On the surface, a basketball team that's won 37 games in its past two seasons shouldn't be much more than an afterthought in the NBA conversation. But as all of my self-inflicted stab wounds from pointlessly countless (countlessly pointless?) Twitter arguments remind me -- the Sixers have been in the vanguard for each grandstanding tanking debate since Sam Hinkie took over as GM in May of 2013. And as we descend upon Hinkie's third draft night -- lo, the apocalypse cometh -- we want to feel like we've reached a turning point. We want it so bad.
DRAFT DAY READS
DRAFT DAY READS
We've defended the Sixers since Hinkie started. "It's only been a year." "Look at the team he inherited when he got here." "It's only been two years." "Fuck Doug Collins." It'd be great to finally have something tangible to show that this is actively working. In our Sixers Dynasty 30-For-30, June 25th, 2015 is the night that it all finally changed.
We didn't get much help at the Lottery. Holding onto the 3rd pick with the 3rd best odds and avoiding disaster is, for my money, a win. But those other picks didn't convey, and even though we'll get them when we get them, it's still more waiting. Patience has become the biggest virtue in Sixers fandom.
Of Hinkie's four lottery picks, only one is playing for the team: the People's Rookie of the Year, Nerlens Noel, already one of the best rim protectors in the league, and a Grade A+ pick after slipping to #6 in a weak draft because of a torn ACL. Worth the wait. But two haven't even taken the court: Dario Saric will be in the wrong continent for at least another season, and Joel Embiid's injury remains an obstacle in every enigmatic sense. Then there's Michael Carter-Williams, who just wasn't good enough and got himself can-kicked into next year's Lakers pick, which will almost assuredly be in the lottery, but does not currently exist in human form at this moment. And as gleeful as I would say the pro-Hinkie crowd is with what he's done in those two years -- added loads of draft picks, turned a cap-strapped mess into a financially flexible utopia for young players, hired a tremendous coach, etc. -- the Process Truthers are out there. And they have questions. And they have vitriol. And soon, they may have a point.
When will they compete? When will they field a competitive team? Is 2015-16 just gonna be another wasted year?
Some of those questions could be answered this evening. Many people's fears would be quelled simply by sitting tight and drafting D'Angelo Russell if he's available. Others will set I-676 on fire if Zinger dons a Sixers hat. There are those who wouldn't want them to do what it could take to get DeMarcus Cousins. What's best for the organization? They're asking us to trust them, and if you read this weblog you probably do, but the questions to get to you. There's only so many times you can answer "When?" with "When the time is right" if you're not Olmec from Legends Of The Hidden Temple. The Plan isn't simply directions to bake a souffle, so much as it is a philosophical, non-linear, top-to-bottom decision to prioritize the attaining of a superstar. And seeing as those superstars generally don't knock on your front door (oh, hiiiii cleveland), it takes a good deal of risk and even more patience to lasso one.
Mudiay vs. D'Angelo
Point guard has become an incredibly important position in the modern NBA. However, it can sometimes be difficult to garner exactly why each point guard is successful. In this piece, I use Seth Partnow's "Point Guard Personality" rubric, which works sort of like a Meyers-Briggs test for point guards, to do just that. By looking at both Russell's and Mudiay's styles of play, we can perhaps determine which would fit better in Philadelphia.
As I start to sweat profusely in the hours leading up to it, I ask this: What if that superstar never comes along? Whether through injuries or poor scouting or never leaving Europe, our man doesn't materialize. Staying flexible and focusing on development over short-term wins remains the best strategy, but it's still dependent on getting that One Guy eventually, lest you become the 90s Clippers. At what point do they look around at the team, think "OK, we're close enough" and make a push upwards? You don't want to break too early, but I'm worried it's not gonna be as clear-cut as the front office has been telling us (~oh, you'll know when.~), and they'll patience themselves out of an era of potentially good Sixers basketball in hopes of the perfectionist version we've all bought into.
Maybe I'm just panicking. Hinkie, if he chooses, can have one of Karl-Anthony Towns, Jahlil Okafor, D'Angelo Russell, Mario Hezonja, Kristaps Porzingis, Justise Winslow, or Emmanuel Mudiay. He can just have one. All to himself. It's unfair to ask one of them to become the superstar we've been pining for, but also... somebody's gotta be it, right? And we trust Hinkie to find the one who is, right? AHHHH.
So while I really want this to be the turning point, there's no guarantee that's what it'll be. Tell me KAT is The Dude, then yeah, I'm in, let's ride, where's my gun. But if not...? We're into year three of the Great Sixers Rebuild, desperate for something to show for it. Jrue got traded. Nerlens, Embiid, and Saric were BPA picks undeterred by delayed gratification. MCW is god knows where. We have Trusted The Process. We've enjoyed this franchise way more than we've had any right to. We know that it isn't about results, so long as the methodology is sound. We know this. But also... results would be pretty tight.