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The Problem with The Process

Why there has been no progress.

By Blake A SwanPublished 2 years ago 15 min read
The Problem with The Process
Photo by Chris Henry on Unsplash

Sam Hinkie convinced the city of Philadelphia that he could build a successful team through the draft. Almost a decade ago, he made promises of the next Golden State. Assuring they would have a team full of All-Stars. To the average fan the prospects were glorious. It’s impossible to compete for a title without a superstar. Why would you want to be a 3 or 4 seed when you could be winning a championship? All you had to do was game the system. Of course we can do it, because Sam and by extension this city is smarter. Yeah Right.

By Tengyart on Unsplash

Today, we see what it always was - A House of Cards.

Despite the media darling that Sam Hinkie became, his method was false. Before the Sixers let a non-basketball guy run their franchise like an NBA 2K game plenty of teams had top draft picks. But even before that, let’s look at Golden State. The Warriors star players were not first overall draft picks. Steph Curry was the 7th overall player taken in the 2009 NBA Draft. The 5th guard taken and the 3rd Point Guard taken that year. Two years later, Klay Thompson was the 5th guard selected in the 2011 NBA Draft. A year later, they would draft Harrison Barnes 7th overall and of course Draymond Green was taken in the second round 35th overall in the 2012 NBA Draft. The core of the team that Sam Hinkie promised weren’t first overall picks.

That’s right, Curry, Thompson, and Green were drafted 7th, 11th, and 35th overall. Think about their picks. Point Guard, Shooting Guard, Small Forward, and Power Forward. They drafted at each position they would need to make a full team. Starting with the back court. Now, let’s think about the team’s construction. Those teams had veterans on their roster. Devean George and Stephen Jackson were champions. Raja Bell had major playoff experience with several teams. Monta Ellis was young and on the rise to play along with Curry. Klay’s rookie year, they had Kwame Brown, a top draft pick that didn’t make it. That’s important too. Allowing players to be around guys that got it right and wrong. Monta Ellis was an established guard that Thompson had to battle for time. Nothing was given to their draft picks. They eventually traded Ellis and when Klay got his shot; he had to prove himself.

Then the team signed more veterans with post season experience. Richard Jefferson, another former star that had been to the highest levels of the NBA. When they got Draymond Green, Harrison Barnes and Kent Bazemore, they added veterans Jarrett Jack and Andrew Bogut. The Warriors, under Mark Jackson, had developed a culture of experienced players. Players with playoff experience with both wins and losses at a championship level. Veterans who were competing for minutes and challenging these young players. That’s how the Warriors created something special that was as organic as you could get. This doesn’t include the veterans that got them over the hump. Now, let’s look at the process.


Sam Hinkie’s “Process” was essentially drafting the tallest and highest ranked player available. Literally. He drafted a bunch of centers. Starting with Nerlens Noel, Jahlil Okafor after drafting Joel Embiid and then drafted Ben Simmons. Of course, we need to take a complete look at “The Process” picks to understand how wrong he was.


In his first year the most notable acquisition was trading All-Star Jrue Holiday to New Orleans for his first center Nerlens Noel before they drafted his traditional guard in his tenure, Michael Carter-Williams (MCW) at 11th. Not to be too critical, he could’ve had CJ McCollum and Giannis Antetokounmpo instead. That’s unfair criticism, because it’s impossible to know how a draft pick will turn out. Yet, we can apply it here because Hinkie promised he could… somehow… because... analytics. 

They brought in Brett Brown to be their head coach. Who had no head coaching experience but was tied to the Spurs. He also energized the “Process” because the Spurs developed players and he promised to develop shooters. Spoiler alert, the unproven coach could not create an environment to improve his player’s shot. More on that later.

The 2013 Verdict?

Now, MCW became Rookie of the Year. Putting up incredible stats on a horrible team that set the NBA record for losses in a row. This was Sam’s greatest trick. The snake oil of stats and awards. By allowing his teams to be terrible and deferring to the young talent, he could make every pick look like it was great. Of course they were good, look at their stats! It’s a process. They’ll only get better.

