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Sixers' Hinkie off to a strong start

New Sixers boss Sam Hinkie pulls off a winner in his first big deal by trading Jrue Holiday for Nerlens Noel.

Sam Hinkie discusses the Sixers' 11th overall pick Michael Carter-Williams with the media at PCOM, Friday, June 28, 2013. (Steven M. Falk/Staff Photographer)
Sam Hinkie discusses the Sixers' 11th overall pick Michael Carter-Williams with the media at PCOM, Friday, June 28, 2013. (Steven M. Falk/Staff Photographer)Read more

OK, SO MAYBE this is why new Sixers president and general manager Sam Hinkie has been lost in a basketball black hole since he was hired in May.

To pull off what Hinkie did last night in the draft probably would have required a lot of solitude and undivided attention.

Of course, unless he had the clearest crystal ball in history, there is no way Hinkie could have anticipated the series of falling dominoes that allowed him to produce the Sixers' biggest culture change since they traded Allen Iverson in 2006.

But at this juncture, the devil of the details isn't important. The point is that when the opportunity presented itself, Hinkie swung for the fences and appears to have hit a walkoff grand slam.

In what can only be described as a daring first move, Hinkie traded All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday to the New Orleans Pelicans for the rights to Kentucky freshman center Nerlens Noel, who was drafted No. 6 overall.

The Sixers also received a top-five protected first-round pick in 2014 from the Pelicans, meaning the Sixers will get the pick unless it is among the first five.

Then with the 11th overall pick, Hinkie drafted Syracuse point guard Michael Carter-Williams.

This was a stunning maneuver. In a 15-minute span, Hinkie took a 34-win team that looked like it had no future and transformed it into one that gives its long-suffering fan base true hope for the first time since drafting Iverson No. 1 in 1996.

Yes, you lose Holiday, but the Sixers get Noel, a center/power forward who most projected as the No. 1 overall pick in the draft. If Noel had not suffered an ACL injury, there is little question that Cleveland Cavaliers would have picked him first instead of UNLV forward Anthony Bennett.

That's why you can't say Hinkie has been planning this move for 2 months. Even with the injury, no one could have predicted that Noel would have slipped down to New Orleans.

The 6-11 Noel is the best defensive player in the draft and current reports are that the 19-year-old should be ready to play in December.

The Pelicans were the perfect trade partner for the Sixers because they've been searching for an All-Star-caliber point guard since Chris Paul forced a trade to the Clippers.

The Sixers then replaced Holiday with the 6-6 Carter-Williams, who was the second-rated pure point guard in the draft.

But this is about more than the players. This was Hinkie stamping his seal on this franchise. He has changed everything. With Noel on board, the Sixers can finally close the door on the Andrew Bynum disaster. To the relief of virtually every Sixers fan, Bynum and his chronically injured knees will not be re-signed.

With New Orleans' 2014 pick, the Sixers recoup the one they traded on 2012 draft night to the Miami Heat for the rights to rookie Arnett Moultrie.

The Sixers' pick traded to Miami is lottery-protected. The Pelicans' pick to the Sixers is protected 1-through-5. That means the Sixers could potentially have two lottery picks in the 2014 draft, which is considered much stronger than last night's.

And while trading Holiday comes as a shock, it has long-term benefits given the Sixers' commitment to rebuilding.

Holiday last November signed a contract that will pay him $44 million starting next season through 2016-17. But because this was a draft-night trade, Holiday's salary is only $2.6 million on the books - which made the trade for Noel work moneywise.

So when Holiday's raise goes into effect on July 1, he'll be New Orleans' property, which means the Sixers' salary-cap space for free agency this summer will increase from about $12 million to somewhere between $16 million and $18 million.

Think about this for a moment.

When the draft started, the core of the Sixers' rebuilding project consisted of Holiday and the hope that they could find a surprise franchise player with the 11th overall pick.

Now after Hinkie's boldly aggressive move, the Sixers potentially have a franchise center in Noel - something they've been desperately seeking since trading Moses Malone in 1986.

They have what should project as a quality replacement for Holiday at the point in Carter-Williams. They have more salary-cap space for this summer.

Even more important, with Holiday's raise off the books, they could set themselves up to have a huge amount of cap space for 2014 free agency, which is expected to be a better class.

The Sixers could go into the summer of 2014 with just the two rookies and forward Thaddeus Young ($9.1 million) under contract, as it stands now. Plus they will be guaranteed to have one first-round pick for 2014 and could have two.

That's a hell of a night's work. And if that's the type of stuff Hinkie can keep pulling off, he can stay hidden in his bunker for as long as he wants.