Inside the Sixers: Hinkie using international leagues to stash talent

070814-sam-hinkie-600
76ers general manager Sam Hinkie. (C.F. Sanchez/Staff Photographer)

What kind of asset builder is 76ers general manager Sam Hinkie? It depends on whom you ask.

Old-school NBA types will tell you that he's making mind-boggling moves and doesn't know a lick about basketball. Forward-thinking folks believe he's taking a franchise out of the basketball stone ages and making necessary steps to build an NBA contender.

His supporters rave about his maneuvering to get four lottery picks in his first two NBA drafts. They'll also boast of his securing two first-round picks and three second- rounders in the 2015 draft.

Detractors, however, say that Michael Carter-Williams, last season's rookie of the year, is the lone lottery pick who was able to play immediately. By now, everyone knows that Nerlens Noel missed last season while rehabilitating a left knee injury and that Joel Embiid will likely miss this season rehabilitating his right foot. And Dario Saric, who is overseas, might not be available until 2016-17.

The debate about Hinkie will continue when his 19 trades since being hired in May 2013 are mentioned.

In most instances, Hinkie has traded for players fans had never heard of or who never ended up wearing a Sixers uniform.

Several of those moves led to the Sixers' stashing five players overseas. The team will retain their rights as long as they remain overseas.

Saric, whom the Sixers acquired in a draft-day trade from the Orlando Magic for the rights to Elfrid Payton, is the most high-profile of the overseas players. The 6-foot-10 Croatian forward is with Anadolu Efes of the Turkish Basketball League.

Vasilije Micic, a Serbian point guard, plays for FC Bayern Munich of the German BBL. Former Tennessee standout Jordan McRae, a swingman, is with Melbourne United of the Australian National Basketball League. Turkish power forward Furkan Aldemir plays for Galatasarai Liv Hospital of the Turkish Basketball League. And Iranian power forward Arsalan Kazemi, who stood out at Oregon, is with the Chongqing Flying Dragons of the Chinese Basketball Association.

Kazemi was with the Sixers for the Orlando Pro Summer League, while McRae stood out in the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas. But the Sixers sent them overseas to get extended playing time.

Some might argue that stashing some of the players overseas is a blatant tanking tactic, since plenty of NBA minutes are available on the Sixers. You could also argue against acquiring the rights to Micic and Aldemir, who may never play a second in the NBA.

But this is part of Hinkie's plan to lock down players who could potentially be a part of a championship-caliber franchise.

As much as fans want to fool themselves, players the caliber of LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and Anthony Davis aren't coming to Philly via trades or free agency. Rival general managers would hang up on Hinkie if he called to express his interest in players of that caliber.

And don't even allow yourself to wonder why the Sixers didn't attempt to go after Chris Bosh and Carmelo Anthony. Bosh flirted with the Houston Rockets and Anthony flirted with the Lakers in the offseason. But Bosh remained with the Miami Heat and Anthony stayed a New York Knick because the NBA's rules allow a team to offer more money to their own free agents.

So the franchise realizes its best bet is to take chances. That's why it acquired injured players with huge upsides, such as Noel and Embiid, and locked up talent overseas.

Sure, they could have opted to keep Evan Turner, Thaddeus Young, Spencer Hawes, and Jrue Holiday and probably added J.R. Smith to the mix. The lineup wouldn't come close to sniffing an NBA title.

That's why going the overseas route makes sense.

The San Antonio Spurs have proven it works. The defending NBA champions have rights to 11 players who are stashed overseas. Meanwhile, Spurs teammates Manu Ginobili and Tiago Splitter are successful products of that system.

Ginobili was taken with the 57th overall pick in the 1999 draft. The Argentine, however, spent the next three seasons playing professionally in Italy before joining the Spurs as a 25-year-old rookie. The two-time all-star is regarded as one of the biggest draft steals of all time.

In 2007, the Spurs used the 28th overall pick on Splitter. The Brazilian native, who has a Spanish passport, was playing professionally in Spain. Splitter joined the Spurs in 2010 at 25. He played a key role on last season's title team.

Oklahoma City has also invested in overseas players. The Thunder have rights to 11 players abroad. German center Tibor Pleiss and Spanish guard Alex Abrines are among the most notable.

Pleiss, 25, was the 31st overall pick in 2010, and his rights were eventually sold to the Thunder. The 7-foot-2, 269-pounder has steadily improved. He averaged 6.8 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 14 minutes through four games for FC Barcelona in Spain.

Abrines, a FC Barcelona teammate of Pleiss, was the 32d overall pick in the 2013 draft by Oklahoma City. The 6-6 22-year-old was averaging 11 points on 77.8 percent shooting through four games.

The Sixers are following a model that has aided two of the league's elite franchises.

No one knows if any of the stashed Sixers will develop into a legitimate NBA talent. Nor do they know if Noel, Embiid, and Carter-Williams are long-term answers.

If they aren't, the rebuilding process will be extended for a few more seasons as Hinkie tries to discover more gems.

His critics will become even louder if that happens. But if Hinkie gets this right, it would validate an approach in which patience and forethought are the keys to success.

Raptors on Sunday. The Sixers (0-6) face the Toronto Raptors (5-1) at 7 p.m. Sunday at the Air Canada Centre. Noel is expected to miss his second consecutive game with a sprained left ankle.

The Raptors swept last season's four meetings.

 


Inside the Sixers: Stashed Away . . . Far Away

The 76ers own the rights to five players who are playing overseas.

Name   Pos.   Ht.   Wt.   Age   Current Team   

Dario Saric   PF   6-10   230   20   Andolu Efes (Turkey)

Vasilije Micic   PG   6-6   203   20   FC Bayern Munich (Germany)

Jordan McRae   SG   6-6   185   23   Melbourne United (Australia)

Furkan Aldemir   PF/C   6-9   207   23   Galatasarai Liv Hospital (Turkey)

Arsalan Kazemi   PF   6-8   224   24   Chongqing Flying Dragons (China)

- Keith Pompey


kpompey@phillynews.com

@PompeyOnSixers

inquirer.com/deepsixer