76ers

Sam Hinkie's 5 best draft picks as Sixers GM

Sam Hinkie's 5 best draft picks as Sixers GM

Former Sixers GM Sam Hinkie is as divisive a figure in Philly sports as you’ll find. There’s a portion of the fan base that reveres him as a deity. Another portion thought he was running a Ponzi scheme.

No matter where you come out on the argument, there’s no debating that Hinkie always made draft night interesting.

Let's look back on the five best draft picks from Hinkie’s tenure as Sixers GM:

5. Michael Carter-Williams (11th overall, 2013)
Carter-Williams looked like a steal after the point guard out of Syracuse won Rookie of the Year by averaging 16.7 points, 6.3 assists, 6.2 rebounds and 1.9 steals a game. You have to give Hinkie credit for having the foresight to recognize when to move on. Most Sixers fans weren’t thrilled with the idea of trading a guy they viewed as a young, exciting player.

Hinkie saw Carter-William's limitations and got a hell of an asset for him — a first-rounder which would ultimately become the 10th overall pick in 2018. You could certainly make the argument that that asset was misused by his successors, but Hinkie did quite well to make this pick and then move on from Carter-Williams at the peak of his value.

4. Richaun Holmes (37th overall, 2015)
Hinkie had an affinity for second-round picks, seeming to acquire an endless amount. It’s a tradition the Sixers have carried on since he left. Though instead of selling them like the team has done in recent years, Hinkie used them well.

Holmes was drafted out of Bowling Green. Though he had his defensive lapses, he was a good screener and dynamic roller and an outstanding weakside shot blocker. He always brought energy as a reserve big and had guady numbers per 36 minutes — 15.8 points, nine rebounds, 1.7 blocks — as a Sixer. After three seasons here and one with the Suns, Holmes seems to have found a nice fit with the Kings.

As for Hinkie, finding a serviceable NBA big at No. 37 is strong value.

3. Jerami Grant (39th overall, 2014)
Another well-executed second-rounder by Hinkie. Grant, taken after one season at Syracuse, wasn’t even the Sixers’ first selection of the second round. The team took high-flying K.J. McDaniels out of Clemson.

While McDaniels played just three seasons and hasn’t been in the NBA since 2017, Grant has become the ideal role player for the modern game. Grant is switchable defensively, is an excellent off-ball shot blocker and has become an above-average three-point shooter (39.6 percent the last two seasons). Grant was traded to the Thunder for Ersan Ilyasova and a first-round pick just two games into his third season.

While Ilyasova helped the Sixers and that first-rounder has been on quite a journey, Grant would be a nice player to have right now.

2. Dario Saric (12th overall, 2014)
Saric wasn’t technically a Hinkie pick, but it’s clear that the GM had his eyes on the Croatian. Hinkie took Elfrid Payton 10th overall, knowing that the Magic wanted the point guard from Louisiana-Lafayette. So not only was Hinkie able to acquire Saric, but he also reclaimed the first-round pick that was traded for Andrew Bynum and picked up an additional second-rounder.

Saric’s first two seasons with the Sixers were strong, including an excellent playoff run in 2018 where he averaged 17.2 points, 7.3 rebounds and 3.5 assists. Saric didn’t look like the same player to start the 2018-19 season and was a part of the Jimmy Butler deal. He may never deliver on the promise he showed at the start of his career, but still, a strong "selection" by Hinkie.

1. Joel Embiid (third overall, 2014)
What even needs to be said? Not all of Hinkie’s lottery pick were hits, but this was an enormous one. Sure, Embiid slipped to third overall because of injury concern, but it still took guts from Hinkie to make the selection — and the center from Cameroon has rewarded that decision time and time again.

Embiid is a three-time All-Star and has twice earned All-Defensive Team and All-NBA honors. Barring injury, his career is on an extremely special trajectory.

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2020 NBA playoffs: Looking at where Sixers sit in Eastern Conference picture

2020 NBA playoffs: Looking at where Sixers sit in Eastern Conference picture

Though they’re calling “seeding games,” the Sixers’ primary concern in the contests leading up to the playoffs is not seeding.

“How do you go into the playoffs … how can you go into that date feeling like we’re the best we can be?” Brett Brown said on July 12. “Worrying too much about moving up because you could play this team or avoid that team, I stay away from that.” 

Through three games at Disney World, Brown wishes the Sixers were playing at a higher level. The team has gone 2-1, but that record includes a fourth quarter in which the Sixers allowed the Pacers to score 46 points, a game-saving shot from Shake Milton vs. the Spurs and a win over the 24-44 Wizards that was tight until the end. Ben Simmons exited Wednesday’s game against Washington early with a left knee injury

It’s been slower coming than I would’ve thought,” Brown said Wednesday. “I liked our practices, I thought … the preseason games you saw at times a dominant defense. We’ve started these three games, I think, very inconsistently. I think we do some good things offensively, defensively, and then you see head-scratching stuff. It hasn’t gone as quickly as I had hoped. But I see where I think it can end. 

