The Sam Hinkie era is over in Philly. Smarter people than me have written lots of really intelligent thoughts about why he was good or bad or just plain interesting for the game of basketball. What I'd like to reflect on his how this shifting plan and changing of "the process" means to the Celtics.
I think it is safe to say that the Colangelos are going to be interested in making their team better in the near future. That doesn't mean that they'll rush out and make panic moves to jump to the dreaded "Treadmill of Mediocrity" that Hinkie warned them about for so long. But I don't think they'll be outright trying to tank any longer.
If you were a GM that wanted to start from scratch and build a team, you would be hard-pressed to find a situation much better than what Hinkie left in Philly. They have a few former high lottery picks that may or may not have a future on the team or some degree of trade value. They'll have at least three first-rounders this year, and maybe four depending on how the Lakers pick falls. Plus they've got the most cap room in the league.
But what can they expect to do with all those assets this offseason?
One option would be to continue the plan of building through the draft--though perhaps with more of an eye towards winning sooner rather than later. In other words, fewer gambles on high-risk guys and more selections of guys that are ready to play next year. That could end up putting them in the lottery again next year, but at least it would be more along the lines of a normal rebuild instead of the scorched-earth process that Hinkie employed.
The Celtics will be big players in the draft as well, so the way that the lottery shakes out will have a big impact on both teams.
Another option would be to make some trades. If they think that Embiid will be able to play next year, they might be inclined to trade Okafor, and in fact they reportedly toyed with that option at the trade deadline this year (perhaps with the Celtics). They could move any of their younger players for more established veterans, which would at least move them along the path toward respectability.
The Celtics have made no secret of their intention to cash in their assets in an effort to land a star player or two. The Sixers could be in the same kind of market and might even be able to out-bid the Celtics--depending on what other teams are looking for.
Scoff if you want at the concept of respectability, but if Philly hopes to use their cap space on any decent free agents, they are going to have to prove to the league that they are serious about competing and winning. The Colangelos are a good step in that direction, but no free agent is going to take market value from Philly if they can get it elsewhere instead. Everyone else is going to have cap room, so it is doubtful any free agents will have to take the money from the Sixers.
With that said, the Sixers could up the bidding on restricted free agents. They could either steal a player or two away or force teams to match their offers. Overpaying for mid-tier free agents isn't a great long-term plan, but this summer is going to be an odd one, and the shifting market could create opportunities for teams willing to spend.
The Celtics, for example, would have the cap room to match any offer for Jared Sullinger or Tyler Zeller, but would they want to? If a team like Philly were willing to pay $15 million for Sully, I'm not sure if the Celtics would be rushing to match.
This is gong to be a very interesting summer for a lot of reasons, but what the Sixers decide to do will have a big impact on the league and specifically the Celtics.