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June 20, 2017

The Markelle Fultz trade was a victory for both Bryan Colangelo and Sam Hinkie

On the same day that there was an Armageddon in his predecessor’s honor on the Twittersphere, Bryan Colangelo was asked about Sam Hinkie and the fierce loyalty that much of the Sixers fan base still has for the architect of The Process.

“I’m unaffected by that,” he said.

And that is all he said, the rare brief answer from Colangelo. The Sixers president of basketball operations sometimes can be a bit verbose, and it’s telling how succinct he was in this particular instance. Colangelo doesn’t want to publicly talk about Hinkie anymore, which is both perfectly understandable for him personally but also totally unrealistic for anyone else who has paid even a modicum of attention to the Sixers the past few seasons.

Just individually examine the moving parts in the blockbuster trade that Colangelo made to acquire the top pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. Trader Danny Ainge had to first be annoyed by the University of Washington’s 2016-17 men’s basketball record, but Hinkie did everything executively possible to make sure the Sixers would be the team that could take Markelle Fultz off the Celtics’ hands.

Again, follow the picks:

• In the Pick Swapskas trade, the swaps that Hinkie negotiated initially bumped the Sixers up to the third overall pick, a spot that made a trade down more palatable for Boston.

"We think there's a really good chance the player we'll take at 3 is the same player we would have taken at 1,” Drafter Danny told the Boston media. That very well may not have been the case if the Sixers were drafting fifth.

• The unprotected first-round picks that Hinkie received from the Sacramento Kings and Los Angeles Lakers (via Phoenix and Milwaukee) were the sweeteners in the deal. If the Lakers wanted Fultz, they had one little problem: Colangelo owned their best asset, thanks to the man whose seat he inherited.

So, you know, those aren’t exactly footnotes. At the same time, though, it’s impossible to ignore how Colangelo and his front office only surrendered one of the two golden tickets (which exact one is to be determined) while keeping some insurance in the form of pick protections that will henceforth be known as the Doncic and Bagley Clauses.

And the Sixers were able to accomplish this dealing with a general manager and organization known for winning important trades by a huge margin. This was a job, a trade well done.

“Trust me, those protections started out differently upon first discussion but to end up there feels satisfying,” Colangelo said. “With that carved out, we ended up where we wanted to be.”

That type of hard negotiating was something that the man who died for the Sixers’ sins was known for. The team lost a ton of games during Hinkie’s three seasons in Philly, but he wasn’t just sitting back twiddling his thumbs and waiting for the lottery. Hinkie used the cap space he was hoarding to absorb Carl Landry and Jason Thompson’s contracts, which netted the Sixers both the pick swap and Kings first-round pick.

Through all of the losing, Hinkie was working toward an opportunity like Markelle Fultz becoming available at draft time.

“Our ability to add to that group [of players] by layering in additional high-quality talent via the draft, free agency, and trade is at an all-time high,” he wrote in the famous 13-page manifesto.

It’s ironic that Colangelo may have crafted the trade that takes The Process to the mainstream. And even if he doesn’t feel like looking back, Colangelo knew what a great situation he was inheriting. At his introductory press conference last April, Colangelo credited Hinkie for the arsenal of assets that at his disposal.

“Trust me, those protections started out differently upon first discussion but to end up there feels satisfying. With that carved out, we ended up where we wanted to be.”

“We’re at a jumping off point now where the organization is poised to take a major leap forward because of what’s transpired over these last few years, what I’m going to call a measured rebuilding process,” Colangelo said. “When we move forward, you’re going to be excited about the pieces that come to the table because, again, there’s been a process involved. Everyone knows about it, everyone talks about it.”

Now it’s up to Fultz to prove that in this critical instance, Colangelo’s scouting is superior to Ainge’s. I definitely think it is, but that sure as hell doesn’t matter. The Sixers have one of the most high-upside young cores that you will ever see in the NBA with both a legit Big Three and a bunch of attractive ancillary parts. Even if nothing is guaranteed for this group, the prospect of Fultz, Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid sharing the court is very exciting. You should be excited. If you’re not already, get excited.

Whatever Markelle Fultz’s NBA destiny is, Bryan Colangelo is going to be right or wrong for the right reasons. Even if he doesn’t want to talk about it, what better way is there to honor Sam Hinkie’s legacy?

Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann

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