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A Simulated Path Into the Sixers’ Future(s): Part 3

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Part 1 was hands-on, and led to a title in 2020. Part 2 was hands-off and pushed the title back to 2021. Part 3? Win now mode.

An explanation of the series and Sim 1 is here

Sim 2 is here

In my first two forays into spinoff universes of the Sixers’ future, I managed the team myself and then took a complete backseat. Under my tutelage, the Sixers were the 2020 NBA Champions. As a passenger, the Sixers won the title in 2021. This time around, I’m taking a hybrid approach of sorts, but with a specific strategy in mind: It’s win now time. Brett Brown is getting fired. Money will fly in free agency. A reminder of some of the ground rules before we hop in:

  • I’ll be using downloaded draft classes (from NBA2kCreationz on PS4) for as far into the future as I can, and also turning on 2k’s storyline stuff with the prospects which should shuffle up the order of the picks a bit, leading to even more spinoff-universes.
  • I’ll have to play with “force trades” on because 2k doesn’t QUITE nail the protections on the Lakers/Kings picks. I will only be using force trade to ensure those picks behave the way they do in real life.

This is part 3 of a 4 part series. In the final installation, I’ll be forcing mayhem. There will be expansion teams. There will be rule changes. I will include your suggestions. If you have any pure chaos factor you want to see implemented (No fouls? Two-minute quarters? No salary cap? No injuries?) suggest them in the comments below or @jimadair3 on Twitter.

And now, without further ado, let’s fire Brett Brown:

SIM 3 - ABSOLUTE WIN NOW

2018

January (7-5)

  • Lloyd Pierce appointed interim Head Coach.
  • Sixers drop the London game to the Celtics in Pierce’s debut, 93-86.
  • Markelle Fultz returns for a January 22nd loss to Memphis, posting a 6/4/2 line.

February (8-3)

  • Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid are All-Star reserves.
  • TRADE: In a contract dump for both sides, the Sixers send Jerryd Bayless, a 2021 2nd, Trevor Booker, and a 2018 2nd round pick swap to the Kings for Garrett Temple’s expiring contract, Kosta Koufos’ expiring contract, and a 2021 Kings unprotected 1st. Thank you digital Vlade.
  • Sixers extend Richaun Holmes.

March (11-5)

  • Markelle Fultz bruised hip (2-4 weeks).

April (6-1)

  • Kosta Koufos sprained left knee (1-2 weeks).

Season Recap

  • Ben Simmons Rookie of the Year and All-Rookie 1st team.
  • Joel Embiid 19 pts/8.9 rebounds/1.8 blocks (4th in NBA).
  • Ben Simmons 14.6 points/8.1 rebounds/6.6 assists.
  • Robert Covington 15.1 points on 41% from three.
  • Markelle Fultz 8.7 points/3.5 rebounds/4.6 assists while shooting 42.5% on 40 attempted threes.
  • T.J. McConnell has league’s 5th best assist ratio.

Playoffs

4th seed in the East (49-33, 30-14 under coach Lloyd Pierce).

Swept by the 5th seeded Milwaukee Bucks in the first round. They lose the four games by 18, 7, 10, and 4.

The Golden State Warriors take the Toronto Raptors in five games in the NBA Finals.

Lottery

Before the Lottery, the league votes to eliminate the 5-second back to the basket violation, clearing the way for the return of the throwback center. Keep an eye on Jah.

The Lakers enter the lottery with the 5th best odds at the number one pick, and the pick falls to #6, keeping it in Philly for the 3rd time in three simulations but resulting in the Sixers’ best pick so far. They also own pick #22.

To shore up their coaching staff in the wake of Brett Brown’s mid-season firing, the team hires player mentor and assistant coach Paul Pierce to work under new head coach David Fizdale. The Suns Hire Brett Brown, the poor guy.

Draft

In a Sim first, the #1 pick is traded when the Hornets give the Magic Kemba Walker and a returning Dwight Howard for #1 and Wesley Uwundu. The Hornets use the pick on Deandre Ayton. Total chaos breaks out when the Hornets, who also hold pick #3, use that and Frank Kaminsky to move up to #2 (they also get Meyers Leonard from the Kings in the process). The Hornets entered the draft with Frank Kaminsky, Kemba Walker, and Dwight Howard’s albatross of a contract. They left with Deandre Ayton and #2 pick Marvin Bagley III. Mayhem.

