Will Sixers approach to rebuild keep big free agents away?

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Sixers GM Sam Hinkie has not waivered from his rebuilding plan — nor from his belief that when the time comes and they look to spend on free agents money will talk.

He’s right in one sense, money does talk in the NBA — offer the most money, you get they guy 95 percent of the time (there are the David West exceptions). But with the elite free agents where they are getting max money regardless, other things come into play. How good is the team and can it win? Do you trust the team management? Weather and other lifestyle questions play in as well, but agents will have the ears of their clients through this process.

Agents right now don’t like how the Sixers are building their team. Could that come back to bite the Sixers in a few years when they chase top free agents? Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer asked a number of agents and the answer was yes.

One agent said he doesn’t want his max-level players in Philadelphia. He’s open to his midlevel players signing with the Sixers only if they overpay. The agent also said the Sixers are viewed as a landing spot for clients without any other NBA options….

 

“The only way an agent will deal with the Sixers is the Jimmy Butler situation,” said a league source, noting that the restricted free agent identified the Sixers as possible destination this summer before he re-signed with the Chicago Bulls.

“They’ll use the Sixers and [general manager Sam] Hinkie to get leverage for other teams,” he added. “They said, ‘OK, the Sixers have max money,’ and they’ll use that and put it out there in the press or whatever just to get leverage.”

That is true now. In a couple seasons things may look very different.

If Jahlil Okafor turns out to be the cornerstone piece he looks to be, if Nerlens Noel can be a defensive anchor next to him inside, if they can find a decent point guard somewhere, if coach Brett Brown can keep building a defensive identity, then in a couple of years this team may look like it has the foundation of a future winner (sort of like we see that foundation in Milwaukee now). At that point, Hinkie can make his pitch and players — and their agents — will listen. But the issue of trust could still loom.

My biggest question remains will owner Joshua Harris (and his less happy minority owners) continue to stick with the rebuilding plan for that long? So far Harris is saying the right things, but how long will he remain willing to wait?

If he does, and if the Sixers have money, they will get free agents. Just don’t expect it to be Kevin Durant next summer, that’s not even close to reality.