Tag Archives: Sam Hinkie

Why the 76ers Will Pursue Jimmy Butler

Rarely do Bulls and 76ers news intersect in this current NBA landscape, considering they are polar opposites in the Eastern Conference standings. But this offseason there could be much to talk about for both teams revolving around budding superstar Jimmy Butler.

Before you Bulls fans immediately dismiss this post and furiously smash your keyboards in disgust with me, I just want to preface this piece by saying I don’t truly believe Jimmy Butler will be able to walk away from Chicago this offseason. So just take a deep breath, and as Aaron Rodgers perhaps most famously says, “relax”. However, I do think it’s necessary to be prepared for other scenarios to arise due to the unpredictability of the NBA, and the nature of the business.

Jimmy Butler is quickly becoming one of the hottest commodities of this upcoming offseason, and although Chicago has privately acknowledged they are prepared to sign the restricted free agent Butler to a max deal this summer, other teams (like the Sixers) will be hot on the trail of the young and gritty swingman.

If you take a quick glance at this Sixers team, there’s one glaring similarity between the players on the roster. But no, I’m not referring to the lack of talent (we get it the Sixers are bad). Sam Hinkie has assembled a roster of absolute athletic freaks: K.J. McDaniels, Jerami Grant, JaKarr Sampson, Nerlens Noel, etc. These guys are long, can jump out of the gym, and they disrupt opponents on the defensive end. The smallest guy on the roster is Tony Wroten, and he’s a wrecking ball at 6’5”. Jimmy Butler fits almost perfectly into what Hinkie is trying to build here in Philadelphia. It also doesn’t hurt that there is an undeniable need for a swingman to complete Philadelphia’s future starting five.

rose dime butler

But the “coup de grace” of why the Sixers are a possible landing spot for Butler is because of something that’s rectangular, green, and has pictures of dead presidents on it. Straight cash homie! The Sixers have cleared all of this cap space over the past few seasons for this exact purpose, to selectively wait for a player whom they target as a potential future cog of the team and pounce when the opportunity presents itself. They have more money to spend than any other franchise in the NBA and can really push Chicago’s hand this summer if they so choose.

Like most NBA teams the Bulls don’t have a ton of cap space. They already have a lot invested in players like Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson, and Pau Gasol, who altogether makeup approximately $50 million of the Bulls total team salary. This was one of the reasons why I suggested the Bulls deal Noah before the deadline, due to his injury history, age, and $13.9 million cap hit next season. Although Jimmy Butler certainly looks like he’ll be worth any deal he receives this summer, the Bulls have to know their future may be restricted being committed to so many huge contracts. Last offseason Klay Thompson got a  four year, $70 million deal. Butler’s max deal would be similar to Klay’s, although the Bulls could give Jimmy a fifth year.

In his short time in the NBA, Butler has proven to be a lockdown defender and this season he’s proven to other NBA teams that he can create his own shot, something few believed he’d be able to do when he entered the league out of Marquette. He also has shown that he can lead a team during the grind of the regular season; when Rose was out earlier this season the Bulls didn’t lose a step mostly due to Jimmy’s stellar performance. This enormous improvement to his offensive game is what has made him such an interesting target for other teams this offseason. But his entire skill set is what will drive someone to extend him an offer sheet if the Bulls can’t lock him up first.

(GIF via Gifrific)
(GIF via Gifrific)

Besides the immense dollar figure that may be shelled out by Sam Hinkie to Jimmy Butler, there’s a bright future for the Sixers whether you see it or not; its possible Jimmy could see the light at the end of the tunnel and be swayed and intrigued to become a part of it. He would have a chance to be the team’s leader and possibly over time a face of the franchise, similar to James Harden in Houston after he left OKC.

There are also some concerns about the Bulls future that might influence Jimmy Butler’s decision. Joakim Noah is almost 30 and seems to already be breaking down. Pau Gasol has a ton of mileage and is quite possibly on his last contract. The clouded uncertainty of Derrick Rose going forward will always be a looming problem. Reading between those lines it’s possible the Bulls roster could turnover entirely within a couple years. It’s not entirely inconceivable that in two years, the Sixers will be much closer to claiming a title than the Bulls. Especially if the Bulls let Jimmy Butler walk.

