New Sixers GM Sam Hinkie could not have made a louder statement about his intentions and strategy at the helm of the club. When he traded Jrue Holiday for Nerlens Noel and a 2014 pick, he might as well have printed out a copy of Philadelphia's 2013-14 schedule and lit it on fire.
New front office chiefs often try to make an early signature move to provide stark relief from the work of their predecessor. Hinkie took what his predecessor had left down to the recycling center to get crushed and cashed out.
That's a small exaggeration: Thaddeus Young was a big part of the Sixers under Doug Collins and company, and he's still around. Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes remain, too, for whatever that's worth. But after trading Holiday, grabbing raw Noel and raw Michael Carter-Williams in the June draft, letting walking calamity Andrew Bynum exit without a fight and literally sitting out the entire first month of free agency, it's clear that Hinkie isn't just looking forward to New Orleans' first-round pick in 2014; he intends to have a really high one of his own. The Sixers are widely projected to be the worst team in the league, which is saying something considering that the Suns got worse, the Magic are biding time and the Bobcats are still in the NBA.
But clearly, outside of Noel and MCW, no one on the roster is guaranteed a spot in even the near future of the team. There's an interesting question about whether Young will be kept on. Holiday reached All-Star status last season, but his advanced metrics aren't universally golden: he's a pretty inefficient offensive player, actually. Young's numbers check out with what we think we know about Hinkie's mindset. So, in many ways Holiday was not the Hinkie-style "star" Thad may very well be.
That said, the Sixers aren't going to be good until the team's 2014 picks are seasoned. Unless the Pelicans make the playoffs (which is a distinct possibility), the Sixers will have had four lottery picks in two years. Let the 2014 picks have a season to adjust, pick up another lottery pick in 2015, and you have five in three years. At that point, you're in 2015-16. Thad will be just 27, but he can become a free agent before that season. Despite Young being Hinkie's type of player (in theory), is it worth hanging on to him if there's no guarantee he'll re-sign after what promises to be a couple of rough years?
That's just a subplot in this whole maelstrom of no-questions-asked rebuilding. With one trade and one free agency abstention, the Sixers have rebuilt like no other team. Even the Magic upon trading Dwight Howard didn't knife their own chances quite like this ... and the Magic had the worst record in the league after that trade. The Magic were good and got real bad immediately without much other movement. The Sixers were mediocre and just got completely horrid.
This is the most thorough self-destruction since Rich Cho's work in Charlotte, which itself was the most thorough self-destruction since Sam Presti's work in Seattle and Oklahoma City. Notably, Hinkie did what his former boss Daryl Morey never would in Houston: concede a season. It'll be interesting to see whether the Rockets (now bolstered) or the Sixers end up better off in the long run, and exactly how long it will take Philadelphia to be respectable again.
That timeline will determine whether Hinkie's gambit pays off and makes the pain to come worth it in the end.