Can Hinkie, analytics get job done for Sixers?

Can Hinkie, analytics get job done for Sixers?
May 12, 2013, 5:00 pm
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Sometime this week the 76ers will give official word that in Sam Hinkie they trust. Hinkie will take over as president and general manager. Rod Thorn will stay as a consultant for the organization. Tony DiLeo will no longer be with the team in any capacity.

Thorn had been the president and general manager until this past season when he served as the president and DiLeo as general manager. Both Thorn and DiLeo came from basketball backgrounds. Thorn is a former player and coach and was the right-hand man to commissioner David Stern in the league office for 14 years.

DiLeo played local high school and college basketball, starring at Cinnaminson High School, and after starting his college basketball career at Tennessee Tech, DiLeo finished up at La Salle. He then took his talents abroad where he played and coached before coming back to the states and working for the Sixers the last 24 years.

Hinkie's background is different.

He has worked with the Houston Rockets for the last eight years on the heels of getting his MBA from Stanford in 2005. Hinkie's Rockets bio stated his strengths best:

"Sam leads the Rockets considerable analytic efforts, using data to improve decision making in the draft, free agency, trades, and game strategy. Sam provides day-to-day management of basketball operations, manages the team’s salary cap, and scouts potential Rockets by evaluating prospects in person across the collegiate and professional ranks."

There is no written rule that one has to play the game to know the game, and there are many different approaches to judging talent and building a successful franchise. Hinkie worked under the first “analytics” general manager in the NBA in Houston’s Daryl Morey. Morey’s background is in numbers and he too has an MBA.

When Morey was promoted to general manger of the Rockets in 2007, he hired Hinkie and the two have been on the forefront of analytics in the NBA ever since. The Rockets since 2007 have made the playoffs three times including this past season. Only once did they advance out of the first round.

What will be interesting to see in the upcoming months is how Hinkie analyzes the current Sixers roster, how he pursues free agents and decides on a head coach. In a perfect world, analytics meet the right basketball mind and a lasting, successful duo comes to fruition.

When thinking of successful NBA tandems of general manager and head coach, the ones that immediately come to mind are San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich and R.C. Buford, Oklahoma City’s Scott Brooks and Sam Presti and Boston’s Danny Ainge and Doc Rivers. All three duos represent continuity and winning. Unlike Hinkie, the aforementioned general managers have basketball backgrounds but again, paired with the right coach, winning results can happen.

Brooks has the shortest tenure being a five-year head coach with the Thunder, but only two coaches in the NBA have a longer tenure after Popovich and Rivers, and they are Denver’s George Karl and Dallas' Rick Carlisle; Brooks is fifth.

Popovich, Rivers and Brooks have worked with one general manager during their current stints.