As I look at the team more in depth and people begin to ask more questions, or make more statements, about the team mainly after they watched the team fall into a 0-3 hole against a team, fans feel they are more talented than. In yesterday’s Part 1 we looked at is Brett Brown a bad coach, and did the Sixers get taken in last years draft. I think that both of these questions were hot on peoples minds, because they were able to see what Jayson Taytum was doing to us, while Markelle Fultz sulks on the sideline, and because sans a few questionable coaching decisions, the series could have been 2-1 Sixers and not 3-0 Celtics. For the most part the team over achieved this year. Most of us fans believed we would grow together, and possibly get between 42-45 wins depending on how many games Joel was able to be healthy for. For the most part, that is what we were, until the end of the season, when we were able to run off 17 straight and if you include the playoffs 20 of 21, to a regular season win total of 52 and a 3 seed in the playoffs. Once we heard that Kyrie would be out for the playoffs, it seemed that the Sixers would ride their young talent all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals, against the King. But then after 3 straight losses and for the most part bad losses, the entire opinion/optic changed. So, I am sure now after you had some time to calm down, and think it through, regardless of what comes next, you should feel differently now. So lets get back to some emails I received in my inbox, and continue to try and answer your questions. Let me start with a very common question, that was one of the primary issues, and it was not so much a question, more so that you as fans thought you were let down, and that it was a failure.
Q: Was the process a failure, why did we believe in this?
The Answer: The answer to this as it currently stands is incomplete. Here is why, the tanking was awful, but what choice did we have. Sam Hinkie saw a flaw in a system and worked that to his advantage. During a time in the NBA when Championship teams were being built by adding max contracts and adding at least 3 supremely talented pieces, Hinkie already knew with his current team that was impossible. We did not have any real superstar talent on the team, and Philadelphia was not a free agent destination for these superstar players, and when a players level of success is determined by Championships, no one was going to come here. The only other option would be to build through youth and try to get young talent through the draft. With the current draft structure, and NBA rules, and players being one and done in college, the draft is not as talent rich as it was at one time. So really the only way to make this work be to do the following.
—Lose as many games as possible (check)
–Acquire as many assets (draft picks as possible)(check)
–Get high first round draft picks (check)
–Use the assets (draft picks) to get better draft picks and future picks (check)
–Continue this for multiple years (check)
Certainly, the product on the floor sucked and it was hard to watch. We were the laughing stock of the NBA, but it was being done for years down the road. The plan in theory should work if you get lucky and hit on a couple things. The national experts hated it, the NBA hated it, the basketball fans of the world had fun with it, even had this twitter handle started.
Let us start with the first part of the process. When Sam Hinkie took over the reigns, the best players on the team were Jrue Holiday and Thaddeus Young, along with #2 pick Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes. As it has played out Holiday and Young can be nice players on teams that have depth but they are not players you can ultimately put players around and be competitive with them as your main cogs. Without superstar talent, Sam’s idea was to have no superstars and get younger and cheaper at the same time. The idea was to have minimal expenditures, sign minimum salary and rookie deals, get guys off waivers (ie James Anderson, Tim Ohlbrect) to name a few, and use the cap space left over to acquire contracts, mainly those that were expiring, rather then sign long term ones, to players who did not fit. Also in year 1 he ultimately traded Jrue Holiday for the draft rights to Nerlens Noel, a move that instantly paid off in both financial flexibility as well as youth.
This continued for the next 3 seasons, and the names you would have to live through, and see live on the court, would leave little to be desired. Check out the list of “processors” below.
Over the last 4 season since 2014 through trades, and acquisitions, the Sixers have had 21 selections in the draft. Sure it took the list of names above, a 4 year span in which you won a combined 75 games, including 2 years ago when we won a mind-blowing 10 games. Yes 10 wins, 72 losses, absolute drek.
But look at how that paid off. Did all the picks hit no? But did some of them, absolutely. Lets take a look at some of them.
Lets start with 2014, through wheeling and dealing, the Sixers had two picks in the top 10. The campaign was to go “Winless for Wiggins”. Everybody wanted Andrew Wiggins a wing player. A good player, but is he generational. More importantly the Sixers could not get to number 1, they were at 3 and 10. The first 2 picks in the draft went Wiggins to Cleveland, and Jabari Parker, to the Bucks. The Sixers, sat at number 3 and took a player who had injury problems, but the comparison from scouts was that he has Hakeem potential. The Sixers drafted Embiid, knowing that it was a high risk, but if he could get in the court it would be a piece that does not exist currently in the NBA. With the #10 pick in the draft, the Sixers drafted Elfrid Payton, a nice player but can he be a building block. Sam flipped this asset, traded the rights to the Magic for the 12th pick, that 12th pick was Dario Saric.
So during that regular season, Embiid would be out due to back, and feet injuries, and the rights to Saric, would still keep him overseas. So what happened, you guessed it another tank job. Which would lead us to another year with a high lottery pick, again number 3. This maybe the asset that did not pain out. Looking back at it, there are some good players taking in the first round in the draft this year. You can see how it played out below.
