I choose to believe that the Sixers are going to profit from their descent into the basement of the NBA standings, through it, through the foundation and bedrock.
Out in Russia, there's a hole called the Kola Superdeep Borehole. It's the deepest artificial hole on Earth, more than 40,000 feet in depth. It's so deep that in 1989, there was a rumor going around that you could hear the cries of the damned coming from the well. (Which is entirely a statement about the depth of the borehole, and not at all about the depth of the desperate attention-grabbing tactics of a fringe fundamentalist television statement at the height of Cold War hysteria.) That's how bad I want the Sixers to be--not basement bad, not bedrock bad, but Kola Superdeep Borehole bad.
But that's not how things work around here. Our collective enthusiasm for Sam Hinkie and his plan has blinded us. Nerlens Noel's knee will heal, and the questions that surrounded his game even before the injury will resolve themselves. Michael Carter-Williams already has a cute nickname and a spot in our imaginations as the man who'll run the offense when the Sixers are good again. Never mind that he shoots like a group of Imperial Stormtroopers.
As excited as we all were for last season with Andrew Bynum, you could argue that this is the most promising Sixers season in a decade, since Larry Brown was teaching mediocre players to play phenomenal defense and we let that Iverson character take care of the scoring. It's what's going to sustain us through what we know to be a lost season, when this team is going to get really unwatchable really fast. But twelve months from now, Andrew Wiggins will be a Sixer, and within a year or two, the Sixers will have turned themselves into the late 2010s version of what the Thunder, Cavs and Magic had been a decade before--franchises doomed to perpetual also-ran-ity, then thrust by one or two transcendent players into championship contention.
That's the hope. But there's the possibility that Brett Brown is a latter-day Norman Dale who coaches this team to 25 or even 30 wins and out of the cream of the draft crop. There's the possibility that the draft lottery, perhaps the most idiotic institution in sports including Rush Limbaugh's stint as an ESPN football analyst, fails to alter the incentives of teams but only screws the Sixers by introducing randomness into the equation and dropping a big old stinky power deuce on our heads.
I don't dispute that what Sam Hinkie is doing is the smart thing to do, and I support it wholeheartedly. But we Philadelphia sports fans were born under a bad sign. If Bynum never played a game for the Sixers, then maybe Hinkie can turn out to be the J.P. Ricciardi to Daryl Morey's Billy Beane. Maybe this whole thing collapses.
Anyway, sorry to pee in the punch bowl and all, but being smart and having a plan isn't enough. The Sixers need a lot of other things to go right first.