Of course players can improve but they have to be forced to improve. In order to keep young players happy about losing they opted instead to hype them up. Advocate for awards. Accentuating their current skillset. There was no plan for development, but the promise of potential was enough to appease fans. Critics were idiots who “just didn’t get it.” 

2014 - Winless for Wiggins

2014 was the “Winless for Wiggins” year. A sign of things to come in The Process. The Sixers did not get the first overall pick. Incredibly, that temporarily saved Sam Hinkie’s legacy.

Andrew Wiggins was guaranteed to be selected first overall pick. Although, he wasn't the only rising star coming out of Kansas. Before he was injured, Wiggins college teammate Joel Embiid had taken over the number one spot. However, you can not draft a big over 7 feet tall first overall with injury issues. It’s taboo in the league. A career ender that could set your franchise back decades. Fortunately for the Sixers, "The Process" didn’t work. Joel Embiid was the 3rd Overall Pick. Which Hinkie believed would be best suited at the 4 with Noel at the 5. In Sam Hinkie’s Process, he got the number one overall pick - ONE TIME. Tanking didn’t workout as intended. In addition, the trades he made offered the potential of multiple top picks. Which, at various points, was promoted to the fan base. 

First Round Drafts Picks Each year

2013 - Nerlens Noel (6th - Trade)/MCW (11th) 2014 - Joel Embiid (3rd)/Elfrid Payton (10th - Traded)/Dario Saric (12 Trade) 2015 - Jahlil Okafor 2016 - Ben Simmons (They gained the pick under Hinkie) 2017 - Markelle Fultz (Gained the pick via trade from Hinkie)

2014 Draft Picks (that they kept) - Joel Embiid (3rd), Dario Saric (12th), KJ McDaniels (35th), Jerami Grant (39th), Vasilije Micic (52th), Jordan McRae (58th).

Micic never appeared in an NBA game. Which wasn’t unheard of in Hinkie’s tenure. Many of the European players he drafted refused to play for the team. Taking years for some to make the trip, if they did at all. Another clever tactic used by Hinkie. The promise of the foreign player no one had ever seen. They were going to bring it all together. The missing links Sam Hinkie was incapable of finding.

The 2014 Verdict?

Playing Sam Hinkie’s game, let’s look at who they could’ve had on the roster. Instead of drafting Payton or trading for Saric, they could’ve had Zach LaVine, drafted 13th overall. After KJ McDaniels, Joe Harris was drafted 33rd overall. The one European player Hinkie passed on, current NBA MVP Nikola Jokic was drafted two picks after Jerami Grant at 41st overall. Hinkie's analytics misses on all of them. Including recently announced Sixth Man of the Year Jordan Clarkson went 46th overall.

This should be an unfair comparison. Again, it was Sam Hinkie that promised to hit on the players that would turn out to be the best. The plan to build a team and hit on every pick. That’s the whole point of being smarter right? Despite Cleveland getting three first overall picks in the same time span and not getting it right THEY were smarter. After the 2015 draft we can evaluate this concept.


The most infamous pick of the Process. Jahlil Okafor was drafted one year after they drafted Joel Embiid. Drafted just in case Embiid didn’t workout.

"Projected 1 or 2. You didn't even workout with the 76ers."

Mirroring Embiid, Hinkie promised this was all a part of the plan. Okafor did well. Finishing 5th in Rookie of the Year voting and making All-Rookie First Team. An old school, back to the basket center which was actively being phased out of the NBA. Based upon analytics and roster perhaps they'd look at Devin Booker (13th). Instead of Richaun Holmes (37th) they could’ve gotten Norman Powell (46th). 

Sam Hinkie did have a few darlings in the second round. Grant and Holmes are solid contributors in the NBA. Just not for the Sixers. Which would be great if there was an award for that.

