by Miguel Bautista
In the last two seasons, the Philadelphia 76ers have been about “trusting the process.” The process is to build a championship contending team; however, the Sixers’ anti-competitive method of trying to reach that goal has never been done before. According to Dr. J, the Philadelphia 76ers’ new ownership told Erving that “seven years” was the timetable to become “formidable.” The quote might not mean anything significant, considering new ownership took over in 2011 and that the Sixers were in a completely different state before Sam Hinkie was hired as GM in 2013.
When Hinkie was hired, the Sixers were coming off of a disastrous 34-48 campaign in the 2012-13 NBA season, following one of the worst moves in recent NBA history in a trade centered around Andrew Bynum in exchange for Andre Iguodala, Nikola Vucevic (2011 1st rounder), Moe Harkless (2012 1st rounder), and a future first round pick. (Note: The future first round pick ended up turning into a 2015 and 2016 second round pick that goes to the Celtics.) The failure of the Bynum trade was probably the driving force behind the new Sixers’ direction. Hinkie also ended up doing some great damage control by getting back the future first round pick from Orlando they dumped in the Bynum trade via the Elfrid Payton—Dario Saric trade during the 2014 draft.
The big question is: How do the Sixers rise to respectability?
The plan is to find superstar players, as it is almost impossible to win a title without a superstar (as the Hawks proved earlier this year) and they plan to acquire that superstar via the draft. Luck is involved in the draft, but the Sixers have acquired as many picks as possible in order to maximize their chances of hitting on the next superstar. Prior to Hinkie, the Sixers were stuck in basketball purgatory for the last dozen years; nowhere near title contention nor lottery-bound. Going forward, they may be the most flexible team in terms of assets and cap room in the entire league.
Here’s what the 76ers looked like prior to Hinkie’s arrival:
The most important year in Hinkie’s tenure is this upcoming season, where they potentially could have 4 1st round picks in next year’s draft. Sam Hinkie’s third season on the job may provide us enough of a picture to see whether or not the Sixers are getting closer to their goal of become a title-contending team. As of right now, their team’s core consists of: Noel, Embiid, Okafor, Saric, Stauskas and Covington.
All the transactions that have taken place under Hinkie have been with an eye on the future, so all grades are to be determined. I will try to construct a hypothetical timeline of a best case scenario where the Sixers could contend again.
2015-16: Sixers miss playoffs.
2016 NBA Draft: Sixers win BIG, have at least three 1st round picks to use. Sixers may receive Lakers 2016 pick (top-3 protected). Under assumption that the Sixers will have the MIA, OKC, and their own pick. Sixers are awarded the #1 pick, draft Ben Simmons, another future star with the Lakers’ #4 pick, and some good mid round players.
2016-17 Team: Noel, Embiid, Okafor, Saric, Stauskas, Covington, Simmons, some veterans and other 2016 draftees
2016-17 season: Sixers make playoffs. (It’s the East, it’s possible).
2017 Draft: Sixers draft a star (if they receive Lakers pick) & a good role player with their own, assuming mid-first round pick.
2017-18 team: Noel (assuming he stays), Embiid, Okafor, Saric, Stauskas, Covington, Simmons, some veterans and new draftees.
2017-18 season: Sixers make a deeper playoff run, second round exit. If they still haven’t received the Lakers pick, then the 2018 draft is what will give them that final championship push.
2018 draft: Sixers draft good role player with their own pick, Sixers receive Lakers 2018 pick, draft well. They could also receive the Kings pick (top-10 protected), draft another good player.
2018-19 season: Championship!
On a final note, with the most recent trade between the Kings and Sixers, the Sixers have the right to swap 1st round picks in 2016 and 2017. The swap is not likely to happen; however, the Kings have also agreed to send a future first round pick. The pick is top-10 protected in 2018, and if not conveyed in 2018, then it is 2019 top-10 protected. If it is not conveyed by 2019, they receive Sacramento’s unprotected first in 2020. This could mean a high lottery pick even when the 76ers are already good!
While there may be many critics of Sam Hinkie’s methods, the Sixers are already in too deep to cut and run now, and they’re best off continuing to draft superstars. Jahlil Okafor should have a major role next year with Joel Embiid potentially missing another year. Draftwise, it is critical that Philadelphia gets the #1 pick in order to draft Ben Simmons, because there are only so many 5s they can put on the floor at one time. Philadelphia with Simmons, Noel, Okafor and a healthy Embiid all in their primes could be one special team.