For the first time in what seems like more than a decade, the Philadelphia 76ers have a plan.
After trading All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday for former Kentucky big man Nerlens Noel on Thursday night, the Sixers have set sail in a brand new direction. The Sixers also received a projected lottery pick in next years draft along with Noel in the deal from New Orleans.
The Sixers also kept their original pick, and selected Syracuse point guard Michael Carter-Williams at No. 11, therefore replacing Holiday going forward.
In losing what was the Sixers’ only potential cornerstone player in Holiday, the team will bet on the ultra athletic freshman that was once considered a lock to be the draft’s top overall pick after averaging 10.5 points and 9.5 rebounds and blocking 106 shots last year for the Wildcats. Noel’s stock slipped following concerns about a knee injury (ACL tear) suffered just before March, but still was considered to be in play as the No. 1 overall pick in the draft nevertheless.
Instead, he fell out of the top five and into the lap of the newly minted New Orleans Pelicans at No. 6, who already have another established big man at center in 2012 No. overall pick Anthony Davis. The Sixers decided to pick up the phone and make a bold move to pickup perhaps the draft’s top player AND stockpile future assets.
Jrue Holiday has turned out to be a fine NBA point guard after the Sixers made him a first-round pick back in 2009, averaging 17 points and eight assists a game last season, but even at his very best as an All-Star this year, the Sixers were futile. After the Sixers cleaned house: they fired their GM and coach; their new GM Sam Hinkie perused his new roster and decided that it, as presently constituted, was not going to be a contender now or ever.
The genius is that Hinkie has finally put the Sixers ahead of the curve. Instead of dwelling in the mediocrity of being a late lottery team, Hinkie is going forward and forging ahead with a refreshing strategy of not wanting to be stuck in the middle of the NBA landscape where you’re neither a contender nor a rebuilder. The middle ground is where franchises go to die. Either get up and change or stay in the same mediocre status quo. Hinkie has opted to make the venture into the badlands in order for a chance at the promised land.
In order to be a championship-level contender in the current NBA landscape, where players jump ship from team-to-team like musical chairs and high-end draft picks are coveted, Hinkie has given the Sixers a plan, a blueprint if you will. Instead of the hope of landing the 8th playoff spot in the East with no relative chance of going anywhere in the playoffs with Jrue Holiday as his main piece, he created a window of opportunity to actually move forward, onward and upward.
Instead of toiling away as a non-lottery, non-championship contender, Hinkie has stripped the Sixers to the bare bones in hopes that brighter days are ahead. But not only does he hang his hat on hope in the future, he gives the Sixers something they haven’t had in years at the present (well, December-ish): a serviceable big man who can defend and change the game in Noel.
Make no mistake that sans injury, Nerlens Noel was going No. 1 overall. Sure an ACL tear is a serious injury, but the Sixers are a team that needs to take risks in order to jump ahead of the competition, and plenty of guys have come back just fine from the same type of injury. They can’t outspend the Knicks, Mavs or Lakers, and they can’t attract free agents like those teams either. They have to get creative, which is what Hinkie did.
Not only did he get the Sixers probably the best player in the draft (if healthy), but he also added a first-round pick from the Pelicans next year. Oh by the way, the 2014 draft class is projected to be one of the deepest in a few years and carries top end talent the Sixers, who should be beyond terrible next year, will be able to take advantage of.
There’s Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Marcus Smart, and that doesn’t even include the gaggle of talent Kentucky will be sending to the draft. There’s real hope in that draft class, and the chance to get two players at the top of a deep class provide the Sixers with a start of something that they didn’t have before Thursday night started: a plan.
That plan also included the new coach of the Sixers, former Spurs assistant Brett Brown, as reported during the draft. Brown spend seven seasons on the Spurs bench besides now-Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer and Gregg Popovich. Before his time on the bench, Brown spent five years in player development for the team. If indeed his is the Sixers’ choice, he’s a good one, but they’re playing coy at the moment and neither confirming nor denying. Oh the intrigue of the new era of Sixers basketball!
Since Allen Iverson left town the Sixers have toiled in mediocrity, and to almost excruciating levels. But with Nerlens Noel, Michael Carter-Williams and two first rounder’s next year, the Sixers are setting up a future, and it looks to be a bright one at that.
And at the very worst, at least they have a plan…finally.