He wasn’t kidding. Not when he first got here. Not on draft night. Not during Friday’s post-trade deadline press conference.
Sam Hinkie said from the beginning that the organization planned to sacrifice today in order to better position the Sixers for tomorrow. The Sixers' president and general manager said the process would take time and that it might be difficult. He urged the city and the fans to be patient.
Nothing has changed. What happened Thursday at the trade deadline was an extension of that overarching philosophy. The Sixers traded away three players who didn’t figure into their long-term plans and landed five players who don’t figure into their long-term plans, but in the process they acquired more draft picks and made sure their cap sheet has plenty of room heading into the offseason.
Those last two things are important. They give the Sixers options. That’s what this has always been about -- flexibility. Without it, whatever future the Sixers hope to have would be far darker and probably not worth realizing.
“We’re trying to acquire things that will help us move forward,” Hinkie said. “The net result of what happened [Thursday] is we picked up six additional second-round picks. We gave nothing in return, except the opportunity to use some of our cap space, which is part of the reason to put ourselves in a position to be flexible. Those [second-rounders] are useful in a variety of ways -- sometimes in the players you select, sometimes in the players you can trade for in using them, sometimes in combining them to move to other places and do other things.”
Yes, the much-mentioned second-rounders. They have five for the upcoming 2014 draft. Hinkie called some of them “quite interesting” and said -- despite the general perception -- they have “real value.” He pointed out that some of them will be toward the top of the second round, in essence making them late first-rounders without guaranteed money. And he noted that second-round picks are often used as a kind of currency to help trades go through -- which is what happened when the Sixers traded Jrue Holiday to the Pelicans and added a second-rounder to make the deal happen.
Maybe you weren’t impressed or wowed by what the Sixers did on Thursday. Perhaps the ever-growing stockpile of second-round picks underwhelms you. But, as Hinkie pointed out, they gave up players they would have let walk away for free in the offseason. Basically, they gave up nothing for something (regardless of the value you place on that something). The moves weren’t flashy, but they were practical.
“We’ll have a whole set of interesting opportunities in June, if not before,” Hinkie said. “As many as two firsts and as many as five seconds. And more in the future. So how we array those -- whether we select all of those, whether we combine them, whether we move them, all to be determined -- I think will give us options. I think it will make our phone ring, for one, and I think it will give us choices.”
So will their salary cap situation. At present -- if you figure that Jason Richardson, Eric Maynor and Byron Mullens will all exercise the player options in their contracts for next year -- the Sixers should have about $27 million in salary commitments (not counting cap holds and what they’ll pay future picks) next season. That’s nothing, and it leaves them with around $30 million in cap space. Like picks, cap room might not be exciting. Cap room doesn’t dunk or drain three-pointers or throw flashy passes. But, like picks, cap room allows you to be flexible and find players who can do those things.
“Similarly, I think it will give us choices,” Hinkie said about the Sixers’ cap situation. “It will give us choices as we think about how we can work with other teams to find other things that help our future.”
The man has a plan. But does he have an idea of how long it might take for his plan to fully form?
“I don’t,” Hinkie admitted. “I don’t even believe people who claim to. I think you have to sort of play it out and you have to see. I think a lot of it depends on how good the players we have here now become. I think a lot of it depends on how good a lot of the players who will come into our pipeline in time, how good they become. We’re still a players-driven league. That determines everything. I wouldn’t believe anyone who tells you otherwise.”
He told you in the beginning. He told you at the draft. He told you again on Thursday and Friday. He’s tearing it down. All of it.
It has to be done.