Wizards

Debates about 'The Process' will never be settled, will they?

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© Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Jerry Krause built the best basketball team I've ever seen in my life. Sam Hinkie built the worst.

But he did it on purpose which, for a lot of people, remains impressive to this day. For me, it never really made sense why someone taking extreme measures to fail would be praised. Anybody could do that. Trying to do well is hard. Not trying? I could not try all day.

In fact, tanking is arguably the least impressive feat in sports, if it can be called a feat. It is the opposite of LeBron James lifting the Cavs and the city of Cleveland to an NBA title in 2016.

But, in a way, I get it. Hinkie didn't write the rules, he just tried to exploit them. And he had some victories amid the losses he produced on the court. He drafted Joel Embiid and he set the Sixers up to take Ben Simmons. Those two remain very good players to this day, albeit for a franchise now at a major crossroads after firing head coach Brett Brown.

We can agree to disagree on Hinkie and 'The Process.' But what is unfortunate is that he never got to see his plan through. Not because it would have worked, but because we don't know if it would have. Because he was dismissed in Philly and has yet to get a GM job since, it has created this never-ending debate about whether he was good or bad at his job.

 

There are those, like me, who think extreme tanking in the NBA is fool's gold, that only bad organizations do it. But it is also undeniable that he was not given enough time to bring his theory of NBA roster-building to life.

And as Hinkie sits wherever he is now, the Sixers continue to be a referendum on him and his philosophy. Bryan Colangelo ran the team after he left and Elton Brand is in charge today. They took the wide array of resources Hinkie acquired and, to put it mildly, have produced a mixed bag.

Colangelo drafted Simmons but also Markelle Fultz when he could have had Jayson Tatum. He later left the organization amid a Twitter burner account scandal in 2018.

Brand took over over made a series of aggressive moves. He traded for Jimmy Butler, then Tobias Harris and then Josh Richardson. He signed Al Horford and gave Harris a max contract.

The results never really changed. The Sixers won 50-plus games in 2017-18 and 2018-19, but continue to fall short of a deep postseason run.

Last year, they were a bounce away from the conference finals. This year, they were swept by the Celtics as Simmons sat with a knee injury. That context matters, but not enough to save Brown's job or the rest of us from Hinkie debates on social media.

Ever since Hinkie left the Sixers in 2016, everything they have done has been argued through the context of his tenure. When they win thanks to Embiid, it is a credit to him. When they lose, it is an indictment of those who replaced him and squandered the foundation he built.

That may continue to be the case for a long time. Embiid is only 26 and Simmons is 24. Whether they stay together in Philly or not, their legacies will be tied to Hinkie and 'The Process.'

The only way that could change is if Hinkie gets another GM job and, as it stands, that sounds doubtful to happen anytime soon. It's a shame, too. Though Hinkie's time in Philly was arguably overrated, the most fair grade for him is incomplete. And as long as he remains out of the game, the debates will never be settled.

Somebody please give the man a job so we can settle them once and for all.