What should we do to stop teams from tanking?

That cheapness-motivated move actually illustrates my point about transaction costs pretty nicely. The Thunder got what, 60 cents on the dollar for Harden, if that?

Agreed; I think the basic plan of building through lottery picks is the right one for teams that aren’t free-agent hubs or reasonably close to making the playoffs. They just keep taking the wrong guys; perhaps they need someone else in charge of making the picks while Hinkie makes the deals that bring in the picks? I don’t know, but if I were a Sixers fan my faith in Hinkie’s ability to draft players would be pretty shaky.

You also need an elite player-development program if you’re going to just play young guys (who are disproportionately top picks, and thus raw but talented 19 year olds); I have no idea how good the Sixers are in this area.

Yep. It also illustrates that when you pick the right players, you can make a trade at 60 cents on the dollar and still have it make sense for where you are talent-wise; i.e. still be better off than if you hadn’t taken the guy who didn’t fit. If you look at the Durant-Westbrook-Harden drafts as a package – a three year window where they hadn’t gotten good yet but had a good sense what they thought they had – you obviously take that haul in retrospect even after discounting Harden to keep Ibaka. So, I agree, for sure it depends whether they’re fucking up those picks or not, and like I’ve been saying, I’m disappointed in the Okafor pick. I’m not sure whether it’s fair to say they “keep” picking the wrong guys. Maybe that’s the sticking point. But from an overall process perspective, I haven’t seen them to be missing opportunities.

I know you’re a UK guy, so presumably you appreciate that manufacturing the opportunity to get Noel at 6 overall was really good value. Embiid at 3? Should they have gone Gordon, Exum (hurt), Smart (hurt), Randle (got hurt), Stauskas (on Sixers), Vonleh (no longer on Hornets)? If Parker was available should they have taken him, even? Depends how likely you think it is that Embiid ever plays at 60 cents on the dollar of his own potential, and how much you’re willing to blame them for taking the risk, I suppose; I don’t see much of a missed opportunity there right now. Worth pointing out that had the lottery gone differently, it would be Noel-Wiggins-Towns or Noel-Embiid-Towns. You gotta pick the right guy, given what’s available.

On the subject of player development:

OK. Done defensively evangelizing.

They were better off taking and eventually trading Harden then taking a lesser player (Tyreke Evans?), sure. I’m just noting that you can’t always, or even often, flip a guy for equal value, so logjamming at one position is really risky.

I’d argue that MCW, Embiid, and Okafor were misses (not including Payton since he was immediately traded, though bullet dodged there), and that there were enough red flags to justify passing on them for other players. It’s not an exact science or anything, but drafting a point guard who can’t shoot, a center with chronic foot problems, and a guy who would’ve been awesome 30 years ago, but out of his depth in an era where we know how important rim defense is to winning, can only be called 3 misses.

The Noel deal was a coup, you don’t want him to be the best player on your team, but as long as there’s shooting around him, he’ll rebound everything, defend the rim, and score just enough to demand that he be guarded. And, his injury was a fluke, not a chronic wearing-down sort of thing. The haul for Jrue Holiday was very nice.

I think you have to take Parker if he’s there. If not, I’d have skipped Embiid and gone with either Exum or Marcus Smart.

Agreed that the 76ers not actually winning a lottery is holding them back, a Noel-Towns front line would be a big upgrade over Noel-Okafor.

Sounds solid (and there’s even another UK guy!). Presumably they tried very hard to teach MCW how to shoot 3s (among other things) before trading him, and it just didn’t take. That’s what concerns me the most, that the 76ers are trying to put together a team for 1985 instead of 2015.

But you’re acting like no one in the history of basketball has ever succeeded in some other way. We know that there are strategies apart from the one the Sixers are employing right now; we know this because every team in history that has ever succeeded has used one of them (if you want to compare much less extreme teardowns like the ones other teams have used and argue that there’s no difference, I think we’ll just have to agree to disagree).

I can agree with you that each individual transaction you list was a good deal in a vacuum, sure. That doesn’t mean the overarching plan is going to get them anywhere. But see below.

I think this quote is the heart of what’s frustrating to me about the pro-Hinkie folks. It sums it up. There were other routes. At the risk of repeating myself, no team in history has ever done what the Sixers are doing right now to the degree that they’re doing it. This, all by itself, argues against the contention that there was “no plausible route.” But again, see below.

Whoa! OK, I think now I see the disconnect. I think it’s implicit in any criticism of the Sixers approach that what’s happening now (and last year, and the year before, and let’s be honest, probably in 2016-2017 too barring a miracle) cannot be simply written off. Sure, if you’re willing to say that what’s happening right now is flat out meaningless - if you are willing to write it off - then the Sixers plan is unequivocally the best possible plan.

But I’m not so easily willing to write off four or five or six completely lost years. If nothing else at all, it sucks to be a fan of an abysmal team with a single win. But I think there are other consequences to what’s happening right now, too. The Sixers’ reputation is taking a hit league-wide; they’re irritating player agents, and the rest of the owners, and both of those things have potential (albeit unproven!) impact on their ability to build via trade and free agency. I maintain that these things matter. If you’re going to do this - if you’re going to ask people to accept such a big downside - the upside needs to be worth it.

I think, oddly, that Sam Hinkie and I seem to mostly agree on the fundamental truth of roster-building, which is that you’re only going to win a championship by getting very, very lucky - either in free agency, in a trade, or in a draft. You can increase your chances of taking advantage of the luck you get by being well prepared and making smart decisions, but in the end you need that lucky stroke - you need Steph Curry to drop to you or LeBron, Bosh, and Wade to bond at the Olympics - or it ain’t happening. What Hinkie is doing is increasing his chance of hitting the lottery in the draft by some unknown percentage, at the cost of a lot of losing (and a reduced chance of getting lucky in free agency or in a timely trade).

Because teams that don’t completely break it down still have a chance to hit the lottery (literally and figuratively, I guess). The Celtics are doing a more traditional rebuild right now - they traded away their aging stars, but have still mostly tried to be some sort of competitive and find usable players in addition to collecting picks. And this June, they will have only a modestly smaller chance than the Sixers of getting the #1 pick overall.

So is the 5-6% greater chance the Sixers have of beating out the Celtics in that race worth the amount of losing they’re doing right now, worth the reputational damage (and the financial hit they’re almost definitely taking, though that’s their business, obviously)?

I don’t know. But the question has to be permitted.