May 17, 2013, 9:52 AM EST
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.
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