Sam Hinkie was named the President of Basketball Operations and General Manager for the Sixers earlier today, after formerly working as the Rockets' Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations. Hinkie still needs to name a new head coach after the departure of Doug Collins, as well as figure out what to do with the Sixers' roster moving forward. He goes one-on-one with Max Rappaport at Sixers.com about his background in analytics and finance and the importance of the NBA's D-League affliates.
On how he got his start in sports:
"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."
On the intersection between math and basketball, particularly the analytical and traditional approach:
"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."
On his background in finance and how it relates to the rules in the new CBA:
"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."
On how important second round picks are especially after his time with the Rockets:
"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."
On the importance of the D-League affiliate:
"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."