In what seems like an eternity ago, on February 19 the Sixers parted ways with their prized possession, Michael Carter-Williams. Despite chatter that the guard just simply didn’t have a shooting touch, MCW’s unusual and loaded skill set attributed to him becoming a stat sheet stuffer, Rising Stars Challenge regular, and Rookie of the Year award winner. When the trade was finalized and Carter-Williams trekked north to Milwaukee, several questions seemed to be flung in the direction of Sixers GM Sam Hinkie. Some fans, like myself, let frustration eventually boil over and, in the end, sided with Hinkie in large part because he runs the organization we love. Another group of fans still to this day quiver at the thought that Hinkie had the resolve to pull the plug on a guard that was portrayed as the lead carpenter building Sixers basketball back to its powerhouse days. Combined with the head-scratching that ensued from the rest of the NBA basketball world, Sam Hinkie had now unwillingly set himself up to be interrogated by any media member holding a microphone or any journalist pressing pen to paper.
With questions ultimately come answers, so when Hinkie was asked why he makes the unprecedented moves he does, there was only one explanation.
With phonetics that challenge the belief the word actually exists, optionality is defined as basically acquiring assets on a low-risk/high-reward basis that, over the long term, leave plentiful options on the table. This would mean that if an asset were to not reach its full potential panic would never arise as many other viable options still are available. Minus the fact that an “asset” is in no way the correct term to describe an actual NBA player, this is the train of thought Sam Hinkie follows.
Sounds like a great plan, right? So why have the Sixers only emerged victorious in 37 of their last 164 regular season games?
Sam Hinkie, without a doubt, has spent countless man-hours trying to provide the Sixers with the most possible options heading into the future. For example, Hinkie was prompted to ship MCW away because of a Los Angeles Lakers top-5 protected first-round draft pick. Not to mention the fact that Philly had five second round picks this year, along with the potential of FOUR first round picks next year. Factor in that the Sixers have an enormous amount of cap space due to careful spending on free agents, and it’s plain to see that the Sixers are stocked with options.
That’s not the problem.
The problem many Sixers fans have had with this process is not lying in the abundance of options collected, but rather in the absence of opportunities taken from those options. When was Hinkie going to open the gates and use his abundance of draft picks/cap space to bring in a player intended to stay for the long haul? We may not have known when, but Sam Hinkie knew very well.
On Wednesday night, Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports broke the news of a Sixers/Kings trade that involved many moving pieces. Carl Landry, Jason Thompson, a 2016 and 2017 pick swap, a 2018 top-10 protected first-round pick and Nik Stauskas were sent to the Sixers at the expense of only the 47th and 60th picks acquired by the Sixers in the 2015 draft (both overseas products).
Most parameters of the deal didn’t seem foreign at all. Landry and Thompson are both players with expensive contracts that the Sixers were willing to take on. Also, it wouldn’t be a Sam Hinkie trade without acquiring some kind of draft pick. In the Sixers’ eyes, the central prize rewarded to them out of this deal was the man they had on their draft board with the number 10 pick in 2014: Nik Stauskas.
Derek Bodner (@DerekBodnerNBA) strung together two insightful tweets that explained it all:
Instead, the #sixers got Joel Embiid, Nik Stauskas, Dario Saric, 2 1st round picks, a 2nd rd pick, and the right to swap 2 1st rd picks.
— Derek Bodner (@DerekBodnerNBA) July 2, 2015
On draft night, many Sixers fans begged for Sam Hinkie to orchestrate a trade that somehow brought Stauskas to South Philly.
Although many reports existed that the Sixers were quite interested in Stauskas, Hinkie didn’t budge on any large, unreasonable offers that would mortgage the future of Philadelphia basketball. The concept of optionality never left his mind. Instead of rushing into deals trying to pry players away from teams using valuable draft picks, players, and cash, Hinkie decided to sit back and cultivate his several options. Now, a year later, the Sixers were able to essentially force the Kings into a trade in large part because of salary flexibility and, in small part, because of two of the Sixers FIVE second round picks to sweeten the pot. Talk about low-risk, high-reward.
So nowadays, things are looking up for the Sixers. Before Wednesday, Sixers fans had heard all of the chatter about optionality but all there was to show for it were countless options (many draft picks, tons of cap space) with the front office never willing to put these assets to any use. With the acquisition of Nik Stauskas, a solid three-point threat who has been clearly mentioned as somebody Sam Hinkie wants to implement as part of the team’s long term plans, we have now seen the full fruits behind optionality.
Rejoice fans, optionality is now a reality.