Whatever the expectations going into Sam Hinkie's news conference last week - and, frankly, there weren't many - no one anticipated he would get around to Casper Ware before it was over.
Hinkie is full of surprises, though, and bringing up Ware was a reminder that the 76ers general manager is just as intent on what he can acquire for a roster-filler as he is for a reigning rookie of the year.
It's all part of swapping nickels for dimes and hoping that adds up to a jackpot somewhere down the line. When you strip down what Hinkie does, it is just that simple. He believes the first-round draft pick the Sixers will eventually receive in the Michael Carter-Williams trade has a potentially higher upside than the player himself. It might not turn out that way, but Hinkie is all about potential.
To increase the odds the Sixers will find something of value in the second round of the coming draft, for instance, Hinkie has accumulated six selections in that round. Their own pick will have to be delivered to Boston as partial payment for a long-owed debt in the Arnett Moultrie trade, but the other five are all his to employ.
Around the league, Hinkie's obsession with second-round picks, and the lengths to which he will go to acquire them, is met with a mixture of fascination and puzzlement. The most recent study of NBA rosters shows that more than 80 percent of the players who get significant minutes were first-round picks (and more than half were lottery picks), and that the average second-round pick has about a 1-in-15 chance of cracking a regular rotation.
From that standpoint, of course, a good case can be made for having five of the picks. If four out of five are misses, then perhaps the fifth will be a hit.
"We will not bat 1.000 on every single draft pick," Hinkie said. "We have them by the bushelful in part because of that, because we don't have any hubris that we will get them all right. We're not certain we have an edge over anyone else. We're not certain we have an edge at all. That's OK. It's a hard league, with 30 teams trying to clamor to the top of the same mountain."
The mountain is very high, and it won't be scaled by Casper Ware, a 5-foot-10 point guard the Sixers brought over from Italy at the end of last season.
"Nobody was sure why he was here or how he fit into the larger plan, but we haven't fully reaped the benefits of that," Hinkie said. "Sometimes, you have to try to think ahead and see how it fits together."
Ware finished the season with the Sixers, played on their summer league team and then was traded to the Nets in October for the contract of Marquis Teague and a 2019 second-round draft pick. Teague was waived (his $1.2 million salary about what the Sixers charge for a second-rounder) and the pick was shoved into Hinkie's deep file cabinet of future assets.
"Eventually, that second-round pick might become the next Jerami Grant or the next K.J. McDaniels," Hinkie said.
Or the next Pierre Jackson.
Coach Brett Brown, who will likely not be around to welcome the 2019 draft class, has heard this kind of stuff before from Hinkie. He knows that McDaniels, for instance, a 32d pick in the draft, was traded for a 35th pick (Isaiah Canaan) and a 2015 pick that figures to be somewhere in the same range. Two-for-one! Brown says he is on board with the math - and its uncertain outcome - but New Englanders are a difficult lot to fully convince.
"I think it's clear when [Hinkie] and his group step back and look at the . . . ripple effect from this type of a move, that he will trace back pick after pick to point [at] what we ended up with," Brown said after the Carter-Williams trade.
Meanwhile, he has to coach what is left behind, whether it is discards taken on from teams dumping salary, marginal free agents, or projects with one identifiable NBA ability and a lot of other holes to fill. That is his lot because the Sixers aren't trying to win yet and Hinkie is still in future acquisition mode.
Will there be a payoff for all the maneuvering of nickels and dimes? Even Hinkie can't say for sure.
"As much as we talk about how we make decisions and our organizational goals and player development, it is a player-driven league still," Hinkie said. "When we have a set of players who can carry us deep, that's the only way we're going to get going."
You don't find those players in the second round, even if you have all the picks. You draft high and hope. Their greatest hope, Joel Embiid, is still in street clothes during the games. Their next greatest hope is the 19-year-old they will take in June. Everything else, while interesting, is just a distraction.
If those two are superstars, the Sixers have a chance. If not, they can start over with Casper Ware again.