If you’ve ever heard the phrase “Trust the Process” in relation to a sports team, it’s likely linked to Hinkie’s old team. You see, basketball is a sport where a few elite players can shift the landscape of the entire game, more so than they can in football. Since basketball features five players on the court, versus eleven players on the field in football, having three elite players affects the game to a much greater degree.
And for this reason, Hinkie decided to lose as many games as possible once he took over the 76ers in 2013. Hinkie reasoned that the best players on team-friendly contracts were available with the first couple picks of the draft and so the 76ers would need to string together a few terrible seasons in a row to collect as many top picks as possible.
From 2013-15, under the guidance of Hinkie, the 76ers went a combined 47-199 (0.191) as the team racked up draft capital. While the plan to get draft capital worked, Hinkie and the 76ers front office failed to capitalize on all of the opportunities.
Don’t get me wrong, they drafted a star in Joel Embiid and a strong contributor in Dario Saric, and while Hinkie was fired after the 2015 season, he set the team up to select Ben Simmons in the 2016 draft.
But in 2013, they drafted Nerlens Noel, who had a torn ACL and didn’t play as a rookie, and Michael Carter-Williams, who was rookie of the year but has battled injuries his whole career. In 2015, they selected Jahlil Okafor, who suffered a knee injury in his rookie year that derailed his career.
This is similar to how the Patriots operate by drafting players that slide down the draft board due to injury concerns- from Rob Gronkowski to Ras-I Dowling to Dominique Easley- in order for New England to add elite talent despite picking at the end of every round.
Sometimes it works and sometimes it does not and Hinkie was forced from his position with the 76ers- where he penned a “resignation” letter that actually referenced Bill Belichick. The 76ers ultimately selected Markelle Fultz with the first overall pick of the 2017 NBA Draft, too, so it’s not like moving on from Hinkie led to immediate improvements.
But the 76ers reached the postseason this year after the lengthy rebuild and while it wasn’t a perfect execution- imagine if they drafted Giannis Antetokounmpo in 2013 and Kristaps Porzingis in 2015 to play with Embiid, Saric, and Simmons (and Jayson Tatum instead of Fultz). That lineup doesn’t even make sense, but I’m sure they could find a way to work it out- the process did work to a certain extent. Hinkie just wasn’t around to see it happen.
Now Hinkie in Denver and I’m super excited to see what he does with the Broncos. Denver’s draft seemed to follow Pro Football Focus’ college grades, while they did a good job in free agency to land Case Keenum.
If Keenum doesn’t work out with the Broncos, could we see Denver tank the next few years? Or is football too different from basketball where tanking doesn’t always make sense (unless you’re the Indianapolis Colts)? I’m eager for the age of analytics to really take hold of the NFL because the old school thought leads to some terrible product and we’re a few Jon Grudens and Hue Jacksons away from heading back in time.
I want Hinkie and the Broncos to work out and for teams to start going for it more frequently on fourth down or for two-point conversions. I want teams to play positionless football and for versatile fullbacks to become a staple in the offense. I want more creative offenses and defenses and for diamond-in-the-rough players to get the credit they deserve.
Oh, and if Hinkie flames out and takes the Broncos down with him, I’d be thrilled with that, too.