Jimmy Butler signing in Philadelphia could really accelerate the rebuilding process, accelerate it to the point where it’ll be essentially over. A core of MCW, Jimmy Butler, Nerlens Noel, Joel Embiid, Dario Saric (possible buyout overseas this summer) and a top three pick in the 2015 draft (Jahlil Okafor, Karl Anthony Towns, Emmanuel Mudiay, Stanley Johnson, etc.), is certainly enough to get the Sixers in postseason contention next year in the weak Eastern Conference. The Sixers would present a major problem defensively for any team, and with that core and future draft picks, they’d have more than enough offense to just get by. This is exactly what the Sixers had in mind when we began this rebuilding (tanking) process: collecting as many assets as possible and clearing immense amounts of cap space in hopes that one day a scenario like this would arise.

Realistically it’s unlikely that the Bulls would be willing to let Jimmy Butler sign elsewhere this summer. Butler is the rare wing who plays well on both sides of the ball, and NBA GMs aren’t usually inclined to let young talent just walk out the door. It’s also not really known whether the Sixers are even interested in Jimmy Butler; this is all speculation based off the tendencies of Sam Hinkie thus far into his tenure. Kawhi Leonard is another restricted free agent that the 76ers could throw an offer sheet at as well. Like the Bulls with Butler, the Spurs will almost definitely match any offer sheet that a team proposes to Leonard. But hey, a Sixers fan can dream right?

For the now the Bulls will focus on trying to position themselves higher in the playoff race, while the Sixers will be hunting for second round picks before the trade deadline. But when the dust settles in June and the NBA champions are crowned, whether it’s the Bulls or not, Jimmy Butler and the Chicago front office will be forced to make some tough decisions that could shape both of our franchises for several years to come.

Follow me @jeff_berest for more of my NBA musings and general nonsense and follow @DRosesAndThorns for all your latest Chicago Bulls news/opinions and our informative FanDuel insider info too!

Your 2018 Eastern Conference Champions…

This article is dedicated to myself for giving my heart and soul to the Sixers even though I’ll be getting nothing in return for a couple years. Also, to the recently released Sixer Chris Johnson, because we all know he never had a shot…pour one out for the homie.

Flashback to Draft Night 2013

The Philadelphia 76ers are coming off an abysmal and disappointing season which ended in the firing of head coach/broadcaster extraordinaire Doug Collins and the release of President and acting GM Rod Thorn. We legit had Thorn running this team in the front office and Doug Collins slowly dissipating any chemistry left on the floor. What’s even more absurd is that as a fan, this duo was actually creating a sense of optimism for the franchise the previous two years. Seems silly right?

Oh yeah, one more thing. We had that whole Andrew Bynum trade really not work out in our favor. We dealt our franchise player (if you can call Andre Iguodala one) as well as the walking double-double Nikola Vucevic. I absolutely was in love with Vucevic when he was a Sixer, such a rare type of talent at the center position, and Doug Collins didn’t even put his ass on the floor during the playoffs. Sorry, just letting out some frustration. I think throughout this article you’ll notice I will do that. As a Sixers fan releasing pent up negative energy in a healthy way is step one in the twelve steps to admitting you’re a Sixers fan.

To sum this digression up: Andrew Bynum while with the Sixers played 0 games and averaged 0 points, 0 rebounds, and 0 blocks per game. In comes the dark and mysterious figure that is general manager Sam Hinkie. To be honest, I knew very little about Hinkie when he was hired as GM. I knew he came from the Rockets organization and he was very into analytics. He also wasn’t Rod Thorn so Hinkie had that going for him. I was on board.

