CHICAGO - Today officially begins yet another draft process in the Sam Hinkie era for the 76ers, as the NBA Draft Combine begins at the Quest Multisport Complex. All NBA teams are on hand and will interview possible draft picks and watch intently as players go through drills over the next few days.
With possibly three picks in the first round (their own and the slight chance of getting the Los Angeles Lakers' and/or the Miami Heat's) and five in the second, no other team will be looking more closely at the variety of players than Hinkie and company will.
Nothing is ever simple when it comes to the draft with Hinkie. After he finds out on Tuesday at the draft lottery how many picks and where he will be choosing in the first round, the wheels will start to spin.
Should he get one of the top two picks, does he take one of the two big men expected to go with those initial picks - Duke's Jahlil Okafor or Kentucky's Karl-Anthony Towns?
If that happens, where does that player fit in with Nerlens Noel and Joel Embiid?
Or does Hinkie start wringing his hands, raise his eyebrows and produce a knowing smile with the prospect of finding out the value of one of his big men? Might he trade down in the draft so that he can accumulate those always-coveted future picks?
If you are a Sixers fan and are on board with The Process and have shown a good amount of patience so far with the drafting of three players (Noel, Embiid and Dario Saric) who didn't play the season after getting drafted, do you hope that the Sixers wind up with the third or fourth pick?
That would seem to make the pick on June 25 a no-brainer, where the Sixers could take their point guard of the future – either D'Angelo Russell or Emmanuel Mudiay.
That would then give coach Brett Brown seemingly three key players with which to move forward, while still having plenty of peripheral pieces (some left over from this year's squad, others plucked from next month's draft) to sprinkle around his main core.
Should Hinkie get one of the top two picks, does it almost assuredly get the trade wheels in motion and put finishing touches on The Process even further down the line? Whenever Hinkie starts making deals, no doubt a line from a song by the Steve Miller Band fills the head of Brown – "Time keeps on slippin', slippin', slippin' into the future."
Remember how Brown spoke as the 18-win season winded down. The coach was forthcoming about how he sees The Process progressing, saying the time for things to become more stable is this upcoming season.
"We don't know the landscape of our team," Brown said. "Draft night and different things will let all that unfold with Sam. But I look forward to starting a new chapter. We need to see that we're moving forward. Now, how do you quantify that with a number of wins? I'm not prepared to give that answer.
"At the end of the day, to coach gypsies, to be able to have to coach a revolving door, that's not what I'm looking for. I think that the program understands – that Sam understands, that [managing owner] Josh [Harris] understands – that we need a level of consistency to move it forward. That doesn't mean that we have to be pregnant with average players. We're looking for people that can move the program forward in a big way."
Brown has the upcoming season and the next left on his contract. He has done an outstanding job of getting the most out of his players and keeping them interested during two seasons that combined for just 37 wins.
Though that may be his biggest accomplishment, it is also impressive that the coach had targeted two areas in which he wanted his limitedly talented roster to improve. His first season, he demanded his team improve its pace, which is possessions per game. The thought was that with really no proven NBA scorers, the more chances they had at shooting the ball, the better off they'd be. The Sixers led the league in pace his first season at the helm (101.6), and were sixth this season.
At training camp last September, Brown said the focus needed to change to the defensive side of the ball. So their defensive rating (points per 100 possessions), which was 27th (107.5) in the league during his first season, improved to 12th (102.1), and that included a horrible rating (109.5) in seven April games when, let's face it, the team wasn't exactly going the extra mile to win games.
Brown worked those numbers while players were traded, unknowns were brought in and thrust into the lineup and the word stability was never found in his expansive vocabulary.
Perhaps now is the time for stability to start creeping into the organization. Perhaps getting the third or fourth pick would take the bartering bug out of Hinkie a little bit and he would give Brown his point guard of the future, however long that may be.
Maybe they'll get either the Lakers' pick (top-five protected) or the Heat's (top-10 protected), or both. Maybe there will be a diamond in the rough in the second round who turns out to be the next Manu Ginobili or Marc Gasol. Whatever the case, Hinkie needs to give Brown someone he can use now.
The organization baffled many this season when it came up with the slogan of "This Starts Now" just a couple of days before the trading deadline. The slogan featured Noel, Embiid and Michael Carter-Williams. MCW, of course, was traded just days later. The slogan, like Carter-Williams, drifted away.
Perhaps after this draft it can be revisited.
Sixty-two players are scheduled to be on display in Chicago. There is supposed to be some five-on-five play, which hasn't happened over the past several years . . . Sam Hinkie and Brett Brown are in Chicago . . . Early word is that Jahlil Okafor, Karl-Anthony Towns and Emmanuel Mudiay will not particpate.