Confession: I liked the Andrew Bynum trade for the 76ers.
They were a middling team capable of making the playoffs but without the proven ability to win a series unless the opponent’s top player was injured. Their roster had limited flexibility, and two starters, Elton Brand and Andre Iguodala, were aging.
The 76ers didn’t necessarily need to make a high-risk, high-reward move, but that was certainly a defensible plan, and that’s what they did. Obviously, it didn’t work, and the previous front office, including President of Basketball Operations Rod Thorn, was pushed out.
Thorn, in an interview with David Aldridge of NBA.com (emphasis mine):
Me: So, what went wrong in Philly?
RT: We went for the stars when we went after Bynum. And it didn’t work out. And we gave up a ton of assets. Not only players, but we lost Iguodala, who was a terrific player. We lost (Nic) Vucevic, who was the second-best rebounder in the NBA. We lost (Maurice) Harkless, who has a chance to be a very good player, and we lost a future first, probably. Not for sure. But (Orlando) has the right for three years, if the first is not in the Lottery, they have the right to take it for three years. Now, chances are, it won’t be in the Lottery, and then we’ll have to give them two seconds. But we had accumulated assets. We made a major move, and it didn’t work out. Bynum never played a minute for us. And now he signs with Cleveland, and we gave up four major assets. That’s tough to overcome. And obviously the ownership was upset about the way the season went for us, and they got other people. It’s (not) a personal thing. They treated me great. I don’t have any problem with them at all. They wanted me to stay in an advisory position. But whether it’s pride or whether it’s ego or whatever, I just don’t like the way it ended. I’ve been in the league 50 years. I’ve done some pretty good things; some other things, not so good. But I’ve done some pretty good things. And I’d like to end it up on the right note. And that’s what it is for me more than anything…knock on wood, I’m relatively healthy, and I think I can help them in some ways. I’m looking forward to it.
In that same article, Aldridge also spoke with new 76ers general manager Sam Hinkie – an extremely revelatory look into Hinkie’s thinking, considering how little he’d shared with the media prior – and this quote stood out. Hinkie, via Aldridge:
“From the first time I met the owners, they were very clear about where they wanted, and the kind of organization they wanted to build, and the kind of team they’d be proud of, and the kind of team they wouldn’t,” Hinkie said. “I’ve only thought about getting to there. It’s just a league that doesn’t reward treading water. And so sometimes you have to take some risks, and sometimes some risks are smarter to take for some teams, and less smart for other teams.”
This seems hypocritical of the 76ers owners, but it’s not. They trust Hinkie, not Thorn.
And that makes sense.
I liked the Bynum trade. I loved the Jrue Holiday trade. Nerlens Noel, if healthy, was by far the best prospect in the draft. In the meantime, his injury will help the 76ers secure a top 2014 pick, and the Pelican’s first rounder could be high, too.
That’s a great risk on Hinkie’s part – as long as his bosses trust him.