During Friday's Basketball Analytics panel at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, former Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy saved his sharpest words for the Philadelphia 76ers, calling their recent play "embarrassing."
But for first-year Philadelphia general manager Sam Hinkie, who was at the Sloan Conference, there might not be any reason for embarrassment. What if the 76ers' season is actually going according to plan? Because they sure are acting like a team that's playing for the lottery.
Consider Hinkie's first move in Philadelphia, trading 23-year-old All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday to the New Orleans Pelicans in exchange for the No. 6 pick in last year's draft and the Pelicans' 2014 first-round pick (top-5 protected). Hinkie then drafted Kentucky center Nerlens Noel with the pick from New Orleans. Because he's rehabbing from ACL surgery, Noel hasn't played a game all season. For a team that looks like it wants to compete in two seasons -- not now -- Noel was the perfect pick.
Unlike the Milwaukee Bucks, who were trying to compete this season, the Sixers have seemingly aimed for the bottom of the standings. They're all but assured a top-5 pick, might get another in the top 10 from the Pelicans and will add Noel next season. But that promise doesn't make watching the rest of this season any easier.