Ford: Sam Hinkie's shadow follows the Sixers

SEANBLANDA
Sam Hinkie still was well-represented during Thursday night's NBA draft.

It isn't every day an NBA franchise is able to introduce the No. 1 draft pick, so Bryan Colangelo took a moment on Friday - as the team officially welcomed Ben Simmons - to acknowledge the man behind the bumpy road that made it possible.

"We came in with a lot in front of us to do, but with a lot of tools and resources put in place by my predecessor," Colangelo said. "We were able to draft from multiple positions in this draft and add significant talent to the roster. That's in addition to all the good young pieces already in place."

The stretch of road ahead, which looks considerably smoother, was provided to Colangelo by former general manager Sam Hinkie. A lot of the so-called "process" was littered with meaningless busy work, including Hinkie's obsession with collecting poor draft picks or renting out his salary-cap space for some other marginal gain. The guts of the thing, however, was losing enough games in order to get someone like Simmons in the draft. In the modern NBA, there is no way to overestimate how much that means. Hinkie didn't make it to the highway, by his own choice, but he paved the on-ramp.

"This is the first step in the building process that has begun this summer," Colangelo said. "We've got a great chance to take a jump here. We don't want to think it's going to happen overnight, but we have a base of talent."

There's no question about that. The question is whether the talent is compatible, whether it will be able to stay healthy, and whether it will be valued enough on the open market to bring other needed pieces in return. Colangelo got his first lesson in that latter aspect on Thursday, when his appraisal of what some of his players are worth didn't match up with the appraisal of potential trade partners.

"Without question, I would say this is probably the most concrete valuation of what's there instead of just talking hypothetically," Colangelo said. "There were offers made, and you have a much better feel for how people gauge the value of your players. So, I'm much more informed today than I have been. It's part of a learning curve in the process of getting used to a new franchise, a new roster of players."

Poll

Which of these recent high draft picks will have the best career in Philadelphia?

Whatever it was that the Sixers thought either Jahlil Okafor or Nerlens Noel would bring in return, they were mistaken. They might have drawn the line in the sand far in their own favor, because the truth is that the Sixers don't have to make a deal right now. They aren't looking to contend right away. If they are unable to win a trade, there's little urgency to make one.

Nevertheless, Colangelo didn't solve the apparent logjam in the frontcourt during this opportunity. He denied the team was shopping either player, but that is standard procedure. You can't shake someone's hand in the practice gym after admitting you were attempting to get rid of him.

"Some [trade discussions] died on the vine. Some will move forward based on what was real and what wasn't real," Colangelo said. "There are different circumstances now. There are names rather than [draft] numbers. There are teams that have been retooled with their own selections or trades, so there are new circumstances, but we still have the same goals and objectives."

What the new general manager is finding are the trap doors left behind by the previous guy. In taking a chance that Noel could develop an offensive game or that Okafor could develop a defensive one, the Sixers collected a pair of unique but one-way talents that the rest of the league will sniff at until those developments take place. In drafting Joel Embiid despite a significant injury history, the possibility existed he might contribute only sporadically if at all.

Colangelo has to navigate those pitfalls as well as possible. It will be easier with Ben Simmons on the team, even if the rookie was a little optimistic in saying he can play and guard all five positions. Not in this league, son.

"We've said all along we're going to take measured steps and not jump to the middle," Colangelo said. "I feel very comfortable that we looked at each deal in front of us and ultimately decided we weren't willing to go to the level of commitment some people were looking for."

He said he slept well Thursday night and without any regrets.

"None at all," Bryan Colangelo said. "I learned a lot."

bford@phillynews.com

@bobfordsports