Let’s look at the Sixers top picks by position. Including their two NBA caliber picks.

PG Michael Carter-Williams (2013), Ben Simmons (2016), SF/PF Dario Saric (2014), Jerami Grant (2014), Richaun Holmes (2015), Ben Simmons (2016), C Nerlens Noel (2013), Joel Embiid (2014), Jhalil Okafor (2015).

The 2015 Verdict?

The Sixers tried to build a Golden State replica by drafting... all big men. Forwards and Centers to replicate the Warriors who were famous for the "Splash Brothers." A team known for their incredible play at the 1 and 2. They never acquired a good guard through the draft. The guard they traded away for Nerlens Noel, Jrue Holiday, is in the Eastern Conference Finals. Hinkie used terrible rosters to ensure top picks became the de facto stars. Inflating their stats to make the fans happy. Even temporarily fooling the league. All the while stunting player development.

Creating a terrible, entitled mindset in your core players. The key players never developed with or without the Sixers.

Save for Embiid, Grant, and Holmes the players are essentially the same as they entered the league. Talented. But what happens win promise and potential aren't met? Disappointment.


SURPRISE! Building a team to lose is never a good idea. Talent offers a window for potential. Which gets wasted when the culture of the team is non-existent. Opening another window. One that ruins the mentality of young players. Young players need structure. How to work beyond their talent. Which coaches had advised for players like Okafor.

Developing young athletes is a vulnerable period of time. Without talent it was impossible to judge Brett Brown or the high profile picks. Failing to develop was a problem passed off because it was always coming next year. The true genius of Snake Oil Sam.

Ben Simmons is just a bigger MCW at this point. MCW and Fultz both developed shoulder injuries with the Sixers staff during their tenure with the organization. None developed a shot.

It’s coming... next year.

Sure enough, players failing to develop is a cornerstone of Hinkie. However, they were traded before anyone could realize. Confusing fans and absolving the organization. They always got the "best" of those deals. Then it happened. They hit. Two talents with the ability to chase stats in the extremely weak Eastern Conference and BAM! Playoff bound. Now, the expectations were exploding.

Sam Hinkie was fired. Not because the league hated him. He did it to himself. Acting in bad faith as if he would never need relationships with other executives. Failing to uphold his end of the deal. Eventually, Hinkie was left sitting on the eggs as they hatched and they were rotten. So the league stepped in.

Installing Jerry Colangelo allowed them to move Jahlil Okafor. Had Hinkie continued, he'd be alone. No more trades. He wouldn’t be able to build with veterans. He wasn't focused on them and they weren't interested in him. In fact, I firmly believe Ben Simmons would’ve been traded... for more picks. Further wasting Embiid's prime years.

Hinkie wasn’t hated because he was successful. If anything, he was devaluing his position. Proving any random guy could draft a team and hit once. He was a master at inflating player values and the league had to make sure that Philadelphia was good. They couldn’t afford another one of their biggest markets to fail like the Nets and Knicks had in New York.


Adding Jimmy Butler rapidly sped up “The Process.” A great move. He changed the dynamics. Brought a work ethic and challenged all players to be better. Joel Embiid was maturing but Ben Simmons wasn’t a fan of criticism. Except that’s exactly what he needed. What the Sixers needed. A Closer.

Unfortunately, Sam Hinkie’s process thrived on making young players divas. At this point the organization couldn’t afford to lose “talent.” Pressure to win and personalities reached critical mass.

With Colangelo, the stuffing of stats team had a bona fide closer. End of the game, Jimmy would figure it out. He wasn’t afraid of the moment. But Brett backed Ben. In an instant, he was gone.

The organization ran for smooth sailing. Afraid to rock the boat. Settling for Tobias Harris. Great NBA player. He’s not a closer. He’s not Jimmy Butler.