The Kings, who had #2 and then moved to #3 for the pick and Kaminsky TRADE BACK AGAIN, dumping #3 and Jerryd Bayless on the Hawks for pick #4 and John Collins. WHAT THE HELL IS DIGITAL VLADE DOING? Luka Doncic goes #3 to Atlanta, and OH MY GOD THE KINGS TRADED OUT AGAIN. I’M LOSING IT. The Kings swapped pick #4 (after having #2 and then #3) paired with Zach Randolph for Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert. The Kings had the 2nd overall pick, threw Meyers Leonard and Jerryd Bayless, and walked out with Frank Kaminsky, John Collins, Derrick Favors, and Rudy Gobert. Is digital Vlade actually a mad genius? Is he just mad? What is Utah doing? I can’t handle this.

The Jazz pick Trae Young at #4. The Mavericks take Collin Sexton at #5. The Sixers, sitting in the #6 spot and catching their breath after that tornado of confusion, take BPA with Michael Porter Jr. Then picks #7 and #9 were swapped. Picks #9 and #11 were swapped. The Hornets traded a 2020 1st and Nicolas Batum for #10 and took Hamidou Diallo. They walked out with three top-10 picks. I can’t breathe.

The Sixers, with their eyes on free agency and no real use for the #22 pick, send it to Boston for Memphis’ top-5 protected 1st in 2019. I don’t know how do they have that pick. My head is spinning. Boston uses #22 on NC State’s Ömer Yurtseven, so the game got something right.

The lesson? If you want to set off a chain reaction of unbelievable tomfoolery at the 2018 NBA Draft, fire Brett Brown. I feel like I accidentally went back in time and bumped into myself, ripping a hole in spacetime. Nothing makes sense. The universe is collapsing. Vlade is still Vlade-ing though.

The Sixers don’t sign either of their 2nd round picks.

Free Agency

Koufos and Temple, as it turns out (and this is why I should not be a real GM) have player options, which they both pick up. Koufos is promptly moved with a 2nd for Tony Bradley (making $7 million less) and a 2nd. Bradley is waived. Temple is traded to the Rockets for a top-3 protected 2021 pick, clearing another $8 million off the books. Justin Anderson is sent to the Knicks for a 2021 lottery-protected 1st.

Doing all of this allows the Sixers to offer Kevin Durant a four-year, $152.19 million deal, which he accepts. For depth, the Sixers bring back Amir Johnson for close to vet minimum, grab Tony Allen for the same, sign Luc Mbah a Moute to a one-year deal, and grab early season standout Mike James on a two-way contract.

In non-Sixers FA news, the Hornets signed Jahlil Okafor to a one-year, $13.41 million deal (perhaps forming the NBA’s strangest team in the process), the Bulls sign Nerlens Noel to a one-year, $10 million deal, Nik Stauskas returns to the Nets, and a back-from-Greece Hollis Thompson snags a deal with the Pelicans.

2019

PG - Ben Simmons (84), T.J. McConnell (75), Mike James (75)
SG -Markelle Fultz (78), Tony Allen (74), Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot (72)
SF - Kevin Durant (96), Robert Covington (80), Michael Porter Jr. (79), Furkan Korkmaz (71)
PF - Dario Saric (79), Amir Johnson (76), Luc Mbah a Moute (72)
C - Joel Embiid (90), Richaun Holmes (75), Jeff Withey (73)

October/November (14-4)

  • Sixers start the season at 4-0, before losing their first game.
  • A month in, the Sixers have a Net Rating of 12.5, and lead the league in steals and assists per game.

December (11-3)

  • In December, Kevin Durant has dropped 40 once and made 7 threes (in a separate game).
  • 29 games into the season, Ben Simmons has three triple-doubles. He had four all of the prior season.

January (13-3)

  • Tony Allen broken nose (4-6 weeks).

February (8-4)

  • Kevin Durant is the team’s only All-Star, as Embiid and Simmons’ usage rate falls to 4th and 5th respectively on the team (behind Porter and Covington). It’s all wings all the time.

March (10-4)

  • Michael Porter Jr. bruised right shoulder (2-4 weeks).

April (6-2)

  • Dario Saric left hand fracture (4-6 weeks).

Season Recap

  • David Fizdale Coach of the Year.
  • Michael Porter Jr. All-Rookie 2nd team.
  • Kevin Durant 19.9 points/5.4 rebounds/4.2 assists with 45.1% from three, 64.5% TS (7th in the NBA).
  • Joel Embiid 14.9 points/8 rebounds/1.7 blocks.
  • Ben Simmons 12.8 points/6.5 rebounds/7.1 assists.
  • Robert Covington 14.8 points on 43.1% shooting.
  • Markelle Fultz 8.9 points/5.5 assists on 39.4% from three (6th best assist ratio in NBA).
  • Michael Porter Jr. 12.8 points/4 rebounds.
  • Dario Saric 10.6 points/5.2 rebounds on 33.5% from three.
  • Sixers have zero players in the top-20 for Usage Rate.
  • Team led the league in offensive rebound %, blocks per game, second chance points, and were 2nd in Net Rating (9.7).

