PHILADELPHIA – With one shocking trade, the 76ers may finally be contenders in the East.
In his first major moves as general manager, Sam Hinkie proved he wasn’t afraid to shake up the Sixers:
• Trade an All-Star? Check.
• Land a potential impact player? Done.
• Load up on draft picks for a rich 2014 class? You got it.
• Clear cash to make a serious run at franchise-altering free agents? Check, again.
No matter who coaches them, the Sixers may be loitering near the Eastern Conference basement again this season. But they’re suddenly in a better position to succeed and shake the malaise that has gripped the franchise for the better part of the last 12 seasons.
“That won’t come overnight. That’s not a surprise,” Hinkie said. “That doesn’t make me Dr. Doom to say it won’t come overnight.”
The first chip came when Hinkie, hired away from Houston last month, sent All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday and his $41 million contract to New Orleans for Kentucky’s Nerlens Noel.
Noel was projected as a top pick in the draft. Instead, his dejection – after the first five picks passed by without him – became one of the lasting images of Thursday’s NBA draft. The Pelicans swooped in at No. 6 – then sent him and a 2014 first-rounder to the Sixers.
Hinkie was just getting started. With Holiday gone, the Sixers selected Syracuse’s Michael Carter-Williams with the 11th pick.
Hinkie then turned the second round into a lightning session of dealing and came away with Oregon forward Arsalan Kazemi and two more second-round picks in the 2014 draft.
The Sixers are now roughly $15 million under the projected salary cap for this season and have no heavy contracts beyond Thaddeus Young after this season if they want to become serious players in free agency.
Hinkie has put the 76ers on notice – he’ll move any player if it makes them better in the future. Young, Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes could all be on the block this summer.
“In some senses, it should be a bit clarifying on where we stand,” Hinkie said. “We will take steps like we’ve taken (Thursday) over and over and over.”