Okafor, although they hype was there, and showed an ability to score at Duke, has turned out to be a bust for being drafted that high. You can see that right behind Okafor, Porzingis was taken. Other talent came out of that draft to later in the round, Devin Booker, the guy currently killing the team right now, Terry Rozier, and current Sixer, acquired by moving other “processor” Nerlens Noel, Justin Anderson. This is the one high pick, who did not work out, but you cant really blame the pick here. Okafor was rated super high on all boards, it is more so his commitment to the defensive end, and his lack of hustle at the NBA level, that ultimately left him, no room as a fit here, and then ultimately traded to the Nets who stink, and he can not even get on the court for them.
We would learn again, that Embiid would not be able to play again the next season and Dario would play one more year overseas. So again its, the year of the tank, the worst of all of them as I stated above, a 10 win season. A 10 win season, that would ultimately win you the draft lottery, and land you the #1 overall selection in the draft. The selection of this draft was easy Ben Simmons, all the way, sure his team did not make the NCAA tournament, sure he really did not care that much about going to class and being a successful student, but that is also because he knew where he was going to end up. The one year of college, was more of a formality, than anything, and so it was. Ben Simmons….a 6-10 point guard who can control the court, and comparisons made to Lebron, and Magic.
So now that you have a generational point guard, and a generational big man, and a wing player in Dario who is now ready to come over and play for the Sixers, It looked like things were coming together, but then Ben broke his foot before the season and Embiid was shutdown due to back problems, ultimately playing only 31 games. But the flashes were there, Simmons, did not make his way on the court, and Dario got robbed in the ROTY voting. Ultimately, the team was 28-54, which still would allow them a lottery pick. That pick turned out to be the number 3 overall pick, and based on the pieces we had, we really needed a wing player who could score. Keep in mind Bryan Colangelo is now in charge of player decisions. He decides to swap picks, with the Celtics to get to number 1 to get Markelle Fultz, which at this point, we do not know, how that has panned out. There were some flashes of brillance for Fultz this year, but it was in such a limited sample size. First, we were told that his shoulder was a problem, he could no longer shoot, but we were never given a time frame. Later, we all figured out, and it was later confirmed that he has a mental block, and is not ready for game action. Then, after missing the majority of the season, after the Sixers clinced a playoff birth, Markelle would be ready for action. He did record a triple double this year, and was the youngest player ever to do so in the history of the NBA, and he did show some flashes of what he can be, but if he is not on the court, that point becomes moot.
So how can we say the process was a failure. As your lineup is currently constructed, 3 of the teams current starting 5 came from the draft. Embiid, Simmons, and Saric, this has potential to be 4 if Fultz can return next year. More importantly, if Fultz can live up to the potential, he has showed flashes of, then this team becomes even more scary. This team won 52 games this year, with very little from the wing position. JJ Reddick was your starting 2, and Robert Covington was your starting 3. JJ Redick is a pick and pop shooter, he is not going to be able to create his own shots off the dribble, and does not have the ability to get to the rim off the dribble. Ben Simmons, as great as he is, still can not (or has yet to prove he has a viable, if any) mid range game. Robert Covington, who got paid this offseason, has been nothing special since he got extended. His defense has completely regressed, and as a scorer, he is streaky at best. We will get into how bad Robert Covington actually is, in part 3 of this series. So lets think about how young this team is, how for the most part they are on the cheap in terms of contract (minus Embiids) which still doesn’t kick in till next year, and got basically nothing from their wing players.
JJ Redicks contract is so win-win for this team. Yes, he is making 23 million dollars this year. But in part, the contract expires at the end of the season, and while it is a lot of money to pay the aforementioned pick and pop shooter, the Sixers still had to get to the cap basement. More importantly, his contract is completely off the books after this year. While you could re-sign him, at a lower rate potentially, that move does not make sense. If we really want the process to pan out, we will need more from our wing players, to compliment, Ben and Joel’s skill sets. While I appreciate the process and the gathering of youth to build around one more piece is still needed. Again, Hinke will tell you when he started this, is that he needed to have pieces in place, to make the city an attractive destination for free agents, while also having the money to pay them. The 2018 off-season is that time. It just so happens, that JJ’s contract comes off the books after this season, and the best player in the world, who just waxed the Eastern Conference 1 seed in 4 games, and is going to his 10th straight ECF, who is friends with, and has the same agent as Ben Simmons, can opt out of his contract with the Cavs. If you were Lebron, and you wanted to win titles to and cement your already untouchable legacy, would you want to stay in Cleveland, knowing that the only chance you have is if you carry the team yourself. Then if you do all that, you still do not have enough, to compete with the Warriors out west who will throw out (Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and Andre Iguadola) against you and your dumpster fire of a team. While his greatness and dominance is that much higher then any player in the NBA, its not enough, when the opposition can throw out, the leagues second best player, the best shooter in NBA History, as well as another great shooter in Klay and a do it all swing player in Draymond. Getting to the Finals, in recent history, has been the norm for Lebron, but getting the rings has eluded him. Mainly because as great as he is, his teams are over matched and players do not want to buy in, to his work ethic. Lebron being the most unselfish superstar who ever lived, at the twilight of his career, could come here and team up with this young core, and dominate the eastern conference, for what would be the foreseeable future. Please make this happen, and #COMPLETETHEPROCESS
Tomorrow, we will dive deeper into how bad Robert Convingtion actually is, and what the plan/future should be for the team going forward–and maybe a preview of Game 5, as TJ McConnell or second coming of Nick Foles led us to a victory last night.