With the dismissal of Dell Demps as the general manager of the New Orleans Pelicans, it is time to check in with our good friend Sam. We all know his morning routine, from waking in his hyperbolic chamber to consuming a perfectly balanced soylent breakfast, Sam Hinkie lives his life maximizing the benefit and minimizing the risk of each and every second. His pragmatic and future-focused approach led one of the most successful rebuilds in NBA history for our 76ers, and that is something that I am entirely grateful for. Unfortunately, our lord and savior has been banished from the NBA and exiled to Silicon Valley, where currently he is trying to re-invent email or something.
I believe that it would be in the best interest of the Pelicans organization to make the call and try to save Sam from these fruitless efforts. They can return him to his rightful place as the smartest general manager in basketball. I have come to the conclusion that it is unlikely that both Sam and the NBA will ever look to rekindle the flame after his infamous exit, but just for speculation and fun (I mean, that’s what it’s all about kids, right?!?), let’s take the longest view in the room and look into whether this is situation worthy of a king.
The Case for The Pelicans:
The Pelicans offer a similar, but potentially more intriguing starting point for reconstruction than the Sixers did when Sam was given the reins there. They have a roster riddled with 1-2 year remaining contracts that are relatively movable (E’Twaun Moore at $8.6 mil and Solomon Hill at $12.75 mil), a max point guard in Jrue Holiday who would certainly garner interest across the league, and of course, perhaps the most exciting trade piece since a young Dwight Howard in one Anthony Davis. This bevy of assets blows what the young Sixers had for Sam to work with out of the water and provide him with a unique opportunity to wheel and deal with one of the highest stake chips in NBA history.
I think it will take an opportunity of this ilk to bring our lord from the darkness back to the light. The opportunity to play the field and move a piece like Anthony Davis is one that could prove too enticing to pass up.
Will he deal them to a preferred destination, who may offer a better package of players and picks with a Wink Wink with Rich Paul and Klutch already signed? Will he consider flipping him to a contender in the summer right on the brink of success, looking to make one hard run at the title to convince him to stay? Throw in a Jrue Holiday to a Denver or Utah or Philadelphia(?), and you’re looking at one of the juiciest theoretical exercises someone could dream for. The situation alone, in a vacuum, should and probably will entice the best and the brightest. With his history and proven prowess, Sam should be considered amongst this group.
The Case Against the Pelicans:
Unfortunately, management situations do not occur in a vacuum, and it is especially important to consider this in a market like New Orleans. New Orleans is not only one of the smallest market teams in the NBA, but it is second (or third) banana in its own town to football. The team will only be the focal point of the town’s attention when they are competing at the highest level, and more often than not, the stands will be filled with empty seats. This is a generally uninspiring situation to walk into, especially when you factor in the ownership group’s primary interest lying with the New Orleans Saints.
The Benson family owns both of the teams, but like much of the Bayou, they throw the majority of their passion behind their Saints. Without an involved and forward-thinking ownership group, Sam may not have the ability to execute his long term vision to its fullest and could be forced to consider more short-term gains. Short-term moves can help garner some buzz in the interim, but ultimately will not put the team in a position to succeed at a championship level. I believe that Sam would only return to a situation where he knows that he can redeem himself and work to build another championship contender, and these external factors may prevent this from being the case.
Ultimately, I think it may be best for Sam to stay on the sidelines and let this opportunity pass him by. By lionizing and putting Sam into a position of reverence, the Sixers community has created a bit of problem for him when considering his next position. It will always be challenging to go into a situation and have the same impact that he did for the Sixers, and any failure, large or small, may taint his well-earned reputation.
The situation reminds me of one where a coach leaves the sport to be a broadcaster and their reputation only grows and grows the further away they are from the bench. It is only when they return that we remember their flaws and why they had to leave in the first place. He will at least have to risk the chance of not reaching the same mountaintop, and in order to take this risk, he needs to be incredibly selective with his next choice. I do hope and believe that Sam will work in sports again, but I don’t believe New Orleans is the right place for his next phase.