Five Reasons to Like the Sixers Hire of Sam Hinkie

Five Reasons to Like the Sixers Hire of Sam Hinkie

GM's usually aren't particularly sexy hires for basketball franchises--most casual NBA fans can't name more than a handful of incumbent GMs across the league anyway, and new guys usually don't have much of a resume to point to, unless they've already been fired elsewhere. Still, if any fanbase was going to be excited about a new GM, it should probably Sixers fans after the Liberty Ballers nabbed ex-Rockets assistant Sam Hinkie, an analytics-minded exec from the Houston Rockets, who should finally put an end to the Sixers' ambiguous front-office hierarchy  and give the team a strong guiding hand for the years to come.

That said, I'm not gonna pretend like I had any clue who this guy was this time last week. But after learning a little about the guy, and seeing his introductory presser, it seems like Sixer fans have decent reason to think this guy is gonna be good news for a team that could really, really use some. Here's some reasons why:

1. The Rockets did some pretty cool things with him on board. On paper, Houston's run over the last decade with him on board was not a particularly impressive one--they won just one playoff series, and missed the playoffs altogether two of the last three years. But Houston was also arguably the league's unluckiest team over that span, fielding two top-ten-caliber players in Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady who were both constantly beset by injuries, seemingly never healthy at the same time for an extended playoff run. In the meantime, they were always at least competitive, never resorting to outright tanking in order to rebuild their franchise, and appear to be back on the ascent again after acquiring All-Star guard James Harden in the off-season and making pushing top-seeded Oklahoma City to six games in the playoffs.

Also, Hinkie was involved in Houston with the drafting and signing of numerous players undervalued by the league over the years, including excellent second-round picks like Chandler Parsons, Carl Landry and Chase Budinger, free-agent steals like Omer Asik and Patrick Beverley, and shrewd trade acquisitions like Luis Scola, Kyle Lowry and Goran Dragic. Despite never contending for a championship, the Rockets have deserved league-wide renown as being one of the Smart Teams, and though GM Darryl Morey gets most of the credit for that, Hinkie also played a part as the second-in-command.

2. He's not afraid of numbers. Nobody hates the phrase "analytically minded" as much as analytically minded guys, and for good reason--analytics guys get a reputation for being insular, small-picture-oriented and ultimately clueless to what really goes on on the court, but really they're just not averse to seeking out and then using some deeper data to make decisions that really need to be as informed as humanly possible. Hinkie talked about that in his press conference, stressing his desire to collect knowledge from as many different sources as possible, blanching some at the "analytics" references but stressing a need for information.

That alone doesn't make you a smart guy, but when compared to the stubborn "I know because I know" mentality of Doug Collins (who once actually said he would "blow [his] brains out" if he had to focus on analytics, before pointing to his head and his gut as his analytics), it seems a little more open-minded, at the least.

3. He's in it for the long haul. "Just beating the average by a bit in a team of 30 competitors will serve only to disappoint all of us in the long run," Hinkie said in the opening statement of his presser. Sixer fans know this to be truer than anyone, as beating the average by a bit has basically been their cap since the 2001 finals run, and for a long time, that seemed to be good enough for the organization, so it's good to hear that that's not the case with Hinkie. He seemed reticent to actually use the word or even the idea of tanking, but he also didn't seem scared by the idea of being bad to get good if that's what the best path to championship-level success is. Bad news for Spencer Hawes, good news for the Sixer faithful.

4. He has no attachment--sentimental, vengeful or otherwise--to Andrew Bynum. Perhaps the most enlightening part of Hinkie's Q&A was when he responded to questions about Andrew Bynum by saying rather matter-of-factly that aside from the fact that the Sixers have early negotiating rights with him and (hopefully) a shitload of information about his medical condition, he viewed Bynum as no different than any other free agent the Sixers might pursue this off-season. I don't know if that makes him more or less likely to aggressively pursue Bynum--frankly, I doubt even Hinkie himself knows that yet--but it means that whatever his decision is, it won't be an emotional or personal one, which in itself is a very good thing.

5. He's the guy now--and there's just one of him. Regardless of how he does from here, it's exciting to have one singular voice at the top of the front-office food chain again--and since he's the unequivocal choice of majority owner Josh Harris, he should have a fairly long leash to work with. Compared with the last few years of front-office clutter, where nobody seemed to know who was really in charge (Rod Thorn? Tony DiLeo? Doug Collins? Will Smith?) and nobody seemed to have a firm idea of what direction the team was going in, it should be a lot easier for the Sixers to devise and execute a coherent long-term plan with a single guy with his finger on the button. Hopefully he leads the team in a positive direction, but really, nearly any direction is good for us at this point as long as it's consistent and logical.

Welcome aboard, Sam. You've got a super-unenviable task ahead of you in making this crappy, depressing team great again, but we have way more faith in your ability to do it than anybody else the Sixers have trotted out to supposedly steer the franchise back in a positive direction in a long, long time.

NFL Playoffs: Matt Ryan, Falcons dismantle Packers to reach Super Bowl LI

NFL Playoffs: Matt Ryan, Falcons dismantle Packers to reach Super Bowl LI

The Atlanta Falcons are headed to their second Super Bowl appearance in franchise history after routing the Green Bay Packers 44-21 in the NFC championship game.

Matt Ryan threw for four touchdowns, including a 73-yard catch-and-run for a highlight-reel score by star receiver Julio Jones. The defense played just as crucial a role in containing quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the Packers' offense.

