Jul 07 2016

5-on-5: What Would Hinkie Have Done In Free Agency?

1. Bryan Colangelo deserves a __ for his first free agency with the Sixers.

Eric Goldwein (@ericgoldwein): B+. An A+ for not screwing up and a B for the signings themselves. Colangelo had the right idea with Jerryd Bayless (3yr/$27M), a capable ball-handler that can stretch the floor, and while he might’ve paid a premium and tacked on one too many years, that’s the cost of doing business as a 10-72 team. Sergio Rodriguez was a creative signing; dare I say, Hinkie-esque. And Gerald Henderson at 2/$18 seems like a high-floor, low ceiling play that’ll help settle the rotation in the short term.

Xylon Dimoff (@xylondimoff): A. A lot of this is rooted in the moves he didn’t make — DeMar DeRozan, Jamal Crawford, Rajon Rondo, and the like are playing elsewhere (knock on wood RE: Dion Waiters). And not only are all three of Colangelo’s signings sound in the scope of patient team-building philosophy, but he managed to get somewhat inventive in a free agency market where creativity is out the window: Jerryd Bayless is the Ben Simmons point guard whom everybody forgot existed, and the third year on his deal could potentially make for a nice trade chip when the cap once again balloons in 2018 (alternatively, it could be a liability); Sergio Rodriguez’s $3 million buyout may have taken him off most teams’ radar, so Colangelo instead dipped into cap space and effectively handed out a $5 million contract with added buyout compensation; Gerald Henderson isn’t Allen Crabbe, Kent Bazemore, or similarly younger, more intriguing prospect, but Hendo should present equal money-to-production value. I admittedly would’ve preferred that he topped the bargain bin deals received by Seth Curry or E’Twaun Moore, but it’s impossible to know what went on behind the scenes that led to those players signing their respective deals.

Bryan Toporek (@btoporek): I’ll go with an A-/B+. He was always going to round out the backcourt with veterans; the question came down to which players he chose and how long their deals were. Finding two low-usage point guards in Bayless and Rodriguez who can operate off the ball as catch-and-shoot threats will help maximize Ben Simmons’ ability to run the team as a point forward. Gerald Henderson isn’t as strong of a three-point shooter, but he’ll be a fine complementary scorer nevertheless. I’m most encouraged by the fact he only handed each of them deals no longer than three years and with an AAV below $10 million, thereby not affecting the Sixers’ long-term financial flexibility. A lack of aggressiveness on the restricted free agent market is all that holds him back from a firm “A.”

Rob Patterson (@Rahbee33): A. The focus this summer wasn’t like any of the Hinkie summers in the sense that they might have finally found “the guy” in Ben Simmons and he’s ready to go. Nerlens and Embiid were both going to miss their first years and Okafor didn’t project to be quite the cornerstone that Simmons appears to be. The goal this year was different than it had been and I think Colangelo did a good job of filling out the roster with guys to compliment Simmons – who at this point is the only sure fire guy to be here and contributing for the foreseeable future – while not tying down cap space in the upcoming years when luring a big time free agent might actually be an option. All three of the signees so far (Henderson, Rodriguez, Bayless) can all be described as “solid” and ready to contribute. This isn’t a 10 win team next year but barring a Dion Waiters contract they didn’t try to immediately jump to the middle either while sacrificing the future. The looming Noel-Okafor trade is still a question mark, but between the free agents and the draft I think he’s done a fine job.     

Benny Kaufman (@bennyrkaufman)B.  I love what they did in free agency, but can’t give BC higher than this because he didn’t bring in anyone with the potential to be a long-term part of the team. He brought in some nice veteran pieces to fill the gaping hole in the backcourt and provide shooting to help space the floor for Simmons and the bigs. I’m most impressed with the creativity in going after Sergio Rodriguez, who has improved his shot since his days in Portland, averaging over 40% on 3.8 attempts in his last four seasons for Real Madrid.  Adding him to the mix with Simmons, Dario, Luwawu, and Embiid, this could be a fun team to watch.

2. Keeping in mind the tweet below, what would Hinkie have done differently?

Goldwein: Capitalized on the incompetence of the Knicks, Lakers, and Bulls. I’m not sure how, but if there was a way to get a future pick or swap, Hinkie would’ve found it, while still leaving enough cap room to add competent players similar to those brought in by BC.

Toporek: Hinkie would have gone after restricted free agents like a bat out of hell, particularly those who fell under the Arenas provision. Jordan Clarkson would have had a max offer sheet at his doorstep on 12:01 a.m. on July 1. Tyler Johnson and Langston Galloway likely wouldn’t have been far behind. While there’s always a chance Colangelo hands out a huge offer sheet to Allen Crabbe (or, God forbid, Dion Waiters), Hinkie would have used the Sixers’ $50-plus million in cap space far more aggressively on RFAs during the opening days of free agency, I’d assume.

