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Monday, April 19, 2021

Sixers' fate in the hands of Hinkie

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Kevin Noonan
Kevin Noonan
Kevin Noonan has covered and commented on the Delaware sports scene for more than 30 years, everything from amateur recreation leagues and high schools to local colleges and the Philadelphia professional teams. He’s been voted Delaware Sportswriter of the Year multiple times and currently covers the Philadelphia Eagles for CBSSports.com and teaches creative writing courses at Wilmington University.

Sam Hinkie is either the smartest man in sports or the dumbest and right now we have no idea which. And the way things are going, we may never know.

Hinkie is the general manager of the Philadelphia 76ers and if his worth was measured by wins and losses there’s no question Hinkie would be regarded as a terrible G.M. Actually, he wouldn’t even have a job, so that point is moot. But Hinkie is all about the future and we can’t grade the future because it hasn’t happened yet. So, Sixers fans sit on their hands and hope the guy driving the bus knows where he’s going.

The Sixers’ long march back to NBA relevance veered off in the wrong direction again recently when Hinkie traded guard Michael Carter-Williams to the Milwaukee Bucks for draft picks and all the Schlitz beer he can drink. Hinkie has made lots of deals in his short time with the Sixers, but none raised as many eyebrows as this one. Carter-Williams was the NBA’s rookie of the year last season and was supposed to be one of the Big Three that was going to make the Sixers a contender in a couple of years. Everybody knew the Sixers were going to be bad for a while, but the promise of a bright future, led by Carter-Williams, Joel Embiid and Nerlens Noel, has been the focus of the Sixers’ marketing campaign and of Sixers’ fans hopes and dreams.

What went wrong? Well, apparently Carter-Williams didn’t fit Hinkie’s idea of what an NBA point guard should be, just like he soured on the Sixers’ previous point guard, Jrue Holliday, whom Hinkie traded to New Orleans last year for Noel. Carter-Williams isn’t a great shooter and he hasn’t shown any real improvement in that area – he’s shooting just 38.1 percent this season. More telling, Carter-Williams isn’t a great passer, either. Like Holliday, he doesn’t see the floor real well and seems to be a half-beat late with many of his passes, a major reason he’s averaging 4.2 turnovers per game.

So, Hinkie did what he likes to call “collecting assets’’ and traded what was supposed to be his best player for more draft picks. And only time will tell if he read the situation correctly or if he gave up on a potential superstar too soon.

Like everything with the Sixers, that won’t be known for a while. What’s known right now is that the Sixers were bad before Carter-Williams was traded and they’re going to be even worse now. And that’s a shame, because I was actually starting to pay attention to them again. The credit (or blame) for that goes to my son, Tim, who kept encouraging me to watch the Sixers develop. He told me they had some good, young players worth watching and they always played hard for 48 minutes and they played good defense and shared the ball and did all the little things that my old-school heart loves to see.

So, I started watching the 76ers more and he was right. The young Sixers did hustle and play tenacious defense and fight to the finish and they won some games and played well against some of the NBA’s elite teams. And with their Big Three leading the way, this appeared to be a team worth rooting for again. It was time to jump back on board the bandwagon for the first time in years.

Then Hinkie struck again and all of the momentum the Sixers had, all the good feeling that had built up around this team, was gone. Now we once again must trust in Sam and hope that this guy – who had never run an NBA franchise before – knows what he’s doing.

And even though we have no idea how he’ll do it or even if he’ll do it, we do know one thing – Sam Hinkie is either the smartest man in sports or the dumbest.

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