I still haven’t been convinced that planned tanking is actually effective. If you’re looking down the barrel of the last 15 games of the season and you have the choice of fighting like hell for an 8-seed or trying for some extra ping pong balls while giving the young guys some extra playing time then, by all means, do an impromptu tank. I don’t know if there’s evidence to support a season-long Hinkie-style tank, though.
The 76ers have a lot of young talent — I can’t argue with that — but young talent is about all they have. I don’t see a lot of chemistry yet and that might be a result of the revolving door of draft picks getting traded. They don’t exactly have complimentary pieces, either (how many articles have been written about which of Noel/Embiid/Okafor will be traded as if it’s a forgone conclusion that they can’t all coexist). I don’t even see evidence of a consistent scheme or leadership.
In the conversation for the “most young talent,” you’ve got to mention the Celtics. It is silly to compare the two directly (mostly, in my opinion, because the Celtics landed what might be the league’s best coach), but the Celtics seem to support the hypothesis that the opposite of tanking can be effective, too. Both teams have young talent but Boston has also established many of the things that Philadelphia lacks while remaining competitive over a similar time frame.
Finally, I’m a mathematician, and there are some real issues with the theory behind tanking because there are some diminishing returns with high lottery position. A team with the fourth highest lottery position could walk away with the 1st pick, the 7th pick, or anything in between so it can do better than expected, meet expectations, or disappoint. A team with the highest lottery position, though, can only meet expectations or disappoint. Similarly, there is a long list of picks at the end of the first round that ended up playing like a lottery pick (and the occasional Draymond Green), but with the first pick you can meet expectations and get a superstar or your draft can be disappointing and that’s it. I’m not pretending like being in position for the first pick is somehow worse than being in position for the fourth pick, but if you have to give something up to go from fourth to first then it might not be worth it.
The 76ers have a lot of young talent, but they don’t have a team yet. Maybe this is just what a great team looks like three years before it’s great or maybe tanking is a great strategy and Hinkie was just bad at it, but if I’m a GM for one of the teams that were mentioned in this article then I would have a difficult time flipping the switch for a controlled detonation if I thought my team could be competitive.