Dr. Strangedraft; or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love The Plan

I don’t think it’s any secret that I really, really, really wanted Sam Hinkie to pick Andrew Wiggins. He seemed like such a perfect fit for what the team was trying to do…long, ridiculous athlete, great defender, emerging shot, nice kid, *awesome* suit for Draft Night. Rumors were flying hot and heavy about Hinkie’s willingness to trade the ranch for the chance to pick Wiggins #1. Right before the draft started, I was hearing he offered 3/10/32/Thad+unprotected 1st.

Everyone who ever read more than 10 words about the Sixers instantly called bullshit. There was absolutely no way in hell that Sam Hinkie would mortgage so many assets for any one player, even Andrew Wiggins, who he reportedly really loved.

As it turns out, he didn’t even really want Wiggins at all. Or not all that much. At least that’s what he said, and I happen to believe him in this case. As always, Sam Hinkie, Bond Trader, was on the lookout for the undervalued asset.

In this case, Joel Embiid.

I’m pretty sure no one would question that, if healthy, Embiid was the top talent in this year’s highly talented draft class. The Next Hakeem. A true Franchise Center. Both insanely athletic and surprisingly skilled considering how long he’s been playing basketball (not very). High floor and unlimited ceiling.

But he’s not healthy. All kinds of reports about how he will never be healthy have been kicking around Teh Interwebz for the last week or so, talking about how he’s going to spend a lot of time breaking a lot of bones and sitting on a lot of benches wearing a lot of suits.

Or maybe not. Hinkie got the medical records, didn’t see anything untoward (or his medical experts did not, I’m sure he didn’t trust his own medical skillz, madd as they might be), felt pretty good that with sufficient time to rest, along with intensive core conditioning, the risks of further injuries could be minimized.

Enter Joel Embiid, Undervalued Asset.

Any situation where a prospect of Embiid’s caliber is not going at #1 (you’ll notice that it’s Sam Bowie everyone talks about going before MJ, no one ever complains that the Rockets drafted Hakeem at #1), that prospect, given a better-than-even chance of full recovery and continued health, must automatically be considered undervalued. It was obvious (as I’ve said before) that Embiid, if available, would be Hinkie’s choice.

That’s So Hinkie.

So was drafting Dario Saric. Terrific player, possibly top-5-pick-worthy (certainly in next year’s draft, he would have had to have been in consideration for #1-2), just signed a deal to play in Turkey for 3 years, can’t get out of it for two, pretty much. Most GMs don’t have the kind of job security Hinkie has, so he grabs a Top 5 talent for two years from now, because he can wait two years to have Saric come over, 22 years old with a highly-developed game and 5 years of professional experience in a tough league in Europe. Plus, the kid’s really good.

Not only that, Sammy did a nifty little bit of cleaning up the balance sheet while he was at it. By picking Gordon at 4, ORL telegraphed that they were going after Elfrid Payton at 12. So Hinkie slides in at 10, grabs Payton (who he doesn’t really want), trades him to ORL for Saric (who he does really want), and gets himself out of pick debt by gouging ORL for an extra 2nd to give BOS from the the Moultrie deal, plus gets back the 1st we lost in the Bynum deal. So now we owe no one anything, and can once more freely trade whatever we want to whomever we want. He claims he did not have a deal in place with ORL when he grabbed Payton and was taking the chance that they wouldn’t do the deal, but, like a BOSS, he got everything he wanted, the player *and* the picks.

That’s So Hinkie.

I’m going to be up front here and admit that while I saw what he was doing, and understood why he was doing it, it was still kinda disappointing that in our make-or-break draft year, where we were going to get our Franchise Guy, we weren’t going to see said Guy in action for at least a year, and he came with a lot of injury risks. I’m no doctor, nor have I played on on TV (although I did once play a corpse on an episode of “ER”, so it’s closer than you might think), but I can’t imagine Mad Sam not having done the absolute maximum amount of medical due diligence possible before putting his team’s future in the backhoe-sized hands of Mr Joel-Hans Embiid, of Cameroon by way of Lawrence, KS. But still, I was sad that who the hell knew how long it was going to take before I saw the team that we were going to have, and we were going to be watching the same collective of D-League washouts we watched last year, even after all that tanking. (Seriously, Brandon Davies was funny last year, but another year of missed dunks by an alleged “NBA Player” would have been more depressing than I could have laughed at…at some point it goes from funny and charming to pathetic and sad).

All we had left was the wretched refuse of the second round, guys who were no doubt going to be obscure Euros who were going to be stashed overseas for the next five years and never heard from again, until their rights were traded several times without the players ever even sniffing the NBA, and eventually became a podcast. They hadn’t managed to trade Thad (I’m so sorry, Thad, we still love you), so no more first-rounders from there. No combining second-rounders to move back up into the late first. Just a bunch of second-round picks, guys who no doubt produced wonderful advanced stats in the Estonian League and no one had ever heard of.

