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by Max Rappaport, Sixers.com
Posted: May 14, 2013

Tuesday, the Philadelphia 76ers announced the hiring of former Rockets Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations Sam Hinkie to become the team's President of Basketball Operations and General Manager.

After his introductory press conference, he took a moment to sit down with Sixers.com for a brief interview, talking about his love of basketball, the intersection of math and sports, and the ever-evolving nature of the National Basketball Association.


Max Rappaport, Sixers.com: We're here with the newest member of the Philadelphia 76ers, Sam Hinkie. First off, welcome to Philadelphia.

Sam Hinkie: Thank you.


Rappaport: You took sort of a different path to the NBA than a lot of people. What really drew you to sports and how did you get your start in the field?

Hinkie: Maybe it looks like a different path, but it doesn't look that way if you've lived my life. I dribbled a basketball my whole life and was consumed by it and to this day (that passion) exists. If you could have asked someone when I was a child, "Some day there'd be a job that involved basketball and math, who would be good for that?" They'd have said, "Sam has to do it."

That's a big part of my wiring and a big part of my life, and the game's been a big part of my life, forever. I say all that knowing my pitiful playing career ended quite early and probably lasted too long, as it was.


Rappaport: That intersection of basketball and math, really the last few years, has been a little more prevalent in the NBA. Just talk about the analytical approach and also the traditional approach and how they're coming together more now than they have in the past.

Hinkie: I think, increasingly, teams are just looking to get every edge that they can. This is maybe a relatively new frontier, at least to basketball, but it's been going on in other industries for the last several decades, one after another. To me, it's not all that surprising and, by the way, it's not the last one. There'll be a new one. There'll be how to measure a player's psychology, or wild improvements in nutrition for players, or whatever… there will be a new edge. 

This is a place where with data, and technology, and a bunch of people focused on it, there's a bit of a sweet spot where there's a lot of progress there.


Rappaport: How has your background in finance affected your decision-making process, especially with regard to the salary cap and recent changes to the NBA's collective bargaining agreement (CBA)?

Hinkie: I think it helps maybe to be able to prioritize things and have an approach to say, "What's important? And what are the key levers  here? And if I pull on each one of these, what happens?" I don't think that's a critical component to it, but, increasingly, in trades, free agents, and the like, there's salary matching and a lot that goes into it. That sort of realm feels natural to me.


Rappaport: An area where the Rockets have had a lot of success the last few years has been in the second round, really capitalizing on those picks. How important is it, with regard to the CBA and to really maximizing "value per dollar", to hit on those picks?

Hinkie: Everywhere you can… Everywhere you can. That's one example, and you're right, the Rockets did have some success there. Every place you can find an edge, you should – the free agent market, the undrafted market, the D-League, international players, Americans playing overseas, international players playing in America, the second round. You should be looking for all those opportunities, finding whatever edge you can.

Often times, when you find an edge, it's not for very long. People figure it out, so you have to try and exploit it, quickly, while you can.


Rappaport: Another edge, speaking of that, is having direct affiliation with an NBA Development League team. The Rockets were one that does have that kind of affiliation (Rio Grande Valley Vipers) and now the Sixers are, as well (Delaware 87ers). How important is that and in what ways can you take advantage of that affiliation?

Hinkie: I'm very bullish on that. I really like the idea of having a team that you have control over. It gives you an extension of your personnel department, you get all kinds of additional scouting points from your coaching staff and your personnel folks that are working down there (in the D-League). We found that to be really successful. It's, of course, great to be able to control the development with your players more. 

And one of the things I really love here is just the proximity (of the 87ers). It'll be so nice to be able to shuttle players back and forth, as appropriate, and get your players down the learning curve as fast as possible. I look forward to having that team be a tool that we can use."


Rappaport: Sam, thanks for taking a few minutes with us and good luck.

Hinkie: You're welcome. Thank you.

Posted: 7:15 PM, May 14, 2013