western Conference contender: the Houston Rockets.
Yes, Houston, the team that Hinkie came from before arriving to Philadelphia. The team that has treated players like a Wall Street stock broker or real estate genius would flip an asset or home, respectively.
As the Rockets prepare for what should be a summer of chasing down Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James to play alongside Dwight Howard, remember how general manager Daryl Morey, with Hinkie by his side, went about his plan: Stockpile players, picks and assets. Then, when the moment is right, strike.
That’s how James Harden ended up in Houston, taking advantage of the Thunder’s willingness to move him. That’s how Dwight Howard arrived, shocking the basketball world to spurn more money from the Lakers. That’s why the idea of using Harden in a sign-and-trade for Anthony and signing James next month isn’t crazy.
It’s natural to be underwhelmed with damaged goods and assets that won’t win basketball games in South Philly next winter, but don’t compare this rebuilding plan to what happened in Oklahoma City.
Instead, look to what the Rockets became with a slew of assets. Everytime the Sixers draft and stash a foreign star, bring aboard an injured talent or collect future picks, the groundwork for Hinkie’s shining moment is laid out.
Joe Giglio is a host on WIP and WFAN, and covers MLB as a Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. Find him on Twitter @JoeGiglioSports. Catch Joe’s next show on WIP Sunday night at 11 p.m.
You may also be interested in these Sports stories: