The Philadelphia 76ers: A False Hope

The Process has been a long one. Trusting it has become harder over time. Many believe we are finally breaking through the ceiling, I believe we still haven't even left the floor. The Sixers have come a long way since that 10-72 season just 6 years ago. They've gone through more changes in 5 years than many organizations have since the nineties. They were the target of unprecedented intervention by the league office, who changed the whole draft lottery thanks to Sam Hinkie. Sam made the city of Philadelphia suffer through some of the worst basketball in league history, but it was ok, because the city trusted him, they trusted the process. Has this process brought forth the fruit it had promised? I fear it has fallen short. Let's go on a little trip back in time.

It's 2012, the league just had a short season thanks to a little hardball negotiating from the players union. The Sixers finished the season 35-31 and lost in the Eastern Conference semifinals. This was on the heels of several seasons of playing around .500 and being fringe playoff contenders in a weak Eastern Conference. Sam Hinkie knew this team was stuck in no mans land, also known as sports hell. The Sixers best player is Andre Iguodala. This is no shade at Iggy, but when he's the best player on your team, you're not going anyplace far. The draft picks are sub-optimal thanks to the .500 records and you don't have any pieces that attract high end free agents. Drastic measures need to be taken to transform this team into a contender. Hinkie knows what needs to be done. It's time to bow it up and embrace the tank. It's going to be painful as all hell, but it's the only way.

The Trade

The Sixers get Andrew Bynum and Jason Richardson.
The Lakers get Dwight Howard, Earl Clark and Chris Duhon.
The Nuggets get Andre Iguodala.
The Magic get Moe Harkless, Nikola Vucevic, Arron Afflalo, Al Harrington, Christian Eyenga, Josh McRoberts and protected first round picks from each team, and a second round pick from Denver.

The rebuild didn't start out as one, but as an effort to compete that quickly turned sour. In what might be one of the worst trades in NBA history, the Sixers gave up a future NBA Finals MVP, along with a future all-star for Andrew Bynum who would quickly be out of the league. It did succeed in one aspect however, and that was in the loss column. The team quickly fell apart thanks to this trade, leading to the selling off of more pieces like Jrue Holiday for assets. Draft capital would be the key to this rebuild. More important than the capital however, is what you actually do with it.

Drafting over the next several years would be abismal. Every player taken since 2013 starting with MCW has either been a bust, is out of the league, or was a solid pick that was eventually traded away. The only notable picks still on the team are Embiid, Simmons, Tyrese Maxey, Korkmaz, and Thybulle. Jahlil Okafor, Nerlens Noel, and Markelle Fultz were all absolute disasters. Fultz will go down as one of, if not the biggest #1 bust in the history of the league. Solid role players like Jerami Grant, TLC, Landry Shamet, and Mikal Bridges were all traded away. Some for solid players, who mostly never stuck around.

The one trade that has worked out in part so far has been the Tobias Harris trade. Pieces like Shamet were lost in the deal, but Tobias is a solid 3rd wheel to have on a team. On the other hand you have the Jimmy Butler saga. Jimmy comes to Philly in the middle of the 2018 season. He cost the Sixers Robert Covington, Dario Saric, and a 2nd rounder. Not a terrible price to pay, until you consider the team gets bounced in the playoffs, Jimmy wants out in free agency because his fellow stars are soft, and the only thing the team gets in return is Josh Richardson in a sign and trade with Miami who is not even on the team a year later.

There is a simple explanation for why so many draft picks and trades have gone badly for Philly. Front Office incompetency and turmoil. The league hated Sam Hinkie and his relentless tanking. In a broad overreach of power that would make the federal government jealous, the league installed Jerry Colangelo to oversee Hinkie's decision making. The league was working on removing Hinkie and he saw the writing on the wall. In 2016, smack dab in the middle of his master rebuilding plan, Hinkie stepped down as GM. Jerry replaced him with his son Bryan Colangelo. Nepotism at its finest, this one should end well. The team would improve the next couple seasons thanks to a healthy Simmons and Embiid. The Sixers were back to losing in the early rounds of the playoffs again, but there was hope. Hope that was torched to the ground by a couple Twitter burner accounts run by none other than Bryan and his wife. According to

Philadelphia 76ers president of basketball operations and general manager Bryan Colangelo has resigned from the team. His wife, Barbara Bottini, admitted to establishing and operating a handful of anonymous Twitter accounts that were critical of players and other league executives and released sensitive team information, though an investigation by an outside law firm deemed Colangelo to be source of her information, an assertion that Colangelo disputes.

Drama so juicy it makes the producers of The Bachelor jealous. The GM of the team hates his players and talks shit about them anonymously. If you're going to do this, at least have the courage to put your name behind it, don't hide behind multiple fake Twitter accounts. Bryan resigns and the Sixers are now at a critical point where they have a title window opening and need a GM who can get them over the hump. Naturally Philly does what they do and hires a completely unproven and inexperienced Elton Brand to run the show. To prove he belongs among the big boys he goes out and makes a splash signing. Al Horford on a max contract, this should be fun. Just like everyone else in this organization, Elton and Al are both gone in less than two years in an attempt to erase another period of failure in Sixers history.

Enter in our next competitor Daryl Morey. After 14 years, 0 championships, and a sale of all their top assets in Houston, Daryl will get his chance to prove himself in Philly. I'm sure this one will end well too. I originally started this blog with the intentions of making my case for why a combo of Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid will never bring a championship to Philadelphia, but as I started digging deeper into the Sixers recent history, I realized it would be unfair to completely lay this on them. Ben and Joel are just small pieces of the much larger gunk thats blocking the Sixers championship pipe. I will still argue that Ben Simmons is the one that will hold this team back as long as he is here. Yes he's a great defender and gets to the basket well, but as long as he lacks any resemblance of a jump shot, he and the team are forever stuck. The league revolves around shooting now, and a player like Embiid needs a shooting threat to work off of him. Until the Sixers move Simmons for a piece that can do these things at a high level they will never win. Unfortunately after reviewing how the Sixers organization has functioned in recent history I have little faith. Great teams are great because they have stability from the top down, not the other way around. Teams like the Warriors and 2000s Spurs have multiple championships and winning cultures because they have strong front offices and coaches in place. This is what leads to talent coming and staying. The Sixers will continue to be fringe contenders at best for years to come as long as the turmoil and turnover upstairs continues. Even in a weak Eastern Conference this team will continue to just sputter along. Giving hope to the fans each year that they are right there, but never actually holding the prize.