Written by Garrett Catalana – @GarrettCatalana
Since NBA-lifer Jerry Colangelo was officially hired by the 76ers on December 7, many have wondered if “The Process” was officially over. Some called it the end of Sam Hinkie’s reign over the worst team in the NBA. Entire podcasts have been filled with arguments and debates over the merits of the Colangelo hire and Hinkie’s future. While the team is floundering in the win/loss department, here are eight thoughts about the Jerry Colangelo hiring with its immediate implications.
(1) The Colangelo hire doesn’t change “The Process,” it speeds it up.
– Jerry Colangelo walks into a situation where the foundation of a good team in a few years has already been laid out in the form of current players, future draft picks, cap space, and future players. Based on what ownership has allowed Hinkie to do as well as Hinkie taking advantage of general managers who were in “win now” situations (Pelicans, Kings, Magic), Hinkie has accumulated so many future assets in such a short time that he has set the team up to be successful, if the team selects the right players in the draft. Colangelo comes in and I’m sure Hinkie is telling him, “Hey Jerry, we have spend these last two+ years picking up all these assets in order to be successful in the future,” so really Hinkie has to convince ownership and Colangelo not to sell off their best assets in order to be a normal bad team in 2015-2016. Colangelo will help speed up that process by using his relationships in the league to attract quality talent to Philadelphia, which leads to the next point.
(2) Having someone of Colangelo’s experience and stature helps the team.
– Based on his four+ decades in the NBA, Jerry Colangelo has become very well in-tune with the people inside the game, which frankly, Sam Hinkie is not the best at inside relationships with other executives and agents. Agents of upcoming free agents who did not speak to Hinkie will speak to Colangelo.
(3) Whether Colangelo had a hand in hiring Mike D’Antoni doesn’t matter; he makes the coaching staff better
– With the Sixers’ personnel as the way it is currently constructed, it is tough for head coach Brett Brown to create a “winning” offense. Mike D’Antoni during his run as the Phoenix Suns head coach from 2003-2008 changed the game with his offensive sets, emphasizing space & pace, with players like Steve Nash, Shawn Marion, and Amare Stoudemire. Having D’Antoni as the associate head coach will definitely help the overall team offense, even if it is only slightly. It will be interesting how D’Antoni views the two best Sixers players, Nerlens Noel & Jahlil Okafor, and how he would want to use them moving forward. One player who I think has a chance to thrive in D’Antoni’s offense in the Shawn Marion-mold is Jerami Grant. During the five seasons that Marion played under D’Antoni, he was an All-Star three times by playing good defense, slashing & cutting on offense, finishing in transition, and able to guard NBA fours as a small-ball four in D’Antoni’s system. In those seasons, Marion was just a 33% three-point shooter and while Grant isn’t much of a shooter, one day I think he will as good from the outside as Marion was. I am not saying Grant will ever be as good as Marion (a borderline Hall of Famer), but for Grant to maximize his NBA potential, it needs to be for him to play as a small-ball four.
(4) If the Sixers succeed, Colangelo will get the credit while Hinkie won’t.
– If the assets that Hinkie has acquired become important cogs in the machine for a 60-win 76ers team in a few years and they are contending for the NBA championship on a yearly basis, Colangelo will get the credit because he came to the team before Hinkie’s assets had the chance to used. Colangelo will be seen as the savior, while Hinkie will get the credit he deserves for setting up this team for long-term success. Whether Sam Hinkie is here long-term is still up for questioning, but the front office has clearly changed.
(5) Expect the team to change from its current state before the end of the season.
– As I write this, the Sixers are 1-30 with no identity to speak of on either side of the court. While the Sixers actually have a few talented players and some young unproven guys who can succeed if they are in a system that suites them, the bottom half of the roster is not to be desired. Being 29 games under .500 after 30 games is not ideal even if you are trying to tank this season for the highest odds of getting the first overall pick. What has most been troubling about this team is the lack of development and no form of identity. For the sake of the most important current players (Noel, Okafor, Grant, Covington, Stauskas), something has to change. Whether that just means adding one veteran (Chuck Hayes, Elton Brand, John Lucas III, etc.), or shaking things up by trading for a quality veteran to play serious rotational minutes, the composition of this team needs to change. An identity needs to be found, which brings me to my next point. This process has already begun with the release of Tony Wroten and acquiring Ish Smith.
(6) Don’t be shocked if Colangelo tries a serious run at trading for Goran Dragic.
– Since the Heat acquired Dragic from the Phoenix Suns last year, he has yet to live up the contract extension he signed in the offseason, whether that is the team or he. He is averaging just a modest 11.3 points and 5.3 assists in 26 games so far this season. The fit just doesn’t seem to be there with this current rendition of the Heat roster. With ties to both Phoenix (Colangelo) and Houston (Hinkie), Dragic may be an ideal candidate for a midseason shakeup to acquire a player signed for multiple years whose talent and ability is much greater than that of anyone on the current roster (Marshall, Smith, McConnell). Who knows if the Heat is willing to even trade him but don’t be shocked if Colangelo wants to make a power play and try to trade for Dragic.
(7) The 2016 offseason was always going to be the time when the Sixers hit the accelerator on the rebuild.
– Unknown at the time when Hinkie took over as general manager and president of basketball operations, the 2016 offseason will be the time for the team to attempt to play like an actual basketball team with some actual NBA talent. Joel Embiid hopefully is fully recovered from foot surgery and is ready to go in training camp, Dario Saric delivers on his promise and signs with the 76ers, the team is able to have at least three of the four first round draft picks to use, and even more cap space to work with. All this was known before Colangelo was brought on board and Hinkie was still the sole captain of the ship.
But above all else…
(8) We just have to wait and see.
– It seems very much like a cop out answer but it’s the truth. Colangelo is living in Phoenix, Arizona and as of this moment, Sam Hinkie is still running the day-to-day operations, while both report to owner Josh Harris. At the first press conference, the three parties emphasized “collaboration,” but only time will tell if that will be the case. We already have some sort of idea how Jerry Colangelo is making his impact on this team, but talking to former players Shane Battier an Elton Brand to serve as mentors, bringing in vets Chuck Hayes and John Lucas III for free agent visits, hiring Mike D’Antoni, and even making the latest trade for Ish Smith where the Sixers actually gave SOMETHING of value followed by the release of Tony Wroten.
The attempt at jumpstarting the rebuild has already begun and we won’t know where it ends until we get there in the 2016 offseason.