Dimoff: I’m with Bryan in that he likely would’ve stacked up on restricted free agent offers early on, but it’s ultimately impossible to know how he’d actually fare. Hinkie is adept in most CBA circumvention tactics, but where he was a real virtuoso was in fleecing teams trying to free up cap space — basically a non-factor this offseason. I imagine that he would’ve chased after the cheap, analytic darlings in Curry and Moore as mentioned above, but I’m not quite sure what he could’ve done differently outside of that. That was always the mystique of the Hinkie era though: we never quite knew what to expect next.

Patterson: “What Would Hinkie Do?” will be a question on a lot of Sixers fans minds for the next few years. With so much money floating around I’m not sure if he would’ve been able to pull off a deal like the Kings-Stauskas deal last summer where he took advantage of a team in panic mode. With the backlash to last summer and the ownership perhaps getting a little tired of losing I could’ve seen him have a very similar offseason to what Colangelo has put together. Maybe it wouldn’t have been these guys in particular, but certainly veteran starters/rotation guys that would compliment Ben Simmons would’ve been the first priority. He could’ve gotten crazy with a potential Okafor or Noel trade, but I don’t think his free agent signings would’ve been that much different considering the pool of guys available this summer.      

Kaufman: The ultimate question. Part of the joy of Hinkie’s reign was that you never quite knew WWHD, but you always knew he was doing everything to make the best possible long-term decision. I think this was the year Hinkie had to start thinking about roster construction and beginning to win games.  With Simmons, Embiid, and Saric coming in, plus the security of the Kings swap, Hinkie could finally stop prioritizing draft positioning and turn towards development.   

With the cap exploding this year (and more over the next few years), I could see Hinkie being aggressive with RFAs, daring people to match slight overpays that would become less and less of a cap hit each year.


3. In Gerald Henderson, Sergio Rodriguez and Jerryd Bayless, the Sixers finally added veterans to the roster. Is this what Hinkie should have done last offseason?

Goldwein: If he wanted job security, sure. But that’s never been his goal. The difference between The Process and past tanks is that the former didn’t bother pretending to compete. In their “best” case free agent spending scenario, let’s say they brought in Cory Joseph (and I’m guessing he would’ve cost them more than 4/$30M). That move would’ve A. brought them closer to 15 wins, and B: taken up a roster spot, and C: taken away cap flexibility. And for what, Cory Joseph? A capable rotation guard that can be found in free agency every single season?

The three-year tank produced what most (outside Sixers Twitter) considered an unwatchable product. Yeah, they could’ve taken half-measures in the tear down and made that experience a little less unpleasant, but if title contention is the goal, ripping the band-aid off was the fastest way — probabilistically — to a full recovery.

Dimoff: One. Hundred. Percent. While I fully the understand the importance of finishing with the league’s worst record — those two wins against Minnesota in 2014-15 will haunt me forever — adding one or two NBA-caliber talents probably wouldn’t have closed the seven-game gap behind the Lakers. Would simply doubling (or coming close to) the measly offers that Jeremy Lin or Cory Joseph inked last summer have killed the chances of landing Simmons? Probably not, and, not only would those players look like great trade assets now, but Hinkie probably would still be the man seated on the Sixers’ Iron Throne.

Toporek: Yes and no. In retrospect, had he done that, the Sixers likely wouldn’t have finished as the league’s worst team, which means no Ben Simmons. That said, once the Lakers pulled a draft-night about-face and took D’Angelo Russell instead of Okafor, Hinkie’s failure to add a league-average point guard in free agency sewed the seeds for his demise. Had he signed a Cory Joseph or Jeremy Lin, there’s a strong chance he’d still be running the franchise. Whether the Sixers would be in a better place right now — with a legitimate PG in place, but sans Hinkie and Simmons — is another question entirely.

Patterson: Nope. Whether or not you believe Hinkie thought Kendall Marshall would be ready I think the goal of last year was still to be really bad. Maybe not 1-30 bad and perhaps had he made some of these types of moves he’d still be here, but there was one goal and that goal was to be in a position to get the first overall pick finally. Mission accomplished.

Kaufman: No.  After Embiid’s setback and losing out on D’Angelo Russell, it was clear that they had to be as bad as possible to ensure the best possible draft position.  I also don’t think they should have traded two second round picks for a rental of Ish Smith, but understand the necessity after our historically bad start.  It was not a fun season, but in the end, they didn’t set the record, and got Ben Simmons.

4. What are your biggest Ben Simmons/non-Simmons takeaways after two summer league games??

Goldwein: Christian Wood: NBA player.
Richaun Holmes: Fun NBA player with an astonishingly low defensive rebounding rate.
Ben Simmons: Future all-star point guard.
T.J. McConnell: John Stockton.

Dimoff: I’m not ready to let Richaun Holmes get lost in the rotation; every Christian Wood make basket is another gray hair for Brett Brown; I’m not sure that anybody is more excited about TJ McConnell’s hair than TJ McConnell is excited about TJ McConnell’s hair; James Webb III does some cool stuff and has better hair than TJ (please, don’t tell TJ) but unfortunately would probably never make it out of Delaware; Timothe Luwawu running the break is what keeps my heart beating; Ben Simmons is The Guy.

