I don’t mind the Sixers taking Jahlil Okafor with the third pick, given who was on the board at the time. He was widely considered the best player in the draft class in the months leading up, before a late surge from Karl-Anthony Towns. He’s big, young, and skilled. I had him fourth on my board and the only player ahead of him still available was Mario Hezonja. No part of me really expected the Sixers to pull the trigger on Hezonja with the third pick, and I’m not sure they should have. Okafor is more of a sure thing, and despite being a better fit and higher on MY board, Hezonja wasn’t valued that highly by the league. If you were going to take him, you needed to trade back.
Speaking of trading back, so much for all that talk of Godfather offers if Okafor fell to the Sixers. If the right package wasn’t there, I don’t blame the Sixers for simply taking the best guy on their board.
As for Okafor’s fit with the Sixers, I talked myself into the situation yesterday during the afternoon (which is why I’m not as utterly distraught as other Sixers fans today). The chances of three young prospects at the same position all being healthy and good enough to earn starters minutes are fairly low, especially in the first couple years. Jahlil Okafor’s fit within Brett Brown’s high pace system is frankly more of a question mark than finding minutes for him next to the Oel’s (Nerlens and Embiid).
Big picture, which is the only way Sixers fans can really think, the pick is harder to parse out. D’Angelo Russell was exciting because it was easy to see he and Embiid both blossoming into elite players, running pick and rolls all the way to a parade down Broad Street. It is next to impossible to imagine a scenario where the Sixers become a relevant contender with Nerlens Noel, Joel Embiid, and Jahlil Okafor on their roster. Is it possible? I suppose. Embiid’s agility and touch make him a great high post player. Okafor commands the low block (and is an excellent passer). Nerlens is the energy and defense off the bench. And at some point, a guard or small forward is acquired. The scenario can happen, though there’s no way it is best for their individual development processes. For each to become the best player he can, they’ll need a level of freedom they won’t receive with this set-up. Realistically, one of the three will be traded. Or will be a bust, and not matter when the Sixers upswing occurs.
Speaking of the upswing, when can we expect that? This draft, to many, had the potential to start that. This was the year they’d draft real, actual, human, healthy, actively-living-and-playing-in-America players. And because of that, with Embiid on board, the team would start to piece together wins. By no means a playoff squad, but not the cellar dwellers they’ve been. With the plethora of first round picks Sam Hinkie owns next year, tanking the season would seem like less of a priority. To get one of the best players in the draft, you’d better have one of the top picks OR enough ammo to trade for one (and owning four first rounders is plenty of ammo).
That in mind, Hinkie did draft a player capable of helping the team this season, we think. A guard or wing would have helped more, seeing as they could play alongside the team’s current best assets (and even make each other better). But Jahlil Okafor will play this season for the Philadelphia 76ers. He really will! And the team will be better. Exchanging Henry Sims and Furkan Aldemir for Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor is a nice change. No longer can the talk radio and bar room pundits accuse Hinkie of “kicking the can down the road” (ugh, it pains me to type the phrase).
The 2015-2016 Sixers will be better than the 2014-2015 version. The question marks lie further in the future.
My much, much bigger issue with Sam Hinkie’s performance last night came later in the night. Everyone expected the Sixers to do their damnedest to trade back into the late first round. And reports claim they did. When Justise Winslow slipped, some people thought Sam Hinkie may try to make the move back into the lottery to get him.
I was certainly one of those people. But any trade needs a willing partner, and there didn’t seem to be one in that range. Michael Jordan and the Hornets were set on Frank Kaminsky (LOL) and the Heat had Justise Winslow fall into their lap. With an aging roster, future picks don’t sound that attractive to them. Even an offer as big as the Heat’s own 2016 pick (owned by the Sixers) and the Lakers top 3 protected 2016 pick (also Sixers owned) might not have even raised one of Pat Riley’s slimy eyebrows.
The next logical trading spot would be later in the first round, to teams looking to move back or out of the draft entirely. Multiple teams were clearly willing to do so.
The Hawks wanted out of the #15 pick, and were willing to move to #19, in exchange for two second rounders. Given that they then also traded out of #19, a package of future picks may have appealed to them. Bear in mind, the package they accept for #19 was not built around picks, but around Tim Hardaway Jr. (What a time to be alive. Timofey Mozgov is worth two firsts and Tim Hardaway Jr. is worth one.) Potentially expecting DeMarre Carroll to leave in free agency, the Hawks were more interested in players than picks.
I don’t know how big a package of picks the Hawks would want at #19 that would beat Hardaway, or if Hinkie was willing to offer that package. I really like Jerian Grant, and would have been willing to offer a pretty decent lump of picks to get him. Though much in the same way his football counterpart Chip Kelly can’t be blamed for not selling the farm to get Marcus Mariota, I can’t begrude Hinkie too much for not pulling the trigger on sending away a hefty piece of the future.
One additional opportunity to trade into the first round popped up, as the Blazers were looking to move back or out. The Sixers had been mentioned as suitors for the pick, offering picks #35 and #37. Ultimately, the Nets were shopping Mason Plumlee and trumped any pile of second rounders Hinkie had to offer.
It’s easy to be frustrated that Hinkie never found his way back into the first round, but ultimately, we don’t know what was available or what was required to make the move. I don’t give much credence to the idea that other GMs were blackballing him. Scared to deal with him? Unsure of what his assets are actually worth? Sure. But collusion? No way.
If grading this part of the draft, I’d give Hinkie an incomplete, which no parent would be pleased to see on their child’s report card. Maybe not upset, just confused and anxious.
My biggest issue with Sam Hinkie came later in the night. The second round is his domain.
He is a shark. The second round is open water.
He is Riley Curry. The second round is her dad’s press conference.
He is Kathy Lee Griffin. The second round is the part of the Today Show when they are allowed to drink wine.
He thrives in the wee hours. That is when he goes full tribal council on the rest of the NBA GMs and outwits, outplays, and outlasts them to scoop up talents like Jerami Grant and KJ McDaniels (I realize this isn’t that impressive a list, but still).
I’m not upset that none of the Sixers five second round picks are the next Draymond Green or are even players I like at all. I’m not upset that Hinkie took two draft-and-stash bigs and traded a third. I’m not (overly) bummed that he passed on Olivier Hanlon, Christian Wood, and Cliff Alexander.
I just want to know who is going to play guard for this team. No other team is drafting second rounders who have realistic chances of playing meaningful minutes this season. Were Hinkie to pick someone like Hanlon, he’d immediately be the team’s backup point guard.
If he plans on chasing guards like Brandon Knight in free agency, then Sam Hinkie’s lack of second round brilliance will mean about as much as the second round means to most teams, nothing. If he does not, and the Sixers enter next season with backcourt options consisting merely of Tony Wroten, Hollis Thompson, Robert Covington (love you, #3ob) and Isaiah Canaan, every Sixers fan, no matter their trust level of The Process, should be miffed. The upswing is, or should be, on the horizon.
Shane McNichol is the founder, editor, and writer at PalestraBack.com. He has also contributed to SALTMoney.org and ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter @OnTheShaneTrain.
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