As the NBA offseason comes to a close, it is time for the Philadelphia 76ers to review how the summer months have treated them. After appointing Sam Hinkie as general manager in May, the Sixers have had a whirlwind offseason.
The drama unfolded for Philadelphia fans on the night of the NBA draft, when Hinkie decided to make the first blockbuster trade of the offseason.
After the New Orleans Pelicans selected Nerlens Noel out of the University of Kentucky with the sixth overall pick, Hinkie decided to ship Sixers All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday to New Orleans in exchange for Noel and a 2014 protected first-round pick.
It was a move that sent shock waves throughout the league, but most of them were felt in the City of Brotherly Love.
For many fans, it was a move that made little to no sense at the time. Why trade a great young point guard whom one can build a championship-caliber team around? Holiday was one of the few bright spots for a Philadelphia team that failed to reach the postseason last year, so why let him go?
Believe it or not Sixers fans, Hinkie has a plan.
By trading for Noel and acquiring an extra first-round pick in next year's draft, Hinkie has put the Philadelphia 76ers in a position to contend for an NBA title within the next four to five years.
That's right, Philly. If everything goes right, the Sixers may just be an Eastern Conference powerhouse within the next few years.
Let me explain.
By trading Holiday and acquiring Noel, plus the Sixers' second first-round pick Michael Carter-Williams, the team now has two young pieces to build on while not investing too much money in either of them. Noel and Carter-Williams will now team up with Evan Turner, Thaddeus Young and company to create one of the youngest rosters in the league.
While Noel suffered a horrendous knee injury in his first and only season at Kentucky, he has the potential to become one of the better defenders in the game. He has the ability to protect the paint and block shots like nobody else. With some work on his offensive game, Noel has the potential to be one of the better centers in the NBA in a few years' time.
Meanwhile, Carter-Williams comes out of Syracuse University, a team that went to the Final Four this past April.
While Carter-Williams will need to work on his outside shooting and decision-making, the potential is there for the young point guard to be a solid NBA starter. With his height (6'5") and athleticism, the sky is the limit for Carter-Williams.
However, the more important facet of the whole offseason is that extra first-round pick the Sixers acquired in the trade for Noel. The Sixers now have (most likely) two lottery picks in what is being called the most stacked NBA draft in a decade.
College talents such as Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Julius Randle and Marcus Smart will enter the draft and have NBA organizations drooling over what these prospects can do for the team.
It is very likely the Sixers will have a shot at at least one, maybe two, of these highly rated prospects.
As we saw in the 2003 NBA draft with LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade, it only takes one player to change the future and outlook for an entire organization. Wiggins, Parker, Randle and Smart have the ability to do the same as James, Anthony, Bosh and Wade did.
However, not only will the Sixers be able to build through the draft in next year's offseason, they also have the potential to build through free agency. Superstars such as James, Wade, Bosh, Amar'e Stoudemire, Luol Deng, Danny Granger and Dirk Nowitzki could all become free agents in the summer of 2014, creating maybe the best free-agent class of all time.
With the 76ers not investing too much money in any player currently on their roster, Hinkie has done well to potentially set his team up for one, or possibly more, of those big names next summer.
Now, I know what you're thinking. Who would want to go to Philadelphia?
Well, if all goes right, and the Sixers do end up acquiring a rookie such as Wiggins or Parker, then Philadelphia suddenly has Noel, Carter-Williams, Wiggins or Parker, Turner and more for a free agent to join.
A suddenly young, inexperienced team has the potential to be come one of the most promising, up-and-coming teams in the league, making Philly a very attractive destination for a superstar who is looking to cash in a big paycheck.
Granted, the Sixers may be one of the worst, if not THE worst, teams in the NBA next season.
After all, Noel isn't even projected to return from his ACL surgery until December at the earliest. Hell, the Sixers don't even have a coach yet. Add that to the fact that Carter-Williams will have his fair share of struggles running the point for a young, inexperienced team, and it could be a long year for Sixers fans.
However, maybe that is what Hinkie prepared for all along. I'm not saying Hinkie wants his team to lose; nobody wants that. But "tanking" in preparation for one of the most loaded offseasons full of college and NBA talent may not be the worst strategy in the world.
So hang on, 76ers fans. The next 10 months or so will have their dark moments. This young team will struggle. But Hinkie has a plan, something that this organization has failed to have over the past decade.
Keep the faith, Philly. Soon enough, you will see the Sixers shining once again, with Sam Hinkie leading the way.
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