(SportsNetwork.com) - One year ago, optimism brimmed in Philadelphia.
The Sixers gave up Andre Iguodala, an effective, but overpaid swingman, who
wasn't capable of carrying the 76ers to any meaningful success, for Andrew
Bynum, a premium center in a league devoid of them.
Finally, the Sixers had a true superstar, which is necessary to win an NBA
We know the story.
Bynum didn't play a single minute all season with knee injuries, then signed
with the Cleveland Cavaliers in the offseason.
The Bynum experiment is over and all Sixers fans got from the deal was some
bowling jokes and bitterness.
It was a noble pursuit by the former regime. Former General Manager Tony
DiLeo, a principal architect in the Bynum debacle, was shown the door. Head
coach Doug Collins left on his own. Even CEO Adam Aron stepped down.
It was time for a total rebuild and that Herculean task was charged to Sam
Hinkie, who previously worked in the Houston Rockets organization.
Hinkie went underground after his hire. There was no talking to the media
after his introductory presser and draft prep was the reason.
Without a coach, Hinkie stunned the NBA when he shipped All-Star point guard
Jrue Holiday to the New Orleans Pelicans in exchange for Nerlens Noel,
probably the No. 1 pick in the draft had he not torn his ACL in the winter,
and a top-five protected pick in next year's draft. The 2014 draft is more
loaded than a Microsoft executive's portfolio.
Philly also took point guard Michael Carter-Williams with their own first-
Hinkie decided not to spend any money on free agents. He littered the roster
with possibilities, not certainties and took on no significant income. The
Sixers' roster is the worst in the league in terms of talent.
With Andrew Wiggins looming as a franchise No. 1 pick in the next draft, plus
another possible lottery pick, buckets of money to spend next season and
plenty of available positions to fill, the Sixers are certainly not playing
for this season.
"The ownership here and the people in this organization have a real commitment
to build something lasting and to build something big," Hinkie said on draft
night. "That won't come overnight."
Are the Sixers tanking? That's a strong word. Does Hinkie have a long-term
plan that involves throwing these rookie cornerstones into the fire quickly?
After gutting the roster and leaving a Triple-A NBA team in place, who
could/would Hinkie find to coach this team?
Brett Brown was an assistant for years under Gregg Popovich with the San
Antonio Spurs. It was reported on draft night that Brown was Hinkie's choice.
Hinkie refuted it, then, two months later, gave Brown a four-year contract to
guide the 76ers, a mere four months after Collins bailed.
"We all know the pain of the rebuild is real," Brown said at his introductory
press conference. "There needs to be patience."
Lots, and lots of patience.
2012-13 Results: 34-48, 4th in Atlantic Division; Missed playoffs
ADDITIONS: HC Brett Brown, G Michael Carter-Williams, C Nerlens Noel, G Tony
Wroten, F Royce White, G James Anderson, F Tim Ohlbrecht, F Arsalan Kazemi. G
PROJECTED STARTING FIVE:
PG- Michael Carter-Williams
SG- James Anderson
SF- Evan Turner
PF- Thaddeus Young
C- Spencer Hawes
KEY RESERVES: F/C Lavoy Allen, C Nerlens Noel, G Jason Richardson, F/C Arnett
Moultrie, F Royce White, G Tony Wroten, C Daniel Orton, C Kwame Brown, G
FRONTCOURT: This is the strength of the Sixers, if you really want to call it
Turner, Young and Hawes are the most veteran 76ers. They are the three
leading scorers among returners and were just behind Holiday in scoring last
Turner has the most to play for this season. He is in the final year of his
rookie contract and has never lived up to his No. 2 overall pick billing.
Statistically, Turner's numbers have improved every season and should go even
higher this year. Turner will have the ball in his hands quite a bit as he's
the best creator on the team.
Young is out of position at the power forward spot, but battled all last
season. He defends the opposition's best forward every night, grabbed 7.5 rpg
last season and scored almost 15.0 ppg. He is a warrior and the only veteran
who probably figures into the team's future. (Young is one of a handful of
Sixers under contract past this season and the only one the team might want to
Hawes shows flashes and is a free agent at the end of the campaign. He has a
skill set, but is not part of the long-term future.
BACKCOURT: Carter-Williams is already a skilled distributor, but a terrible
shooter. He has a lot to learn about the point-guard spot. Luckily, Carter-
Williams has 82 games for that to happen.
Wroten is probably the other starter in the backcourt by process of
elimination. Jason Richardson might miss the whole season with knee issues and
Philly probably doesn't mind. The Memphis Grizzlies gave up on the 20-year-old
Wroten, who is an out of control point guard. Wroten can penetrate, but not
shoot and often goes for sizzle over steak.
The possibility exists Brown moves Turner to the backcourt, Young to small
forward and either Allen, or Moultrie starts at power forward.
BENCH: This group is incredibly thin. The backcourt has one reserve, tops. The
frontcourt backups are underachievers or youngsters. Most of the players
brought in to fill these roster spots are here for either cap purposes, or as
COACHING: Brown worked under the future Hall of Famer Popovich for almost a
decade. He appears to be a basketball lifer and shrewd to boot. Brown only
took the Sixers job when he was guaranteed a fourth year on his contract.
Brown's forte is in player development. He helped make Tony Parker and Manu
Ginobili future Hall of Famers and assisted in the progression of recent
talents, Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green.
One thing Brown has no experience with is rebuilding projects.
"I have not been a part of a rebuild since I was in the NBA," admitted Brown.
"The rebuild has to be keeping the locker room together."
This upcoming season will be brutal on Brown. He will have gone from the NBA
Finals to the worst record in the league. There might be times questioning his
sanity, but Brown definitely appeared to be prepared for the grind.
OUTLOOK: "It's fairly obvious what we're trying to do over time," Hinkie said.
"We're trying to build something. We're trying to build something special."
The plan is in place and it's a solid idea. In the NBA, teams need to get
really bad before they can get really good. Look at the Oklahoma City Thunder
for further proof.
Normally, one should be hesitant about a plan that revolves around some luck.
Wiggins is the big prize at the end of this trying season. Having the worst
record, which the Sixers should have, is no guarantee for the No. 1 overall
pick and Wiggins.
But, Hinkie is going down this road. With Holiday still around, the Sixers
would be markedly better this season, but never a title contender. They'd
always finish with a decent enough record and in the middle of the pack.
That's not how you get difference makers in the draft.
Despite a season of less than 20 wins looming on the horizon, there is actual
optimism in Philadelphia.
"Can you imagine if we can get this thing right? If we can get this right with
the culture and the history that this city has and the pride and the toughness
that this city has, that is very alluring," said Brown.
The Sports Network