So back to Brooklyn and the Barclays Center. Typically an NBA franchise that has recently fired their head coach hires a new one before an important event like the draft. But obviously the Sixers are no typical franchise with Hinkie at the helm. Sam Hinkie legitimately didn’t care who the future coach would be; this draft was all his. Now obviously the Sixers ownership is involved, but they have basically given Hinkie the only keys to the castle. He makes every decision and the only one that he answers to is god; and even god is like “dude, whatever you gotta do to make this Sixers team competitive is alright with me…”

The Sixers roster before the draft featured a bunch guys with mediocre skills. It was non-descript to say the least. But we had one silver lining and that was 23 year old All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday. He seemed like a legit building block and a guy Hinkie would be able to put pieces around and go forward wi…..and he’s gone! While everyone was salivating at the prospect of Anthony Davis and Nerlens Noel playing alongside each other in New Orleans and blocking around 35 shots a game, Hinkie was behind closed doors dealing for the injured Kentucky product (Noel) as well as a future first round pick.

There was a lot of discrepancy in the reporting of this deal during draft night. While all of the facts were being sorted out, the Sixers were on the clock and had selected Syracuse point guard and future rookie of the year Michael Carter-Williams, aka MCW, aka “the Sultan of Steals”, aka “the Prime Minister of Passing” (none of these other nicknames have stuck like MCW unfortunately). After the selection of MCW this basically confirmed that Jrue Holiday was on the move. I had trouble wrestling with this new direction Hinkie was steering us in. But the team was going nowhere and had zero shot of winning anything with just Jrue Holiday, and while the concept of bottoming out and possibly getting Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker was appealing, it was a long way away from next year’s draft.

MCW-and-Noel

By the end of the night I was on board and fully immersed in what I refer to as “Hinkieball”. It’s like “moneyball” except completely different and not involving baseball. Hinkie had completely changed the course of the franchise for the better in about 15 minutes. 15 minutes! That’s a fourth of an episode of Homeland! Hinkie moved Jrue Holiday for what would have been the #1 overall pick if healthy (Noel) and a top three protected first rounder next year from the Pelicans in addition to completely overhauling the cap situation. At the end of the 2013-14 season they had an astounding $36 million available. Teams would kill for a cap situation this good. Literally, Mitch Kupchak would go out on a murdering spree in LA right now to give the Lakers just half as good a cap situation as Hinkie has gotten for the Sixers.

So finally the 2013-14 season is upon us. Sixers fans are ready for the tanking extravaganza to begin. We have our several boxes of tissues to wipe away tears that we were to experience in the upcoming months. We also have our slop buckets to collect all the vomit induced from the sickening feeling of watching Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes take a combined 50 shots a game. I actually want you to keep reading so I’m not going to go into actual detail about the Sixers 2013-14 season.

2013 sixers

Here are the highlights:

  • We beat Miami in the season opener and MCW locked up the rookie of the year award on day one of the season. (Editor’s note: also this. Fuck this.)
  • Sam Hinkie acquired every second round pick in the next three NBA drafts at the trade deadline.

…..and that’s about it.

Also just for a good laugh here are some actual guys who appeared in a Sixers uniform last season.

  • Daniel Orton
  • Lorenzo Brown
  • James Nunnally
  • Adonis Thomas
  • Darius Johnson-Odom

Those five guys could play against you and some friends in pickup ball at the local JCC and you’d probably only lose by a couple buckets.

Finally, last season was the most awkward I have ever felt about the game of basketball in my life and I wouldn’t wish that kind of suffering upon any of my enemies. It was just weird watching a bunch of not-quite fringe NBA players play bad basketball and hoping that they lose night in and night out. It’s hard to sit there and root for your team to lose, but that was truly the only way to get better. It was also the first time as a lifelong Philadelphia sports fan where losing was not only tolerated but encouraged. It’s crazy to think that this little middle-aged white guy from Houston had completely mesmerized a city that is known to have no patience and is absolutely heartless when it comes to their sports teams’ successes or failures. (Obligatory cliché “snowballs at Santa Claus” joke).  But for real, we threw batteries at J.D. Drew for saying he didn’t want to play here. We’re the craziest fan base in the whole world and I couldn’t be prouder to be a part of it.

