If you remain silent for a brief moment, you can hear the screaming and anguish coming from the fallen heroes of “The Process,” including the polarizing former Sixers General Manager Sam Hinkie, accompanied by years of lottery picks gone wrong such as: Michael Carter-Williams, Nerlens Noel, Jahlil Okafor, and Elfrid Payton. MCW looked like the real deal during his rookie season with the Sixers, until everybody figured out he was basically playing by himself on a historically awful team. Nerlens Noel had bad luck with injuries, however, that did not stop him from playing himself out of a potential 4-year 80-million dollar contract with the Mavericks. Instead of signing a near max-deal, he is now playing for peanuts on the Oklahoma City Thunder. Jahlil Okafor was just drafted in the wrong generation-if you put him on a post-centered 1994 Sixers team he would have flourished. As of right now, Payton is still a bit of a question mark. At just 23 years of age, he has bounced around three NBA teams after being selected 10th overall in the 2014 draft.
Though Philadelphia suffered a draft crisis for several years, for every bust, they have a young, budding star oozing with potential.
One largely overlooked piece of the success of “The Process” has been the play of 23 year-old big man Dario Saric. In his second season averaging roughly 30 minutes per game, he averaged 14.6/6.7/2.6 along with a nice 39% from three. From Croatia, Dario has evolved into an NBA exec’s wet dream. Standing at 6’10” and weighing in at 243 lbs, he is everything the modern big man should be. Make no mistake, Saric is not a “stretch four”, he is simply an all-around Power Forward. His ability to drive inside and post up with the big boys combined with being able to spot up and nail the 20-footer is by far the most valuable asset a big man can have in this league.
Switching gears, we look at a player who at times has been compared to the second coming of LeBron James, the one, the only, Ben Simmons. Sure, he can’t shoot for shit or even make 70% of his free throws, but he can sure drive with the best of them. He’s been lumped in with other ”point forwards”, like Joe Ingles, Andre Iguodala, and Draymond Green. While these guys got game, none of them doing anything special by lining up at the point guard position. The NBA has not seen a player like Ben Simmons in quite some time. He possesses the height of Karl Anthony-Towns, the effortless ball skills of John Stockton, and the finishing abilities of LeBron James. Second-year player or not, he outperformed any other rookie night in and night out on the floor. Simmons is a star in the making, and the rest of the NBA is terrified.
2017-18 Ben Simmons: (15.8 PPG, 8.1 REB, 8.2 AST, 1.7 STL, 0.9 BLK, 55% FG%)
2003-04 LeBron James: (20.9 PPG, 5.5 REB, 5.9 AST, 1.6 STL, 0.7 BLK, 42% FG%)
Nobody really knows what to make of Markelle Fultz yet. His rookie season was mainly composed of one of the craziest injury saga’s in recent memory. Playing in just fourteen games as a rookie, I can not determine if he was worth a #1 pick just yet. Fultz managed to produce an efficiency rating of 12.4 (The average NBA Efficiency Rating is 15.0). Due to a small sample size, I am not ready to throw in the towel on Fultz’s file just yet.
Saving the most entertaining and vital piece of the process for last, it is my pleasure to describe one of the best comeback stories in the history of the NBA. Though he has only appeared in 94 games as an NBA player, he has solidified himself as an All-Star. From a meme to bonafide NBA superstar in two years, Joel Embiid has established himself as one of the most dominant big man in the NBA. He is the modern embodiment of Hakeem Olajuwon, ladies and gentleman. When comparing their rookie season stats, Embiid’s per game stats are very similar to Olajuwon’s.
2016-17 Joel Embiid: (20.2 PPG, 7.9 REB, 2.1 AST, 0.9 STL, 2.5 BLK, 47% FG%)
1984-85 Hakeem Olajuwon: (20.6 PPG, 11.9 REB, 1.4 AST, 1.2 STL, 2.7 BLK, 54% FG)
Though all of these results of The Process are extremely intriguing, for the sake of the league I am asking no other NBA team to follow this protocol. One could make the argument that the Celtics followed this protocol to a lesser extent. However, they are an anomaly, because teams such as the Orlando Magic, Brooklyn Nets, and Dallas Mavericks have failed miserably in the same attempt.
The Magic have been trying to find their identity ever since Dwight Howard’s ugly exit after the 2011-12 season. Since Dwight’s departure, the Magic have cycled through five different head coaches and have not had any front office stability. They’ve tried to go defensive by drafting long, versatile wings to win them games, an approach that hasn’t worked at all- their record since that season is is an eye-opening 154-335.
The Mavericks are another team with a raging identity crisis. After their dominant 2011 NBA title, the Mavericks have been looking for players to step up and pick up the slack left by their absent veterans. Never seeding higher than sixth after their magical playoff run, the Mavericks have been stuck in neutral, having issues finding young talent to revitalize their roster. Tack on a sexual harassment probe to their organization, and it clear is that the Maverick’s best days are behind them.
The key to the Sixers newfound success? Stability.
Only six other teams can say that they have had the same head coach since Brett Brown was hired in 2013. All of these teams are in the playoff hunt and very competitive ever year. What the Sixers have done in the matter of five years is nothing short of remarkable. The Sixers’ starting lineup has transformed from Justin Anderson, Michael-Carter Williams, Spencer Hawes, Evan Turner, and Thaddeus Young into Ben Simmons, J.J. Redick, Robert Covington, Dario Saric, and Joel Embiid.
Three years ago, the Philadelphia franchise was seen as a joke after taking a seemingly unmotivated and injury-prone 19 year-old Joel Embiid. Who’s laughing now? There is an alternate reality somewhere where the Sixers could have ended up with Dante Exum, Brandon Ingram, and Lonzo Ball. Don’t get me wrong, this team would be fun and explosive as hell, but nowhere near as good. These scenarios show just how lucky the Sixers got by drafting at least two generational talents in Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid.
Now that’s what I call a rebuild. The city of Philadelphia is winning at sports right now in every facet, don’t expect it to be over anytime soon.
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