Hinkie: Trade Moves Sixers Forward

by Max Rappaport
Sixers.com Writer

Over the past year and a half, the Sixers have undergone a striking transformation.

It began on June 27, 2013, when newly hired President of Basketball Operations Sam Hinkie orchestrated a draft-night trade that sent point guard Jrue Holiday to the Pelicans in return for the rights to Nerlens Noel and New Orleans’ 2014 first-round pick. The team’s direction was solidified when veterans Evan Turner, Spencer Hawes, and Lavoy Allen were dealt at February’s trade deadline. And it was again reinforced when the team traded Thaddeus Young to the Minnesota Timberwolves in return for a 2015 first-round pick and veterans Alexey Shved and Luc Mbah a Moute on Saturday.

Today, only Arnett Moultrie and Jason Richardson remain from the eight-man roster inherited by Hinkie in May 2013. But in just 15 short months, the Sixers have assembled a core that includes 2014 Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams, recent top-10 selections Nerlens Noel and Joel Embiid, and a handful of exciting young role players. Add to that the rights to several highly touted foreign players and as many as five picks in next year’s draft, and the Sixers possess an attractive amalgam of young talent, future assets, and cap flexibility in the years ahead. 

“I continue to hear optimism from our fans about the type of thing that we’re building,” said Hinkie during a conference call on Tuesday. “I think they view our approach as bold, but I think they view it as something that is a departure and something that could very well end up in a place that we could all be proud of.”

It is always difficult to part ways with established players – especially ones like Young, a well-respected veteran who had spent his entire seven-year NBA career in Philadelphia before the trade. But this move, like those that preceded it, is one that Hinkie and the Sixers believe will better position the team for success in the future. And for an organization committed to assembling a roster that can compete at the highest level and do so for a prolonged period of time, that is key. 

“Obviously, this is a move that we think moves our program forward,” Hinkie said. “At the same time, Thad Young has been here seven years, has laid it on the line for us night after night, has undergone a lot of change in the last year, but many, many changes before that, and has continually brought it.

“That’s why these decisions, while necessary, are still challenging.”

Hinkie was quick to note the value of the future first-round pick acquired in the deal, but said he is also excited to see what Shved and Mbah a Moute can offer this season.

Shved, 25, began playing professionally seven years ago, when he joined Euroleague powerhouse CSKA Moscow as an 18-year-old. After leading CSKA to four Russian League championships, as well as a Euroleague title in 2007-08, he was signed to a multi-year contract by the Timberwolves in 2012. In two seasons with Minnesota, the 6’6” Russian combo-guard averaged 6.5 points (35.8 FG%), 2.5 assists, and 1.8 rebounds in just under 18 minutes per game.

“He’s played at a very high level in some high-pressure games,” Hinkie said of Shved. “He’s a ball-handling guard that can play pick-and-roll, off the ball sometimes, sometimes on the ball, and bring it up on occasion. That’s something of interest to us.”

Mbah a Moute, 27, is entering his seventh NBA season. In 399 career games, including 240 starts, the 6’8” combo forward has posted averages of 6.3 points (45.9 FG%) and 4.9 rebounds in 23.6 minutes per game. He provides on-court experience and the versatility to defend multiple positions, but he also offers additional value as a mentor for the team’s young players, particularly rookie center Joel Embiid.

Mbah a Moute, like Embiid, was born in Yaounde, Cameroon and didn’t begin playing basketball until he was a teenager. Coincidentally, it was at one of the veteran forward’s basketball camps in Cameroon that a then 16-year-old Embiid was first introduced to the game. Since then, Mbah a Moute has served as a mentor of sorts for the 20-year-old, helping him transition to life in the United States, first as a high school player in Florida, then as a freshman at Kansas, and now as a rookie with the Sixers.

“Luc’s relationship with Joel can only help,” Hinkie said. “I think we’re definitely in the mode of player development, and Joel will be a big part of that. Sometimes that’s about getting in the gym and getting up more shots, and sometimes it’s, ‘This is the way life in the NBA works, this is the rhythm, this is how to take care of your body, this is how to get your rest, this is how to manage your life off the floor.’”

For a team that figures to be amongst the youngest in the league this season, there will be bumps in the road. But there to guide them will be second-year head coach Brett Brown, who relishes the opportunity to “grow his own” with the Sixers. 

“Step one is our ability to coach [our young players] and see them on the floor,” Hinkie said. “But definitely the way we approach it is that every day we’re looking for people that have the kind of characteristics, that have the kind of work ethic, and that have the kind of talent to really move our program forward.

“We focused from the very beginning on building something special for the city of Philadelphia and trying to put a program in place to do that. We’re focused on doing all the things every day, including the things that may sound mundane – the details of our practice facility, counting the number of threes our guys are getting up in the middle of May… We’re focused on those kinds of things because that’s what we can control to build what we want to build as fast as we can.”