NBA Lord's NBA Blog

NBA Lord's NBA Blog

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Saturday Slam: A critical and logical examination of the Philadelphia 76ers

      After a sensational Rookie of the Year season, Michael Carter-Williams was thought to be the new franchise player in Philadelphia. However, 76ers GM Sam Hinkie didn't share that same view and instead viewed him as an asset to acquire more first round picks, shipping him to the Bucks at the trade deadline. The move had everybody scratching their heads and wondering whether or not Sam Hinkie was properly suited to be the general manager of a professional basketball team.

     To trade the reigning Rookie of the Year seemed like madness because it is in fact madness. Is it not madness to be so determined to win a championship that you are willing to trade anybody for more first round picks if they aren't the next LeBron James or Hakeem Olajuwon? Is it not madness to have the number of first round picks you possess be more important than the number of wins you actually get on the basketball court? Is it not madness to consciously set up your team to lose with the hope that through the NBA draft lottery you will draft the next superstar of the league? Is it not madness that you draft players solely for the sake of trading them to get more draft picks?

     The 76ers are doing all the maddening things I just listed above and they are doing it full-throttle without looking back for even a second. They believe that they have developed a formula that will result in a championship team if they are patient enough. So, no matter the pain it causes them in the immediate future, they see this pain as a temporary means to an end. In their minds, when they win an NBA championship, they will be the ones who get the last laugh.

  There is a famous logical fallacy known as the gambler's fallacy which states that a person is more likely to roll a double six with a pair of dice on the 10th roll than on the rolls that come before it. Similarly, there is a fallacy known as the inverse gambler's fallacy, which states that if a person rolls a double six with a pair of dice, there must have been a lot of rolls that preceded it. The mistake that both of these fallacies make is to make the assumption that any individual action is affected by other individual actions that have come before it.

     I think it's possible that the 76ers are guilty of committing one or both of these fallacies by assuming that they are more likely to acquire the next superstar of their franchise with their 10th first round pick than with their 5th. There almost seems to be a sense in which they believe the next great franchise player will only come after having made many first round pick selections, and that is without question a logical fallacy.

     However, what is certainly not a logical fallacy is to believe that with more first round picks, you have more opportunities to get one right. That's not a logical fallacy because it isn't making the false assumption that any one individual draft pick is affected by draft picks that have come before it. Each act of drafting a player is a separate and isolated event that has no affect on any other event in the universe. If you make a bad draft selection, your next draft selection isn't any more or less likely to be good or bad. It's just another draft selection and another chance to hit a home run.

      If the 76ers are thinking correctly about this and not committing any logical fallacies, does that mean they are doing the right thing? I think we are tempted to say yes, but I don't necessarily think that "yes" is the correct answer. There is the possibility that the 76ers strikeout and never get the player they were hoping to draft. It is also possible that in 10 years the 76ers will still be the worst team in the league, relying on percentages instead of good scouting and drafting.

     The bottom line is that the Philadelphia 76ers are fully committed to an idea or philosophy that may or may not get them what they want. They want an NBA championship and it's unclear at this point whether or not they will get one as a result of what they are doing. One can admire their commitment to their philosophy or at the very least be in awe of it, but one cannot say with any certainty that what they are doing is the right thing.

     The big risk for the 76ers is that if they don't win a championship, they will have to answer the question "What was it all for?" I.e. Why deliberately lose and then not deliver on your promise? I think that has to worry Sam Hinkie and the entire Philadelphia 76ers organization a great deal. If they win a championship in 10 years as a result of their philosophy, they will be viewed as geniuses. If on the other hand they don't win a championship or at least come close, they will instead be remembered as a group of individuals who intentionally drove the Philadelphia 76ers into the ground in pursuit of pie in the sky. Such a legacy would not be pretty.
---Ben Parker: follow me on twitter @nba_lord 

1 comment: