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Could the Directionless Kings Trust Sam Hinkie’s Process?

Kings Sam Hinkie

According to’s Marc Stein and Zach Lowe, the Sacramento Kings have received permission to speak with former Philadelphia 76ers general manager Sam Hinkie about a possible role in their front office.

The Kings would release the following statement regarding the news, per Wojnarowski,

“The Kings are not hiring Sam Hinkie and have no plans to bring anyone in above Vlade.”

However, the Kings also said that they weren’t looking to trade Demarcus Cousins too, until they were. Wojnarowski doubled-down on his report that they are indeed searching for someone above Divac.

“Ranadive has been canvassing the NBA for possible candidates and has been mostly intrigued with Hinkie, who is living in the Northern California area now,” Wojnarowski wrote.”There’s been discussion at the Kings’ ownership level about keeping Divac in a player-personnel role, but transferring the overall management of basketball operations to someone else.”

In Philadelphia, Sam Hinkie was the architect of “The Process.” A strategy who’s basic idea was that the NBA draft is the best, cheapest way to build a championship contender, and that the NBA draft is a total crapshoot.

Hinkie’s strategy included sacrificing everything, from entire seasons to his relationships around the league, in a mad obsession with acquiring draft picks. Hinkie apologists usually point to the sheer quantity of picks the team has as evidence that his plan has been “working.”

What Hinkie really thinks about the draft, however, was revealed in something he said at a press conference last season:

“We will not bat a thousand on every single draft pick. We also have [picks] by the bushelful, in part, because of that. We don’t have any hubris that we will get them all right. We’re not certain that we have an enormous edge over anybody else. In some cases, we might not have an edge at all.”

While part of this statement may hold some truth, essentially Hinkie was admitting that he’s really only an average talent evaluator. He uses this as an argument for The Process.

‘Since we aren’t great at drafting, logic would seem to dictate, we need to lose a lot and trade away everything that isn’t bolted down in order to hoard enough picks to ensure a few of them succeed.’

The Process hinges on drafting future stars. Yet at the same time, ironically, Hinkie was all but conceding that he can’t tell who these players are chalking it up to just … luck.

His “plan” hinged on the NBA draft indeed being a crapshoot. The flaw in his thinking is that IT ISN’T. We know this because some NBA general managers have shown they’re clearly better than others at spotting talent.

In San Antonio, RC Buford and Gregg Popovich drafted (even overlooking the obvious selection of Tim Duncan), Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, Beno Udrih, Tiago Splitter, George Hill, DeJuan Blair, and traded for Kawhi Leonard on draft night. Larry Riley, Bob Myers and Jerry West drafted Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, Festus Ezeli, and Draymond Green for Golden State. In Oklahoma City, Sam Presti drafted Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka, James Harden, Reggie Jackson, Steven Adams, and Cameron Payne.

Not to say there isn’t ANY luck in the draft (there is), or that the above GM’s haven’t made poor draft picks because they have, but evaluating talent very clearly IS a skill. It may be the most important trait a GM can have.  RC Buford and Sam Presti definitely have it. Sam Hinkie in his words and actions has all dismissed it as coincidence.

Placing an importance on the draft as a way of building a team is perfectly reasonable. It’s a point I’ve always stressed myself across each of the four major sports. Hinkie essentially attempted to circumvent the draft while giving very little consideration just being better at spotting talent than other GM’s. He took a quasi-logical idea to an absurdly illogical extreme. Although, in the interest of fairness, I’ve recently openly wondered how much of Hinkie’s plan was at ownership’s marching orders.

The Kings have long been regarded as one of the NBA’s most dysfunctional franchises. Valde Divac’s moves over the past few years haven’t helped that perception.  After trading DeMarcus Cousins to the New Orleans Pelicans, the Kings seem to be turning their attention to the draft, much in the same way the Sixers had. At face value, Hinkie might seem to be a logical fit. Be careful what you wish for, however; Kings fans should be ready to embrace a strategy that includes aggressively losing for years on a scale that can only be described as epic.

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