If you are an enemy of the cult that is unwavering in its loyalty to Sam Hinkie, there is little you can do to endear yourself to those people.
Bryan Colangelo did it, however. And he did it in the biggest of big ways. The president of the organization officially announced Monday afternoon at the team’s sprawling practice facility in Camden that the Sixers have acquired the No. 1 pick in Thursday’s draft from the Boston Celtics. That pick will be Washington guard Markelle Fultz, whom Colangelo must see as head and shoulders above others in this draft and clearly the best fit for his team. The pick was gotten with the help of Hinkie, who secured the first-round pick of the Los Angeles Lakers in a trade involving Michael Carter-Williams back in 2015. Hinkie also masterminded the deal in which the Sixers collected an unprotected 2019 first-round pick from the Sacramento Kings, which will be given to the Celtics if the Lakers pick doesn’t convey (it is protected 2 through 5).
But this move, this trust that Fultz is the player to fit seamlessly into the foundation of Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid and Dario Saric, is Colangelo’s call. It is the move that — while he made it sitting in the facility Hinkie helped build and did it with the assets the former general manager acquired — will define his early tenure with the club.
Colangelo did it without giving away too much to Boston, really. There was no overpaying with the assets accumulated by his predecessor, no lost vision of the future, no talk that the time is here and now, because, with the youth of the foundational pieces, the time to be truly competitive for an upper-tier playoff seeding is a few years away.
In other words, Colangelo is seeing Hinkie’s plan through in a way that should make all happy. Hinkie’s loyal followers can’t be upset with this most recent transaction, just as those who didn’t see the vision of The Process can’t deny that the team wouldn’t be in this position without the unprecedented breakdown before Hinkie left the team in April 2016.
“We’re going to continue to look to build with that core and make right decisions that don’t put us in a situation that jeopardize a nice, strategic path toward sustainable success,” Colangelo said. “So, jumping out in free agency is something that will be contemplated, really, with those two ideas in mind, whether or not we go out in multi-year commitments or short-term commitments that maintain flexibility. I think ideally, we would like to not only have max flexibility now but maintain max flexibility next year, when this group has a chance to grow together a little bit more and be more, perhaps, more ready to add a high-level free agent. That’s not to say we’re not going to explore the marketplace this year. It sure feels right that this group, that this young core that we are assembling, has a chance to grow together. Again, assuming health and assuming the development of the players as we see that happening, or projected out, it feels right.
“You might see us, if the opportunity presents itself, to add the key piece. Now, you have to take advantage of those opportunities when they present themselves. If we’re just not ready, so be it. We can wait as long as we maintain that flexibility, and that’s going to be the key objective in this whole thing. Speaking to the scenario with Ben Simmons coming in – there’s very few situations that I can recall the history where you are putting two No. 1 picks on the court at the same time for the first time. I’m excited about that, but I’m nervous about that, at the same time. I’m nervous, because we have a coaching staff that is driven to win. Young players making their debuts are not always ready to win, but we’re going to wind these guys up and do our best to make them ready. The coaching staff is going to have their challenges again with the young core. Hopefully, it will be made better by adding some veteran presence. Presence not only will be helpful on the court, but off the court, as well. Young players need to be led and led appropriately and so we will try to address that before you even see and potentially in trades as well. We are excited about it.”
Excitement mixed with a whole lot of patience and an eye toward the future. Sound familiar? It was Hinkie’s mantra, and four years after he started the breakdown, the rebuild is hitting new stages of completion, thanks to both GMs. Turns out both Hinkie and Colangelo are working well together, even if it is separately.
“It’s great excitement, obviously. We have a much better idea of where we are today than just a few days ago and, again, sitting in the No. 1 spot, we couldn’t be in a better place,” Colangelo said. “So, we know where we are, we’ve got pick certainty now and we can zero in on the fine details of that selection now. We can get a head start on planning for some of the things that follow that can also help us with our trade thoughts and free agent thoughts moving forward.”