Phoenix and Philadelphia both wanted to shove a horrible season of basketball down their fans' throats this year in the hope they'd be able to land a top pick in this summer's stacked draft. Phoenix blew their chances early and will probably have to fight and claw to hold on to the 7 or 8 seed in the West. The Sixers, well, they're still in the process of throwing away a golden opportunity.
We've been going back and forth in the comments for weeks, so let's keep the conversation going (it's better than talking about what's happening on the floor). Here are my feelings, feel free to add your own in the comments, dispute my theories, posit your own. Let's try to keep it civil (and I'm mostly pointing a finger at myself here. I need to do a better job of addressing ideas, and not personalities, in the comments).
The Sixers have 14 wins in 44 games. At their current rate, they'll finish with 26 wins. 26 wins would have been the 5th-worst record last season, 8th worst the season before. It's more than likely 26 wins will leave the Sixers outside of the bottom five. They have 14 wins with their two most important players (Thad and MCW) having missed a combined 15 games of the first 44 (The team is 2-13 in games either of those players missed).
It's been clear since before the Ice Capades trip this team, as constructed, will have trouble finishing atop the lottery odds spectrum. They've obviously needed a downgrade in talent on the floor, yet no move has been made. Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes are both enjoying career years at the expense of ping pong balls. The play of these two players - both free agents at the end of the year, which is an important point - has devalued the team's most important asset, their own lottery pick in this summer's draft.
It should be clear to everyone that Evan Turner is not a part of the team's future beyond this season. His career year still leaves him as possibly the worst starting small forward in the league. Spencer Hawes is an unrestricted free agent, meaning even if Sam Hinkie views Hawes as a part of the team's future, he could go out and sign him as a free agent after trading him away. These two players have hurt the team's chances at a top pick already, and the longer they're on the roster, the more damage they do. Their value around the league is minimal. No bad team will want to give up an asset of any value for them because they can simply wait until the summer and sign them as free agents (if they really want them). Perhaps a good team could find a use for one or the other, but in terms of future assets, the good teams can only offer picks in the late first round (outside of Denver, who owns the Knicks' first round pick). There's always the chance Hinkie could pry away a young guy from a contending team, a guy who might develop into a worthwhile piece down the road.
Assuming the Sixers could have moved Turner and Hawes for no return earlier, saving the wins they've already contributed in the mean time (which I think is a safe assumption), then Hinkie has thrown away those wins (and any that are added between now and whenever he does pull the trigger, if he does pull the trigger), then here's the value proposition. Hinkie has added let's say 5-8 wins, which could mean the difference between a 25% chance at the top pick and a 6% chance with the upside being either picking up a late first-round pick, and/or a marginal player with upside from a contending team.
- Trade Turner and Hawes for nothing in December = 20% chance of winning the lottery, almost definitely in the top 4, and maybe #7 from New Orleans
- Holding on to them = Possibly only a 4.3% chance of winning the lottery, maybe 15% of being in the top 3, #7 from New Orleans and let's say #20 in the trade at the deadline.
I'd think Sam Hinkie himself would tell you a pick in the top three is worth more than picks #7 and #21 combined.
I've ascribed some motives to Hinkie for his failure to act, hubris being the one that rings most true. He's unwilling or unable to get "taken" in a trade. It could also be that he's simply willing to roll the dice that making no moves will result in a record bad enough to finish in the bottom three. After all, every metric suggests that's where the team should be, and they're currently the third-worst. Unfortunately, differential doesn't decide lottery slots. Hinkie has failed to this point, and every game played with the current roster is another failure.
Another game to (hopefully) lose tonight. Give the current state of the team some thought, particularly Hinkie's lack of moves to secure a top slot in this year's drafts. If you believe he's done the right thing, provide a scenario where holding on to Hawes and Turner could potentially lead to a return more important than finishing with a bottom three record and increasing the Sixers odds at holding the winning ping pong ball combination.