The architect of The Process is eating a salad in the middle of the Stanford University campus. He is dressed in various shades of blue—dark blue jeans, a blue gingham-checked shirt, a blue V-neck sweater, blue-ringed socks. This is not by accident; he has streamlined his clothing choices so getting dressed is of minimal distraction from thinking about more important endeavors. Such as the two graduate classes he's teaching at Stanford's business school. Or the various startups in which he has taken an interest. Or his next adventure to some remote off-the-grid stretch of wilderness or coastline. Maybe even his next grand experiment building a championship basketball team.

What Sam Hinkie is not devoting much of his cerebral cortex to is finding a way back to running an NBA franchise. He would not be opposed to a reprise of his innovative turn as president and general manager of the Philadelphia 76ers, the franchise he resolutely drove toward the bottom of the standings for three consecutive seasons to collect as many high-value future draft picks as he could to select The Next Superstar. Or three.

It just isn't a priority. Neither is sharing his thoughts about how his grand experiment with the Sixers has evolved without him or, on the record, much of anything else involving the NBA. Even a mere snapshot of his current existence is likely more than he would prefer after agreeing to meet for lunch.

Other NBA executives, however, were more than happy to share their thoughts about Hinkie's work with the 76ers and whether it should be judged a success. A number of them huddled while scouting the Phil Knight Invitational in Portland, Oregon, in November to debate the pros and cons of what Hinkie wrought.

While the views varied, they agreed on one thing: The health of Joel Embiid, the transcendent big man and first and only All-Star produced by Hinkie's hoarding of both Ls and draft picks, is critical to The Process reaching The Fulfillment.

"I have respect for what he did because he had a plan and he stuck with it," said one Western Conference GM who spoke favorably of Hinkie. "It took balls to do what he did. I do [view what he did as a success.] But if they hadn't drafted Embiid, the experiment would've been a colossal failure. Look at their record when he's out. If Embiid can't stay healthy, they'll be horrible."

The blueprint for every team hoping to build a championship contender is the same: form a nucleus of two or three superstars, surround them with supporting talent, hire a coaching staff that can meld it all together and hope no one gets injured. The first order of business, of course, is landing the superstars. Thanks to the NBA's salary cap and player-contract rules, that is infinitely easier to do via the draft than it is in free agency. The vast majority of franchise players were one of the top five picks in their respective draft class.