“We’re still figuring out some things with how we’re playing the team and Shake (Milton) coming in and so on. But I think, for the most part, we’re trending in the right direction, just not as quickly as I wished.

Here's where the Sixers sit in the Eastern Conference: 

3. Boston Celtics 45-23 GB: 9 
4. Miami Heat 43-25 GB: 11
5. Indiana Pacers 42-26 GB: 12
6. Sixers 41-27 GB: 13 

Boston technically still has a chance to surpass the Raptors for the No. 2 seed and the Sixers aren’t eliminated from contention for the No. 3 seed, but both outcomes are very improbable. Kemba Walker sat out the latter half of a back-to-back Wednesday, a 149-115 Celtics win over the Nets, as the All-Star guard works through a left knee issue. After playing Toronto on Friday night, the Celtics will face Orlando, Memphis and Washington.

The current No. 4 and No. 5 seeds play each other twice in the remaining seeding games, which should be interesting. The Heat’s other opponents are the Bucks, Suns and Thunder, while the Pacers’ are the Suns, Lakers and Rockets. Before the NBA’s hiatus, Miami was 2-0 against Indiana. In case you were curious, T.J. Warren hasn’t dropped off much after his 53-point performance vs. the Sixers. He leads all scorers at Disney World with 39.7 points per game. 

Despite having the sixth-easiest strength of schedule, the Sixers don’t have great odds of rising. Basketball Reference’s Playoff Probabilities Report gives them a 72.8 percent chance at the No. 6 seed, 23.0 percent at No. 5 and just 4.1 percent at No. 4. Those probabilities are intuitive when you consider the Sixers have lost their season series vs. the Heat and Pacers. 

The Celtics are the Sixers’ most likely first-round opponent at the moment by a good margin, which would potentially leave the Sixers a path of Boston-Toronto-Milwaukee. One could make the argument that such a road is best for the Sixers, since the team won its season series over Boston, 3-1, and wouldn’t have to face the top-seeded Bucks until the Eastern Conference Finals, but nothing’s going to be easy for a No. 6 seed. 

We analyzed the Celtics, Heat and Pacers as possible first-round opponents for the Sixers here

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Sixers injury update: Ben Simmons reportedly had clean MRI on left knee

Sixers injury update: Ben Simmons reportedly had clean MRI on left knee

When Ben Simmons flexed his left leg after lobbing a pass for Al Horford and immediately headed off the floor Wednesday during the Sixers’ win over the Wizards, it was logical to be concerned. But, according to a report, Simmons’ knee injury is not as severe as one might have feared watching him walk toward the locker room. 

An MRI on Simmons’ knee was clean and he’s expected to be day-to-day, per Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium. It's worth noting this is not an official update from the Sixers, who Brett Brown said postgame he expected to issue an announcement soon about Simmons' status. 

The 24-year-old recovered from a nerve impingement in his lower back over the NBA’s hiatus, and he felt strong and explosive heading into the league’s restart. He’s now serving as the Sixers’ starting point forward, an adjustment Brown thinks he’s approached well.

“I do feel like Ben has been amazing,” Brown said before Wednesday’s game, “in regards to just being mature on ‘Put me wherever you think I can best help the team.’ At times maybe he hasn’t gotten a touch the way he needs to get a touch, sometimes — which was easier when he was always the primary ball carrier. And so I applaud him tremendously on being a great teammate, trying to accept a new type of ecosystem that we’re trying to use him in.”

Simmons looked for his shot often in Wednesday’s game, though with little success. He missed an open corner three-pointer in the first quarter, his first legitimate regular-season try from long distance since Dec. 7, and made 2 of 10 field goals overall in 23 minutes. 

If Simmons misses any games, Brown will have a few options for reshuffling his starting lineup. There’s a case to be made for just about every member of the current rotation, which Brown cut down to nine players on Wednesday. Al Horford could slide into the frontcourt if Brown wants to work on the Horford-Joel Embiid pairing, which has a plus-15.6 net rating in 40 minutes together at Disney World after being the Sixers’ worst regular duo pre-hiatus.

Matisse Thybulle, Furkan Korkmaz and Glenn Robinson III have all started games this year, though Robinson is dealing with an injury himself, having missed the team's first three seeding games with a left hip pointer. Perhaps Brown could go with Alec Burks if he’s looking for an extra ball handler and more time to evaluate his potential backup point guard in the playoffs.

The main takeaway here, however, is not the potential ripple effects on the Sixers' seeding game rotation. Rather, it's that a player the team will surely need to have available in order to make a deep playoff run reportedly has avoided a serious injury.

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