(SportsNetwork.com) - One year ago, optimism brimmed in Philadelphia.
The Sixers gave up Andre Iguodala, an effective, but overpaid swingman, who wasn't capable of carrying the 76ers to any meaningful success, for Andrew Bynum, a premium center in a league devoid of them.
Finally, the Sixers had a true superstar, which is necessary to win an NBA title.
We know the story.
Bynum didn't play a single minute all season with knee injuries, then signed with the Cleveland Cavaliers in the offseason.
The Bynum experiment is over and all Sixers fans got from the deal was some bowling jokes and bitterness.
It was a noble pursuit by the former regime. Former General Manager Tony DiLeo, a principal architect in the Bynum debacle, was shown the door. Head coach Doug Collins left on his own. Even CEO Adam Aron stepped down.
It was time for a total rebuild and that Herculean task was charged to Sam Hinkie, who previously worked in the Houston Rockets organization.
Hinkie went underground after his hire. There was no talking to the media after his introductory presser and draft prep was the reason.
Without a coach, Hinkie stunned the NBA when he shipped All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday to the New Orleans Pelicans in exchange for Nerlens Noel, probably the No. 1 pick in the draft had he not torn his ACL in the winter, and a top-five protected pick in next year's draft. The 2014 draft is more loaded than a Microsoft executive's portfolio.
Philly also took point guard Michael Carter-Williams with their own first- round choice.
Hinkie decided not to spend any money on free agents. He littered the roster with possibilities, not certainties and took on no significant income. The Sixers' roster is the worst in the league in terms of talent.
With Andrew Wiggins looming as a franchise No. 1 pick in the next draft, plus another possible lottery pick, buckets of money to spend next season and plenty of available positions to fill, the Sixers are certainly not playing for this season.
"The ownership here and the people in this organization have a real commitment to build something lasting and to build something big," Hinkie said on draft night. "That won't come overnight."
Are the Sixers tanking? That's a strong word. Does Hinkie have a long-term plan that involves throwing these rookie cornerstones into the fire quickly? Yes.
After gutting the roster and leaving a Triple-A NBA team in place, who could/would Hinkie find to coach this team?
Brett Brown was an assistant for years under Gregg Popovich with the San Antonio Spurs. It was reported on draft night that Brown was Hinkie's choice. Hinkie refuted it, then, two months later, gave Brown a four-year contract to guide the 76ers, a mere four months after Collins bailed.
"We all know the pain of the rebuild is real," Brown said at his introductory press conference. "There needs to be patience."
Lots, and lots of patience.
2012-13 Results: 34-48, 4th in Atlantic Division; Missed playoffs
ADDITIONS: HC Brett Brown, G Michael Carter-Williams, C Nerlens Noel, G Tony Wroten, F Royce White, G James Anderson, F Tim Ohlbrecht, F Arsalan Kazemi. G Darius Morris
PROJECTED STARTING FIVE:
PG- Michael Carter-Williams SG- James Anderson SF- Evan Turner PF- Thaddeus Young C- Spencer Hawes
KEY RESERVES: F/C Lavoy Allen, C Nerlens Noel, G Jason Richardson, F/C Arnett Moultrie, F Royce White, G Tony Wroten, C Daniel Orton, C Kwame Brown, G Darius Morris
FRONTCOURT: This is the strength of the Sixers, if you really want to call it that.
Turner, Young and Hawes are the most veteran 76ers. They are the three leading scorers among returners and were just behind Holiday in scoring last season.
Turner has the most to play for this season. He is in the final year of his rookie contract and has never lived up to his No. 2 overall pick billing. Statistically, Turner's numbers have improved every season and should go even higher this year. Turner will have the ball in his hands quite a bit as he's the best creator on the team.
Young is out of position at the power forward spot, but battled all last season. He defends the opposition's best forward every night, grabbed 7.5 rpg last season and scored almost 15.0 ppg. He is a warrior and the only veteran who probably figures into the team's future. (Young is one of a handful of Sixers under contract past this season and the only one the team might want to keep.)
Hawes shows flashes and is a free agent at the end of the campaign. He has a skill set, but is not part of the long-term future.
BACKCOURT: Carter-Williams is already a skilled distributor, but a terrible shooter. He has a lot to learn about the point-guard spot. Luckily, Carter- Williams has 82 games for that to happen.
Wroten is probably the other starter in the backcourt by process of elimination. Jason Richardson might miss the whole season with knee issues and Philly probably doesn't mind. The Memphis Grizzlies gave up on the 20-year-old Wroten, who is an out of control point guard. Wroten can penetrate, but not shoot and often goes for sizzle over steak.
The possibility exists Brown moves Turner to the backcourt, Young to small forward and either Allen, or Moultrie starts at power forward.
BENCH: This group is incredibly thin. The backcourt has one reserve, tops. The frontcourt backups are underachievers or youngsters. Most of the players brought in to fill these roster spots are here for either cap purposes, or as low-risk fliers.
COACHING: Brown worked under the future Hall of Famer Popovich for almost a decade. He appears to be a basketball lifer and shrewd to boot. Brown only took the Sixers job when he was guaranteed a fourth year on his contract.
Brown's forte is in player development. He helped make Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili future Hall of Famers and assisted in the progression of recent talents, Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green.
One thing Brown has no experience with is rebuilding projects.
"I have not been a part of a rebuild since I was in the NBA," admitted Brown. "The rebuild has to be keeping the locker room together."
This upcoming season will be brutal on Brown. He will have gone from the NBA Finals to the worst record in the league. There might be times questioning his sanity, but Brown definitely appeared to be prepared for the grind.
OUTLOOK: "It's fairly obvious what we're trying to do over time," Hinkie said. "We're trying to build something. We're trying to build something special."
The plan is in place and it's a solid idea. In the NBA, teams need to get really bad before they can get really good. Look at the Oklahoma City Thunder for further proof.
Normally, one should be hesitant about a plan that revolves around some luck. Wiggins is the big prize at the end of this trying season. Having the worst record, which the Sixers should have, is no guarantee for the No. 1 overall pick and Wiggins.
But, Hinkie is going down this road. With Holiday still around, the Sixers would be markedly better this season, but never a title contender. They'd always finish with a decent enough record and in the middle of the pack. That's not how you get difference makers in the draft.
Despite a season of less than 20 wins looming on the horizon, there is actual optimism in Philadelphia.
"Can you imagine if we can get this thing right? If we can get this right with the culture and the history that this city has and the pride and the toughness that this city has, that is very alluring," said Brown.