The Embiid Effect

If you’re anything like me (in which case, may God have mercy on your soul, but I digress), your Mock Draft/Big Board/projections/whatever now lie in a smoking heap of foot surgery. I’m not an orthopedic surgeon, but I know that a stress fracture in the foot is a really, really bad thing, especially for a really big guy. They keep coming back, and careers end pretty early. It’s bad.

I feel horrible for Embiid. He just lost his almost-guaranteed #1 overall standing. If he’s lucky, he’s *only* lost millions of dollars, and doesn’t have to figure out what to do with his life. By all reports, he seems like a really nice kid who doesn’t deserve this to have happened to him.

But let’s talk about the important stuff: How is this going to affect the Sixers’ draft?

Concisely? Badly. This was a draft where there were three guys projected to be clearly in the top tier of players, so it was a pretty good year to have the #3 pick. Now, this is a draft where there are two guys projected to be clearly in the top tier of players. Not such a great year to have the #3 pick.

You, gentle reader, are going to hear a lot of furious justifications about a lot of guys you don’t know that much about, or who were never thought to be all that exceptional, or who make absolutely no sense for the Sixers to take. You will here many, many praises sung of Sam Hinkie’s genius. You will hear how this isn’t all that bad, or how it’s good.

You will hear how Shit is now Shinola.

But none of that matters. People (including me, of course) will say what they want. We all have our Hot Takes on everything, and we believe what we believe, for the reasons we believe those things.

If you’re here, you get to find out what I believe.

Surprisingly, I don’t think the sky is falling. The world is not coming to an end. Really, all we have to do is walk the talk we’ve all been talking all along.

We have to be patient.

Doesn’t sound that hard, right? We’ve all been talking a mile a minute about being patient, how we don’t need to win now, how we’re trying to build something for the future. OK. So we have to do that.

First, we have to disabuse ourselves of the notion that a franchise guy is going to fall into our laps. We’re not getting Wiggins. He has future Milwaukee Buck written all over him. We’re not (for those of you who like him) getting Jabari Parker, either (which is fine by me). The “franchise guys” are gone. There’s nothing that can be done about that. And that’s fine.

I am pretty open about saying that I really, REALLY wanted Wiggins. But he’s going to not be available for any price I would be willing to pay.

I am, for the record, not Sam Hinkie. Who the hell knows what’s going on in his head? Supposedly he really wanted Wiggins, too. We have no way of knowing if that’s true or not. I’m willing to believe that it was possible, likely even. But Hinkie does not think like mortal man. I suspect he was, at worst, mildly disappointed.

What I suspect he’s doing right now? Consulting his magic spreadsheet, looking at the next guy on his list, according to his formula. I don’t know how Hinkie places values on different scenarios and players and picks, but I’m willing to bet he has some sort of value-based algorithm for situations just like this.

What does this all mean? No clue, in the specific, not being privy to the Hinkie Algorithm. In the abstract, I imagine that he is analyzing all possible permutations of what he could possibly do now that Embiid is out of the mix. He still has the #3 and #10 picks. They are slightly reduced in value, but retain a relatively high value nonetheless, along with the five second-round picks. He has Thad Young, a good player on a reasonable contract that is also an expiring. He has a metric shit ton of cap space, which can be used to facilitate deals. He still retains a fairly impressive collection of value assets overall.

Now, the stated intent all along was to get the best possible pick in this particular draft, which was believed to have as many as three potential franchise players at the top. He got the #3 pick. He did what he had to do. There is no reason to believe that he will not be able to maximize the value of the assets he holds.

This doesn’t necessarily mean overpaying Cleveland to give us the #1 pick. I don’t even want him to trade up unless the deal is particularly beneficial for the Sixers. If the price were 3+Thad, I’d do that deal. If the price were 3+Thad+39, Even if the price were 3+Thad+39+52+54, I’d do it. But I’m a gambling guy…Mr. Vegas, that’s me. Anything more than that? Not interested. Thank you for playing, Mr Gilbert. The #1 is not worth giving up both 3+10, at least according to my valuations. According to all reports, Cleveland is asking for an arm, a leg, and Embiid’s bad foot for the pick. Nope. Trading up from 3 shouldn’t happen, and probably won’t.

Trading up from 10? More possible, and Thad becomes a more valuable chip, especially for teams like SAC, who are looking for good established players, rather than developmental guys. But again, I wouldn’t be willing to give up too too much.

How about trading down? I like the idea of trading down from 3, but I am absolutely alone in this opinion and I recognize this. Again, trading down from 10 (Looking at you, CHI) makes more sense, especially if guys like Gordon and Randle are off the board. I’d rather have whoever’s BPA at 16+19 than Nik Stauskas. Sorry Nik. You’re a one-dimensional bench shooter. I can get 90% of you in the second round (Dinwiddie, anyone?). Thanks for stopping by.

I have this mental picture of Hinkie sitting at his desk, hearing about the Embiid thing, maybe raising an eyebrow in consternation, and then running a macro on his spreadsheet to adjust everyone’s value appropriately.

Here’s another area in which I believe I stand almost alone: Leave MCW alone. He’s fine. Everyone (all the way up to DX) is trading him to clear the decks for whoever their new favorite prospect is (Exum/Smart/Gordon/whoever). Again, it’s about value. Unless you are absolutely convinced that MCW is terrible and whoever you’re replacing him with is awesome, you’re not going to get enough for him to make it worthwhile from a value perspective. I find it slightly alarming that the entire fanbase has instantly turned on MCW, who is guilty of nothing more than having Embiid break his foot.

Do I think MCW and Exum could co-exist? Possibly. I understand Exum is quite capable of playing off the ball, although he’s not a fantastic shooter at this point. I don’t know.

I am not a professional basketball talent evaluator, but I do have multiple graduate degrees that concentrate in and around business, finance, and economics. I can’t tell you how Hinkie developed his optimization algorithm or what factors he uses, but I can tell you that’s pretty much what he does, and what that means in the abstract.n I have been working around financial institutions and financial people my entire life, and I have a full understanding of how to manage risk under uncertain market conditions.

I might be cranky, but I am not stupid :)

And because I do understand, in the abstract, what Hinkie is doing, I can believe he is going to make the most informed decision that it is possible to make under the circumstances that exist when he makes it. All the math in the world isn’t going to turn Dante Exum into Andrew Wiggins, but if Dante Exum represents the best value available at the time Hinkie is required to make a decision, he will pick Dante Exum. If he believes that the offer from UTA to trade down to #5 and pick Noah Vonleh in return for an additional first-rounder next year or whatever represents the best value available at that moment in time, he will trade down to #5 and draft Noah Vonleh. Etc.

Sixers fans, at least the hardcore guys I consider my “people,” ascribe to Hinkie almost magical powers to alter reality in his favor. I maintain that he isn’t casting spells, he’s calculating beta coefficients.

That’s what “Trust Hinkie” means to me. Not that he will somehow turn a good player into a great player by virtue of his drafting the player, or that he will convince Dan Gilbert to be even stupider than usual and leave Wiggins for him to pick at #3, but that he will get the most he can get out of the assets he has under the market conditions he faces.

2 thoughts on “The Embiid Effect

  1. why feel bad for joel? We don’t know anything about his injury besides speculation, and the situation sure smacks of sports agent meddling. Joel arriving at his beloved Los Angeles destination after “falling” in the draft shouldn’t evoke your sympathy but bitterness, instead.

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