Seriously, though. I’m almost positive the Bucks saved us from yet another draft-and-stash candidate by drafting Damien Inglis at 31. I have no proof for this whatsoever, but he had Hinkie written all over his forehead. Talented but raw Euro who could be stashed for several years to develop his game, and fit the long, athletic Hinkie type. I am also pretty sure that if Hinkie had picked Inglis, most of my friends would have lost their minds hi-fiving each other and trumpeting to the world how awesome this draft was, and then fapping to grainy YouTube footage of Inglis beating up on some French kid who is clearly physically outclassed, and counting the years until he actually showed up in the US with glee that we were getting absolutely zero players out of this much-heralded draft that would contribute anytime soon, as proof of the Genius of Sam Hinkie and The Plan.

But it was not meant to be. Sorry guys. Really, I thought Inglis would be the guy at 32 and you would get your hi-five party and I would cry because it would be likely that I would be too old and senile to enjoy the fruits of all the horrific basketball we were going to be watching for the next 5-7 years.

I firmly believe that Hinkie heard my cries, and knew my pain, and his heart was moved for a guy who’s been stuck with this albatross of a team around his neck for 38 years, and made his next pick Just For Me. Or, it could have been that he felt that he was the best Hinkie-style (great athlete who does a bunch of things well but can’t shoot worth a crap) player left, and was projected to go mid-late first round, and therefore was a seriously undervalued asset. But I choose to believe Sam did it for me, so I could keep the faith. Amen.

Here’s what I wrote in my mock about our #32 pick:

25) HOU: KJ McDaniels – It’s a testament to the respect I have for Daryl Morey that I bestow upon him my favorite late-first-round prospect. I love me some KJ. He’s basically Aaron Gordon-Lite. A jumpshot away from being a lottery prospect. A serious athlete who plays defense and does grit and hustle things. A Serious Glue Guy. I love those kinds of players. Can’t help it. I wish there were some way I could legitimately justify his falling to the Sixers at 32, but that’s not gonna happen.

But it did happen. Thank you, Sam. I mean it. You saved the draft for me.

After they picked KJ, it was all pretty much gravy for me. A lot of people a lot more knowledgeable than I thought Jerami Grant was a late-first-round prospect that we got at 39, although not absolutely everyone was thrilled (Pavorsky hates him). He seems to represent really good value at the point where he was picked.

That, too, is So Hinkie.

As was drafting Russ Smith and immediately flipping him for Pierre Jackson, who Hinkie drafted last year and immediately flipped, but obviously thought quite a bit of. Evidently, the kid is a mad scoring machine in the vein of Tha BOSS!!!!!, so I can’t really complain about the value of that move with #47. I would pick Tha BOSS!!!!! at #47 every day and twice on Sundays, especially now that we have Brett Brown coaching, who is likely to understand how to use him correctly, rather than Doughy Collins, who clearly did not. And y’all (now that I live in the South…by the way, IT IS REALLY FUCKING HOT DOWN HERE!!!!) know how much I hate Tha BOSS!!!!! when he’s used incorrectly.

I kind of drifted out at that point, and I know there were some late-round shenanigans with San Antonio. I know we picked up a very highly regarded Euro prospect at #52, and I think the aforementioned shenanigans took place at #54, and somehow we ended up with cash and a shooting guard from Tennessee who people seem to think might be able to play a little, so not bad for the end of the second round.

So. OK. I have no idea whether Embiid is the next Hakeem or the next Greg Oden. I have no idea whether Saric is Toni Kukoc or Fran Vasquez. But I know why they were picked, and it makes objective economic sense (based on my theory that Hinkie is using econometric value modeling to select his players, which saw absolutely nothing to refute said theory in this draft at all) that these were the guys, and we possibly added enough talent in the second round to at least have something interesting to watch in terms of long-term development (you could convince me that Henry Sims and possibly Elliot Williams could end up sticking long-term, but honestly, no one else from last year’s shit show).

I think that’s what was eating at me. First, the risk factors in taking the first-round guys we took, and second, I know it’s a fucking rebuild, but you want to see the guys who are going to develop into the future of the team, not a bunch of guys who couldn’t quite cut it in the D-League playing out their Washington Generals fantasies. I’m pretty sure no one expected them to be contenders this year or next. That’s just stupid. But you kinda want to see, after what was billed all year as The Draft That Would Change The Team Forever, at least the beginnings of what all that was going to be about.

Maybe we will, a bit. Maybe MCW and Nerlens (<3) and KJ and Grant and Jackson and even Sims and Elliot Williams are the beginnings of our 2021 NBA Champions. It’s more like a glacier than a tidal wave, and it’s frustrating, but we hope for the best, I suppose.

Because That’s So Hinkie.

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