Q&A: GM Sam Hinkie

The annual NBA Combine marks the time of year where players that every team has been following for a number of years convene in Chicago for a series of drills, practices, interviews, and evaluation in front of NBA executives and coaches. caught up with team President of Basketball Operations and General Manager Sam Hinkie for a few minutes to get his take on the combine, where it fits in as part of an overall process and what comes next. 

Q: In an overall sense, what are some of the things you can take away from the NBA Draft Combine?

HINKIE: This is a time where all the players come together and gives us a chance to do a couple of important things. First, it’s a chance to interview players, which is obviously important as you try to get to know them. While the way a particular player has produced is critical, getting to know them as people is also an important component. 

Also, the combine provides us with a chance to do physicals for all the players. As we’re looking to employ them to be professional basketball players for what you hope will be many, many years, having some sense about their current health and injury risks going forward is important. You also get a chance to watch them go through both the drills and live competition, even if it’s limited. All those things are important components as you try to figure out which of these will be the best NBA players going forward. 

Q: In the grand scheme of player evaluation, where would you say the combine fits into that puzzle?

HINKIE: These two days – as intense as they are – are just a small part of a much larger evaluation that has been going on for most of these players for many, many years. We have been around the country and sometimes around the world to scout them, have watched hours of video and gathered information on them in all sorts of other ways. So no two days can really trump a body of work that for many of these players stretches out over several years. That said, these two days are both intense and important too, which is why we work so hard to gather what information we can during this period. 

Q: Is there anything in particular you or your staff looks for during the players’ on-court time while at the combine?

HINKIE: This is a chance to see the guys shoot up-close and see them shoot a lot. Sometimes that’s unique. We’ll bring a lot of these guys to Philadelphia and have them work out.  But watching them shoot – even shots they’re not quite capable of being ready to shoot in a game – has some value and is part of it for sure. 

Q: While the actual on-court activity at the combine lasts for only four hours or so, doesn’t the scope of work go far beyond that?

HINKIE: There is a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes, whether it’s watching live practices and games, to cultivating all the relationships you build up over time. 

For example, on Wednesday our day started at 6am and finished at 1am, and we covered everything from agent meetings in the morning to player meetings and interviews to staff meetings later in the evening. And we even had some mild discussions with other teams about a number of things. 

Q: Based on the amount of work that goes on at the combine and preparing for the upcoming NBA Draft, how many people are here on behalf of the Sixers and how beneficial is it to have additional input? 

HINKIE: Like most teams, we have a sizable contingent of our staff here, from our front office to our coaching staff. I’m a big believer that inclusiveness is helpful because everyone brings a different perspective. And while we’ll have other opportunities to evaluate all these prospects, we won’t have as many chances to do so in a setting where they are all in one setting, in-person and together, sometimes playing against each other. So in that sense, the combine is unique and that’s part of why we try to have several voices – including some divergent viewpoints – around the table as we hold those meetings. 

Q: Considering the amount of picks the team holds in the upcoming NBA Draft, does having some players elect not to participate here diminish the value of the combine in any way?

HINKIE: Call me an optimist; I’m focused on the players who are here. There’s a pretty decent set of players that are in one place for one day and that’s a pretty good use of time. 

When you have a broad swath of picks like we have right now, it makes you look at a broad set of players – from what could be a top five pick to what could be a bottom five pick. We happen to fall into both of those scenarios, plus have several picks in between, so because of that you end up looking at a wide range of players. 

Q: Which means you have many options holding a league-high five picks in the second round, correct? 

HINKIE: We’re comfortable with the status quo and comfortable picking players at those spots in the second round. That said, we’ve been known to dial the phone ourselves and I think the fact that we have a handful of second-round picks might make our phone ring inbound on occasion as well.