Playoffs

The 1st seed in the East and top record in the NBA (62-20).

Round 1

Knicks 116 - Sixers 108

Facing off against the 8th seeded Knicks, the Sixers drop game one by 8 points, as Tim Hardaway Jr. goes 6-13 from range on his way to 29 points. Joel Embiid’s 22 points and 11 rebounds lead the team.

Sixers 129 - Knicks 107

Kevin Durant decides “Not Today” and puts up 35 points on 7-9 from distance and 15 total shots. Porter Jr. notches 20, and Embiid and Covington contribute 17 en route to a 22 point victory. Amir Johnson, playing steady minutes in lieu of the injured Dario Saric, puts up 6/6/4.

Sixers 114 - Knicks 112

Porzingis tries his hardest to make it a series, scoring 35 points, grabbing 9 boards, and swatting 6 shots, but it’s still not enough as the Sixers win by 2 behind Durant’s 26.

Sixers 120 - Knicks 92

Knicks fail to even show up in game four, letting Embiid drop 31 points on them and taking the 28 point loss.

Sixers 116 - Knicks 85

Robert Covington’s game five double-double (20 points, 12 rebounds) seals the series as Durant surpasses 30 points once again. The Sixers win by 31.

Round 2

Bucks 120 - Sixers 95

Dario Saric joins the team just before game one of the second round against Milwaukee, though his 12 points and 8 rebounds aren’t enough to make any difference when the Sixers lose Robert Covington to a high-ankle sprain just 8 minutes into the game. Bucks take it by 25.

Bucks 96 - Sixers 90

Giannis’ 16/12/8 is way too much for the Sixers in game two as they all-of-a-sudden find themselves down 0-2 and heading on the road.

SIxers 116 - Bucks 107

Kevin Durant, as if remembering that’s why they signed him in the off-season, shows up huge again in game three, posting a 32/7/7 line to go along with Ben Simmons’ best game of the playoffs so far, a 24/10/10 triple-double that guides the Sixers to a 9 point win in overtime. Joel Embiid also snags 17 rebounds.

Sixers 125 - Bucks 119

Bucks 89 - Sixers 85

The Sixers squeak out game four by 6 and drop game five by three, as the whole team hits a slump at once (Durant and Embiid, both with 12, lead the team in points).

Sixers 117 - Bucks 115

Game six has the Sixers in win or go home mode, on the road, and they put together a 34 point 4th quarter behind 27 from Porter Jr. and 21 from Saric to stay alive and bring the series back home.

Sixers 102 - Bucks 91

Game seven is an 11-point clincher at home for the Sixers, who will now face the 6th seeded Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals.

EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS

Sixers 101 - Cavs 89

Riding the high from a game seven win at home against the Bucks, the Sixers come out swinging in game one, leaving the Cavaliers in the dust. Dario Saric and Joel Embiid each grab 12 rebounds while Durant, once again, drops 31. T.J. McConnell, in just 16 minutes off the bench, notches 3 crucial steals.

Sixers 108 - Cavs 106

Isaiah Thomas’ 38 points paired with LeBron’s 19 is almost enough to close the gap on a 13-point halftime lead, but the Sixers hang on thanks to 22/11/8 from Ben Simmons, 14 points and 9 assists from Markelle Fultz, Richaun Holmes’ first double-digit playoff game, and two more clutch McConnell steals.

Cavs 116 - Sixers 105

The Cavaliers take game three when Kyle Korver returns from a sprained ankle to give the Cavs 12, and Derrick Rose turns into pre-injury Rose with 19/6/3.

Cavs 143 - Sixers 98

That got out of hand. A 10 point Cavalier halftime lead exploded in the second half when Cleveland dropped 36 and 39 in each quarter. The Sixers...didn’t, leading to a 45 point loss, punctuated by a LeBron James triple-double and 42 points from IT. It didn’t help that the Cavs shot 20-30 from three on the night.

Sixers 98 - Cavs 97

The Sixers flirted with losing a lead, after being up 8 at the half, winning by only a single point in the end. After shooting the lights out from range in game four, the Cavs hit only 2 of their 14 attempts this time, and the Sixers were bolstered by double-doubles from both Simmons and Embiid.

