We're at a point in The Process where the patience of the past two and a half years has started to erode. It's impressive that it took this long, given that we stalwarts whose cracks have started to show are the fruit of the same tree that wanted to replace Donovan McNabb with Jeff Garcia that one time, but here we are.
It's not unreasonable to start to doubt, because The Process is, in addition to frustrating and time-consuming, predicated on hitting the big one in the draft. And as well as any team might scout, and as high as any team might pick, drafting involves so much uncertainty--even in basketball--that it's more art than science. And with three of his first four lottery picks, Sam Hinkie tried to shoot the moon with two injured bigs and a draft-and-stash Croat, knowing that while he could end up with a Hall of Famer and two All-Stars, or nothing.
So far, while Nerlens Noel has been as good as we could've reasonably hoped, Joel Embiid and Dario Saric have produced nothing. And that's fine, for now. The mob is still just starting to murmur in the taverns--it's not at the gates of the castle yet.
But as a The Process acolyte, I'm starting to tug at my collar. For the first time in my life, a Sixers GM has done something unusual, forward-thinking, and amoral within the bounds of modern capitalism, which is to say norms go out the window in service of the pursuit of medium-term profit. Which is, for better or worse (hint: it's for worse), the state of the art in modern American business. But my faith in The Process has yet to be vindicated, and if enough time passes, any zealot starts to doubt.
Which explains the appeal of the Slow Dukie. In each of the past two drafts, an array of choices confronted GMs with early picks, each not only representing a style of play, but a level of risk. Joel Embiid could be Hakeem Olajuwon reborn, or he could never play a game in the NBA and walk with a cane by age 29. Mario Hezonja could have the athleticism, the shooting ability, and the psychopathic intensity to be the next Kobe Bryant. Or he could punch out his head coach on Day 1 and wash out of the league.
On the other hand, we know Jabari Parker can shoot and pass. We know Jahlil Okafor has great size, vision and post moves. We don't know who, if anyone, they can defend at this level, and we know that the answer now isn't likely to change, as both men are possessed of pedestrian athleticism (in the sense that they're nothing special and in the sense that they play the game at walking pace) and bodies that, even by NBA standards, require a CDL to operate.
But we know they'll score 20 points a game. We know they'll be at least average, but we also know they won't be any better than "good." They'll never be two-way superstars or human highlight reels, and that was known the day they were drafted.
That's what's going to be on display tonight in Milwaukee: Two large, Duke-educated monuments to the tipping point at which the risks associated with "possibly spectacular" outweigh the rewards, and we lower our sights to "almost certainly adequate."
Maybe I'm selling Okafor and Parker short--admittedly, and you can go back to old LB Big Boards for evidence, I was comically down on both before their respective drafts. Maybe LeBron and Steph Curry and Kevin Durant are special because they can't be planned for. They are divine intervention, and maybe instead of trying to build our own gods, we should make do with what comes down ordinarily.
After all, one of the earliest biblical stories about mankind's arrogance is the Tower of Babel, in which an arrogant king builds a tower to heaven in defiance of God, and sees his people scattered to the four winds, all speaking unfamiliar languages.
The name of the king should be familiar to all of you: Nimrod. That's why we choose to settle. That's the appeal of the Slow Dukie.