Toporek: Ben Simmons is the truth. The 2019 Eastern Conference Finals between Point Simmons and Point Giannis might break Basketball Twitter. Beyond that, I hope Richaun Holmes gets a chance to carve out a rotation spot this year — particularly if Colangelo does proceed with an Okafor or Noel trade over the coming months — and that the Sixers can keep Christian Wood around on a D-League deal. I’ve also been pleasantly surprised by James Webb III, but given the crunch in terms of roster spots, he’s likely a D-League option as well.

Patterson: Brett Brown had been talking about how learning point guard is the hardest thing for a young rookie to do and not something he was going to force on Simmons right out of the gate so I was surprised at just how much of the ball handling he did even with TJ on the court. But boy, he was a thrill to watch. He had a mediocre game, but you could just tell from the way he moved around the court he is on a whole different level than what we’ve seen the last few years. I know it’s only Summer League, but Timothy John McConnell continues to be one of my favorite Sixers and he looked really in control in that first game.  

Kaufman: A lot of really encouraging things. I think Ben Simmons can be a point guard and an impact player from day one. The guy is already an elite passer, and his court vision is outstanding. Christian Wood might be an NBA player, but I don’t think he’ll be a Sixer.  Even if one of the bigs is gone before the season starts, I’d rather have Holmes be our third big off the bench. T.J. McConnell can do no wrong and I hope he’s a Sixer for the next 20 years.

5. What should the Sixers be looking for in an Okafor/Noel trade?

Goldwein: Keep Noel. For Okafor: hold out for unprotected picks/swaps or top-tier prospects. (Hi there, Chicago). It’d better to use him as a centerpiece and add more assets for, say, D’Angelo Russell than get three quarters on the dollar in return. Staying patient is also an option; Okafor’s value won’t sink any lower, and given Embiid’s likely early season restrictions and Okafor’s knee surgery, they’ll be opportunities to get creative with minute distribution.

Dimoff: For Okafor: a 2017 first-rounder. The backcourt trade market as is seems to be dried up and this summer’s freshman class is by all accounts a home run, so I’d be looking to roll the dice as many times as possible in the first round.

For Nerlens: they just simply can’t trade him yet. Many have always said that Jahlil is the Embiid insurance, but this team needs none of what Okafor brings at this juncture. Nerlens, on the other hand, is a sure-fire fit with Simmons & Co. as a rim protector and low-usage pick-and-roll threat on the offensive end. If the next great Sixers team is one that features both Simmons and Embiid, then Noel will likely on be superfluous as a backup. But until we can see a clearer picture about Embiid’s long-term health, the Sixers need to keep its only rim protector in place.

Toporek: It’s almost easier to use process of elimination here. They (obviously) don’t need another big man. They don’t need a traditional point guard like Rajon Rondo or even Chris Paul, since Simmons should eventually move into the role as the team’s primary ball-handler and playmaker. So, that basically leaves a three-and-D guard or wing. I was at least mildly intrigued by the draft-day rumors linking Noel to the Rockets for Patrick Beverley and Trevor Ariza, but ideally, the Sixers would get younger prospects more aligned with the developmental timelines of Simmons, Embiid and Dario Saric. If the Lakers wind up trading for Russell Westbrook, I sure wouldn’t complain if the Sixers got involved to make it a three-teamer and turned Okafor into D’Angelo Russell.

Patterson: This question has been on my mind since the roster started to take shape over the weekend and I honestly have no idea. I’d assume if there is a young wing that doesn’t have impending free agency next year would be the best option, but I don’t know if that guys out there right now. With Allen Crabbe still floating around perhaps a sign and trade could be in order, but I’d think the Sixers want a little something more.

Kaufman: The current free agent market can only have a positive impact on the value of their talented and cost-controlled bigs. They should look to make a deal with Phoenix or Boston for one of their young wings and future draft considerations.

  • Robby Bonfire

    Ah, yes, adding veterans to the roster, how nice. Can’t say about Rodriguez but as for Henderson and Bayless, they are mediocre to a fault. Bayless averaged FOUR assists per 40, last season, in an NBA where the star PG’s get double figures in the assist column. Both Bayless and Henderson are bone dry on D, too.

    All the time now we are seeing older, journeyman players kick younger, much higher upside players off team rosters, as this league has gone overboard for the “mentoring” syndrome. All this talent up front, all this sludge corroding our back court. We really need to expedite a Noel trade package and get a REAL PG in here, for starters.

    • egoldwein

      Can’t tell if this is sarcasm .. but I think their additions were all relatively small, short-term investments — low-risk and low reward. I don’t think they’re game-changers but with several high-potential prospects in place, I can see the rationale in bringing in paying a premium for certainty.

      • Robby Bonfire

        We seem content to write off this coming season and look ahead to next year. But what if Simmons, Saric, and Embiid are the real deal this year? Bringing a star guard into our house now, instead of, hopefully drafting or trading for one a year from now, would enable us to compete deeply into the post-season, I do believe.

        This is going to be a frustrating year, what with a lot of extra losses accruing because of our below par back court while at the same time we are looking at the possibility of having one of the best and certainly deepest front court aggregations in the league.

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