Rodgers had 287 yards with three touchdown passes and an interception. But the Falcons got to Rodgers with pressure and forced two Green Bay turnovers. Rodgers was outplayed by Ryan, who even ran for a 14-yard touchdown.

Atlanta will play either New England or Pittsburgh in the Super Bowl on Feb. 5 in Houston.

The only other time that Atlanta made the Super Bowl was in the 1998 season. The Falcons lost 34-19 to the Denver Broncos.

The Packers fell in the NFC title game for the second time in three seasons.

2017 NBA draft prospect watch: Jonathan Isaac has a banner week

2017 NBA draft prospect watch: Jonathan Isaac has a banner week

Two of the country's top prospects faced off in the Pac 12 this week while a top 10 forward saw his season come to a premature close. However, we begin this week with the breakout performance by Jonathan Isaac.

Jonathan Isaac, forward, Florida St. (6-11/205)
Isaac's potential had everyone in the basketball world's curiosity. Now his play on the court has their attention. The Seminoles hosted No. 15 Notre Dame, which had yet to lose in ACC play before the Wednesday game. 

The freshman forward dominated in the 83-80 win. He had 23 points on 7 for 9 shooting from the field. He made both his threes, all seven of his free throws and also had one assist. His other stats were also otherworldly. He picked up 10 rebounds and had seven(!) blocks, including one on a late Notre Dame shot to get back into the game after he'd put the Seminoles ahead with a three. All this was in just 25 minutes

He followed it up with a similar game against Louisville. In 28 minutes, he had 16 points on 4 for 7 shooting, making one three and, again, all seven free throws. Add in two assists and two blocks to aid in the 73-68 win. Isaac has shown himself to be an athletic freak, a potential stretch-four at the next level and one with tremendous defensive potential, displayed with his nine blocks this week.

OG Anunoby, forward, Indiana (6-8/235)
Anunoby has had an uneven season, but he, at the very least, showed flashes of the ability that make him a top player for this year's draft class. However, a knee injury suffered on Wednesday finished off Anunoby's season, forcing him to undergo surgery that will keep him off the court for the rest of Indiana's schedule.

This may knock him out of the 2017 draft entirely. As a freshman last year, his NCAA Tournament performance was enough to make him a lottery pick in an even weaker draft field than the upcoming one. He chose to remain in school and it isn't farfetched to believe he will return to Indiana for his junior year to get more seasoning, a better draft field and another year of education.

Lonzo Ball, guard, UCLA (6-6/190)
There are going to be quite a few marquee matchups in the Pac 12. One of the first this year came in the form of UCLA-Arizona in Los Angeles on Saturday. The No. 3 Bruins lost, 96-85, but that had nothing to do with Ball's standout performance (more on the Wildcats below). He pushed the ball in transition, drove to the hole with ease and made 4 of 8 threes with his quirky shot. 

He had 24 points on 10-for-15 shooting and had eight assists, six rebounds, two steals and a block. When you watch Ball score so naturally, it's easy to forget his potential as a point guard, but then he whips up beautiful assists as he did many times on Saturday. The freshman has everything you want in a point guard.

Lauri Markkanen, forward, Arizona (7-0/225)
The No. 14 Wildcats picked up their biggest win of the year, moving to 7-0 in conference play. As you can expect, Markkanen had a big game to push Arizona past UCLA. He had 18 points on 6 for 10 shooting, was 3 for 3 from three and made three free throws, all which grabbing seven boards. Like Isaac, he is a tantalizing talent as a stretch-four, hanging out around the perimeter and spotting up for threes well.

He now has 16 made threes in his last four games and has averaged over seven boards in that stretch. He's not unbelievably thin like many fours his age. The freshman really can battle down low and get his shot, and he justifies his prospect status on a game-by-game basis with his ability.

Markelle Fultz, guard, Washington (6-4/195)
Washington lost on Saturday, moving to 9-10 and 2-5 in conference. But it's worth talking about Fultz's standout Wednesday night. The freshman willed his team back from 17-points down with a 37-point performance en route to an 85-83 OT win over Colorado. In 43 minutes, he was 13 for 24 from the field and 11 for 15 from the free throw line.

Don't think he's just a scorer, though. He had eight assists, five rebounds, three steals and three blocks, doing it all for the Huskies as he usually does. The freshman sensation was 0 for 2 from three, but he is normally efficient from beyond the arc. He alone is the reason to watch the under .500 Huskies.

While the 9-10 Huskies are unlikely to make a late run towards March Madness, the strong Pac 12 should provide many marquee matchups for Fultz. He faces off vs. a stout Arizona team next Sunday afternoon. Six days later, the long awaited matchup between Fultz and Ball up in Seattle goes down with presumably many scouts in attendance.

Quick Hits

Malik Monk, guard, Kentucky (6-4/185)
Twenty-seven points on 9 for 14 shooting, 4 for 7 from three, 5 for 6 on free throws, three rebounds, one assist, two steals and four turnovers in an 85-69 win over No. 24 South Carolina.

Josh Jackson, guard/forward, Kansas (6-8/203)
Fifteen points on 6 for 14 shooting, 2 for 5 from three, 1 for 3 on free throws, five rebounds, two assists, four steals and six turnovers in a 79-67 win over Texas.

Jayson Tatum, forward, Duke (6-8/204)
Fourteen points on 4 for 9 shooting, 1 for 4 from three, 5 for 6 on free throws, three rebounds, one assist, three turnovers and five fouls in a 70-58 win over Miami.