Harris is another sheet stuffer waiting for someone else to close the game. One more player that will show up when they show up. Not when you need them to show up. The Process spoiled their key pieces. They're a team without a heart. Successful because they learned the NBA’s dirty secret - Teams don’t show up every night. Most give up on regular season games.


Sam Hinkie brought a culture to Philadelphia. A culture of showmanship. Fancy words that mean nothing. Analytics and stats. Post Season Awards. Building a team incapable of elevating their play. Satisfied with the regular season. Perpetually upset on the mainstage in the postseason.

While every other team steps up their game. They can’t. Exerting all their attention, energy and effort in the regular season.

The Sixers discovering that playing hard all season is an easy way to win extra games and pad stats. Win awards and the fans will support you. Supporting “progress” even when they struggle to make it out of the first round of the playoffs. Exactly where they started before the process but at least “they’re still young.”

The timetable for success has always been distant - UNTIL NOW.

They are essentially the more talented version of the New York Knicks. Who spent this season discovering that if they play hard in the Eastern Conference that’s a 4 seed. While other teams rest their stars or tank, they will always go on a run. Which excites the fan base. It hypes the media, but it’s worthless.


Countless teams have been bad for a long time. They same teams get the top draft picks and miss more often than you would imagine possible. That’s the problem with the draft. Basketball insiders who have spent their entire life on the sport can’t do it. They have lived around the top athletes in the world and can not make the "best" picks.

It’s rare for the top pick to become the top player on a winning team. If the organization isn’t building for the future and success, the team will fail. Thus, the pick will also fail because they will not develop properly. Becoming stars that are trapped in terrible organizations.

Just another organization with a high value player that produces stats and not postseason wins. 18 teams in the league spend the entire season in the position. When the season ends, it’s 20 teams. Recognizing you will play those teams twice a year, that’s already at least 36 regular season wins.

By Ansgar Scheffold on Unsplash


The Process was a charade. Great for padding stats and running teams out of the building during the regular season.

However, in the postseason is DIFFERENT.

Things tighten up in the postseason. Teams play hard for the entire game. They don’t back down. They won’t quit.

Philadelphia's not built for that. Preordained Hall of Famers. Everything’s been given to and projected on them. Which is why they look like a deer in the headlights when teams fight back.

They're the bully on the playground until someone punches them in the gut. Fans expect them to respond, but they fold. Fold because “The Process” was built for exactly what you see today. All flare, no substance when it matters.

Joel Embiid exemplifies this. He will always have “the stats.” Which didn't stop him from losing to the lowest remaining seed in the playoffs.

Embiid has disappeared when you needed him. Head down. Blank stares. Avoiding the post and taking jump shots because he’s tired.

CRUNCH TIME - Fading in the 4th

We never want to talk about it. Everyone's afraid to upset a "star" in the NBA. Sixer fans have the blinders on. Just think about this:

Embiid's last points in Game 5 came with 7:01 to go from the Free Throw line. His closest shot in those 7 minutes came 10ft from the basket in that span. Going 0-4 from the field and of course 0-2 from the free throw line. Statistically, of course, he had a great game. Game 6 he disappeared and Game 7 he wasn't there when you needed him. His last points came with 4 minutes left to go and he got a Putback with 45 seconds to go when the game was over.

What makes you a superstar, and MVP, should be how you elevate your team. It’s not good enough to just get your numbers.

Earn stats when your team needs them.

Embiid, like “The Process,” will continue to accrue stats. All the numbers you need to impress. The analytics they created will look be historically great. However, just like the draft picks, the regular season stats, and the awards, it will always fall flat.

This teams is in desperate need of a closer. A grinder that can take over late in games. Anything else is just taping over the holes in a sinking ship that is the Philadelphia 76ers.


About the Creator

Blake A Swan

NCSA Strength and Conditioning Professional certified as a CSCS, TSAC-F, and CPT. I have my FMS Certification as well, and spent over a decade working with athletes in various sports. Including youth, high school, college, Olympic and Pro.

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