Does Front Office Change Make A Major Trade Inevitable For The Sixers?
The elephant in the room of the Sixers’ offseason has always been how the roster imbalance would be resolved.
Sam Hinkie stuck to a “best player available” strategy in the draft, a strategy that is almost universally accepted within the basketball community. But, like most aspects of Hinkie’s rebuilding plan, that theory was taken to extremes, leaving the Sixers with three talented big men in Joel Embiid, Jahlil Okafor, and Nerlens Noel, and no real certainty any of them can effectively play together.
The changes to the Sixers’ front office, which saw Sam Hinkie resign as general manager and president of basketball operations, with Bryan Colangelo stepping into the president role in his place, creates quite a bit of uncertainty as to how this imbalance will be resolved.
That’s not to say the uncertainty wasn’t already there, of course. There was much skepticism about whether Okafor and Noel could work together before the season started, and that certainly wasn’t quelled by the Sixers being outscored by 263 points in the 696 minutes the two shared the court this season.
But while the numbers, the eye test, and common sense all certainly suggest that Okafor and Noel are poor fits together on the court, there was always the sense that Hinkie could give the pairing more time.
Part of that is the patience Hinkie showed in virtually every aspect of building his team. Noel and Okafor are at the very beginning stages of their careers, and giving them more time to develop their skill sets, and their understanding of the game, keeps whatever faint hope alive that they could be a fit down the line. More than that, though, was that you got the sense that Hinkie could have wanted more time to evaluate the two prospects, watching how they grow and develop, and getting a better read on who he should keep as a building block of the franchise.
Winning, in the short term, wasn’t a priority, and getting more information before making a crucial decision was always part of how Hinkie operated. The end results was the Sixers’ version of survival of the fittest, with Hinkie letting the cream rise to the crop and building his team around the man left standing.
Colangelo won’t admit to that he’s going to make a move to alleviate the logjam this summer – “I’ve got to have a lot of conversations, speak to the [other] 29 teams to see where things stand with the value for our roster,” he recently told me in a 1-on-1 interview – but you can certainly see how somebody coming in with a different mindset would alter the course to “fix” such an obvious roster imbalance.
And, while Colangelo wouldn’t admit that a move was likely, he did discuss said roster imbalance.
“What we’d like to do is put a balanced team on the court that has some veteran players, some experienced players, but some good players that are going to put us in a position to win basketball games and still allow for tremendous player development for these young pieces that we have,” Colangelo said.
“I need to sit down and talk to Brett [Brown] about some of this,” Colangelo said during his introductory press conference. “I have some outside observations, but I really have not been on the inside. I want to know more about things like health, where they are in their development process. I want to know what their personality is like. I want to know what their characteristics – what they bring to the table in terms of adding to the culture.”
There’s still obviously a lot of uncertainty over how the front court situation will play out, of course. Colangelo could get more information and decide to give them more time to grow together. There could be no trades available that are worth pursuing. He could come to the conclusion that they are all such high-character guys that he’s willing to bet on them improving more than what would normally otherwise be expected. Anything could happen.
But, for a new steward who has come in and talked about making steps towards winning, towards finding a balanced roster, towards building a team, to “taking incremental steps forward in a positive direction”, one of the areas that could provide the most immediate gains, the lowest hanging fruit to pluck off the tree, is trading part of that front court glut for young talent in other positions.
Which could make this offseason an interesting, and dangerous, period of time for the Sixers.
Derek Bodner covers the 76ers for Philadelphia magazine. Follow @DerekBodnerNBA on Twitter.