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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