Anyway we won 19 games last season and finished with the second best odds at landing the #1 pick in June in addition to the Pelicans pick, which ended up being #10 overall. This was going swimmingly for Hinkie and the front office. Sixers fans could finally see the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. We ended up landing the third pick, which locked us in at getting Wiggins, Parker, or Embiid. All three of those guys would excite the fan base and reinvigorate the team. Then the Joel Embiid injury threw the whole top of the draft for a loop. Was there a real possibility that the Sixers would take a flyer on an injured big man and sit him for the entire season? I truly couldn’t fathom going through another year like the last.

So obviously and without hesitation, Sam Hinkie took Joel Embiid and put a dagger through the heart of every Sixers fan. To add insult to injury, he traded for Dario Saric and stashed him away overseas, thus twisting the dagger that he had already thrust inside us. What everyone wanted to believe was a one year rebuilding plan ended up being a multiyear process. After hundreds of expletives hurled by me at friends, family, religious statues, and TV media personalities, I finally began to cope with what was going on with my beloved Sixers franchise. In one year Sam Hinkie had gathered a pretty impressive stock. Four top twelve picks (MCW, Noel, Embiid, Saric), approximately $35-40 million in cap flexibility, and the likelihood of gathering another top three pick in 2015. He also acquired Joel Embiid’s Twitter handle, which has been All-Star caliber. The dude hits up Kim Kardashian and Rihanna on Twitter just because. As far as I’m concerned, Joel is the man and we all wish him a speedy recovery.

This brings us into the present and the 2014-15 Sixers squad. It’s definitely been easier to mentally prepare for this current season then it was for last. I’m used to seeing just terrible basketball run across my TV screen, but now it’s being brought to an all-time low. Last year, miraculously we won 19 games. This was largely due to having a combination of Turner, Hawes, Thad Young, and MCW. After Turner and Hawes were dealt at the deadline the team began to plummet down the standings. Not because they were great players, but because instead of acceptable NBA players taking 15-20 shots each a game; those shots were replaced by the likes of Casper Ware and Byron Mullens. This year, the Sixers have no decent veterans who can average 12-15 points a game. This is the reason they are without a win 10 games into the season.

Reasons-The-Sixers-Will-Still-Be-Terrible-Justin-Ford-USA-TODAY-Sports
via Rantsports 

This was the Sixers 2014 opening night starting lineup:

  • PG Tony Wroten
  • SG Chris Johnson
  • SF Hollis Thompson
  • PF Nerlens Noel
  • C Henry Sims

Seriously, this is no misprint. These guys can all call themselves NBA starters. I mentioned above that Chris Johnson was let go, and this is no accident, he really is a dreadful player. Johnson was brought into training camp one week before the season started. The Sixers roster is so pitiful this year, that Brett Brown legit had no other options at the two guard spot but to start a guy who just joined the team a week ago.

This whole scenario is so so sad. The Sixers are not guilty of tanking, as much as obliterating any chance possibly winning basketball games. The Sixers are comprised of MCW, Nerlens, and the longest list of D-list celebrity NCAA players who you may or may not remember when they were on a team that was a 12 seed in the tournament. However, second round pick K.J. McDaniels has been a true bright spot for the team and could actually be an integral part of this Sixers team in the future. Early reports on Nerlens Noel are good as well. He obviously needs to develop his body and gain weight and muscle, but his defensive skills are evident and he and Embiid in the frontcourt are not going to be a friendly sight for opponents in the future.

But why be on board with Sam Hinkie and the direction the franchise is going? Is it because we have no other choice and that believing in something is better than not believing at all? I think that’s true for the most part, but I also do personally believe in this plan. Having beyond awful basketball for the next two to three years is a fair sacrifice so that the Sixers are able to prosper for the next ten years after. I also believe in Brett Brown as a head coach. He’s coaching a bunch of college level guys and trying to get them to play together and improve on a night-to-night basis. His record as a coach is not even close to a direct correlation for the caliber of coach he will become when there is finally a real NBA team in front of him. Right now it’s really no fun being a Sixers fan. But if I had the chance to go back to draft night 2013 and stop Sam Hinkie from trading Jrue Holiday and dismantling the franchise I love so dearly; 100 out of 100 times I’m letting him dial up the Pelicans and make that deal.

Keep calm and Hinkie on my fellow Sixer fans, greener pastures are coming.

@jeff_berest