Sam Hinkie is the guy you want next to you when you're robbing a bank. He is the guy you can tell a secret and be sure that it is safe with him. He is a man with a plan and good luck trying to get him to tell you exactly what it is.
We still are no closer to knowing, however, if Sam Hinkie is the right man for the job of rebuilding a basketball team.
The commander of Tank 76 ran his third draft Thursday night and discovered once again that the best-laid plans can be blown to smithereens by unforeseen circumstances. The Los Angeles Lakers – yes, the Lakers again - threw another spitball at the better-basketball-through-losing idea when they took Ohio State guard D'Angelo Russell with the second overall pick.
It was the second shot to the face this offseason. The first one came a couple of weeks ago when one of the periodic machinery evaluations of Joel Embiid's right foot showed something was not healing quite right. Now, according to Hinkie, the 76ers are spanning the globe searching for medical opinions and solutions to a foot problem that isn't causing Embiid any pain, but is inflicting an inordinate amount of heartache on a tortured fan base.
With Russell off the board and Embiid's status up in the air, the 76ers general manager did the best thing he could with the third overall selection. He took the best player available and the distance between No. 3 (Duke's Jahlil Okafor) and the rest of the field remaining on the board was substantial.
"We feel incredibly fortunate to have Jahlil," Hinkie said Friday. "I spent so much time in Durham, North Carolina this year, so if you would have told me partway through that we would get him, we would have slept a lot more in the interim."
Whether the 76ers were lucky to get Okafor or unlucky not to get Russell depends on what their draft board looked like. It is possible Okafor's name was first on that board and they feel as if the best player slipped to them. It is impossible to know for sure because that remained a closely guarded secret even after the draft.
"Never let your guard down," Hinkie said. "Never. Never. Not after you chink champagne glasses or after we're disappointed. Never. We're playing the long game here and we're trying to build something special for the city."
After-the-fact security is not going to have any impact on the 76ers' future, but if it makes Hinkie feel better, that's fine. The opinion here is that the GM did do the right thing. He said he'd like to think he'd have drafted Okafor after Russell even if Embiid's future status had not recently come into question, but you get the feeling he might not have.
Embiid's uncertainty made the selection of Okafor the only responsible selection.
What happened after that, however, left Hinkie open for more questioning and criticism. The man who loves to collect second-round picks had five of them – 35, 37, 47, 58 and 60 – going into the draft. You thought maybe he'd parlay some of those picks to get another selection in the late first round. He said he tried, but nothing got done.
"We just did one trade, which maybe is a bit unusual, but you don't want to be making moves to make moves," Hinkie said.
And yet Hinkie appeared to make a move that was nothing more than making a move when he traded the first of his second-round picks – power forward Willy Hernangomez – to the New York Knicks for two future second-round picks. Sure the second round is a crapshoot, but the 35th overall pick has produced some outstanding players in recent years. The NBA champion Golden State Warriors used that pick to get Draymond Green in 2012 and the Los Angeles Clippers used the 35th overall selection in 2008 to land DeAndre Jordan, the NBA rebounding leader each of the last two years.
Why not take the best shooter or the best point guard, two positions of great need, with the 35th overall pick and see if you find a keeper?
You could argue that Hinkie got the top second-round player he wanted anyway with the 37th overall pick, but we don't know where Bowling Green power forward Richaun Holmes ranked on the Sixers' board and, if it's up to the general manager, we never will.
We do know Holmes is a 6-foot-10 power forward and that appears to be the position of least need for the 76ers right now. With the 47th overall pick, Hinkie selected Arturas Gudaitis, a 6-10 center from Lithuania. It was Gudaitis' selection that convinced us that Hinkie believes his team will someday have to take on the cartoon Monstars from the movie Space Jam in the NBA Finals.
For now, however, Gudaitis will continue to play in Lithuania as the 76ers continue to play with a shortage of perimeter shooters.
With their final two picks, the Sixers took J.P. Tokoto, a small forward from North Carolina, and Luko Mitrovic, a Serbian power forward who will also play next season in Europe.
The day after the draft, Hinkie signed scrappy Arizona point guard T.J. McConnell, who many draft experts had going late in the second round.
Free agency lies ahead, but by Hinkie's own admission the Sixers still are not an attractive landing spot for veteran stars.
Even if you like some of the things Hinkie did in this draft, it's impossible to see anything other than a lot of losing on the immediate horizon.