Cavs 107 - Sixers 106

A nail-biter ends in a one-point Cavaliers victory after Cleveland blew a 14 point lead late in the game. The Cavs have LeBron and IT to thank for 61 of their 107 points, while a 13/8/6 line from Danilo Gallinari didn’t hurt either.

Sixers 129 - Cavs 116

Markelle Fultz had 2 points, Joel Embiid fouled out in just 16 minutes (which led to 16 minutes of Jeff Withey), and the Sixers won. How? A 41-point 3rd quarter, and a 33-point 4th, that’s how. Fultz did have 9 assist to go along with those 2 points. Durant put up a 32 point and 11 rebound double-double. Ben Simmons had 14 points, 6 rebounds, and 15 assists. Dario Saric scored 21 points. That was enough. Now, a Sixers team that has been without their third-leading scorer for most of the playoffs (Covington) is headed to the NBA Finals. They’ll face the Houston Rockets, who beat the Golden State Warriors in their own seven-game series out West.

NBA FINALS

Sixers 102 - Rockets 101

James Harden went into full-facilitator mode to dish 11 assists, while Chris Paul dropped 23 and Seth Curry’s 16 brought the game down to the wire. But a 10-25 three-point barrage from the Sixers helped the team overcome Joel Embiid’s second-straight foul out. Durant scored 29 points, Porter had 20/10 right out of bed, and Simmons posted a quiet 8/5/7.

Sixers 120 - Rockets 97

As if he read all of your tweets on the matter, Joel Embiid notched 5 fouls but survived the game with 18 points and 12 rebounds in 29 minutes to go along with Durant’s 28, Porter’s 22, and Dario’s 16 points, 9 rebounds, and team-high +/- of 33. Simmons’ 11 assists helped the team while the rest of his gam didn’t, as he posted only 4 points and 4 rebounds.

Sixers 129 - Rockets 122

As was often the case with the pre-Durant Sixers, Dario Saric stepped up when no one else would, scoring 22 points on 7-10 from the floor to go along with 8 rebounds. Markelle Fultz reminded people he exists with a 12/12 double-double on 5-8, and Ben Simmons rejoined the double-digit club with 16/5/7. 60% of the Rockets’ shots were attempted by Eric Gordon, Chris Paul, and James Harden. While all were pretty efficient, no one else on the team decided to make an appearance.

Rockets 113 - Sixers 97

As the Sixers were perhaps getting a little too confident in their 3-0 start, the Rockets did what the Rockets do and shot 55% from three point range, ending the game with their largest lead of the night. The Sixers had all of their starters in double-digits (even if Ben Simmons fouled out this time after 27 minutes), but it simply wasn’t enough. Eric Gordon, Seth Curry, and James Harden shot a combined 13-18 from three.

Sixers 116 - Rockets 112

Though it got a little hairy at the end, the Sixers had this win - the clincher for the NBA title - in hand most of the night. They led by as much as 14 and only trailed by 6 at the most. The battle was won down low, as the Sixers outscored Houston in the paint 48-28 and won despite their old weakness - turnovers - showing its ugly head 20 times. James Harden’s 40 points on 17 shots wasn’t enough. Eric Gordon’s 6 threes weren’t enough. And the story of the game for the Sixers, as it’s been all season, was sharing the ball. No player surpassed 20 points, but six had at least a dozen. Six players had at least 4 assists. No one player attempted more than 13 shots. It was a team victory, and it’s a team championship.

Finals MVP: Kevin Durant

22.6 pts / 6.4 rebounds / 4 assists on 55.9% from three in 5 games

Your NBA Championship roster:

PG - Ben Simmons (85), TJ McConnell (76), Mike James (G-League, 75)
SG - Markelle Fultz (80), Tony Allen (75), TLC (74)
SF - Kevin Durant (97), Robert Covington (81), Michael Porter Jr. (81), Furky (72)
PF - Dario Saric (80), Amir Johnson (77), Luc Mbah a Moute (73)
C - Joel Embiid (91), Richaun Holmes (77), Jeff Withey (75)

Lottery

Though NBA Champs, the Sixers still have a vested interest in Sacramento’s lottery standing, since a #1 pick will keep it in Philly, and any other outcome would send it to Boston. They enter the Lottery having just missed the playoffs, with a 0.5% at the top pick. It doesn’t move. The Sixers, through the trade with the Celtics for last year’s #22 pick, also own a top-5 protected Memphis pick. It sits at #2, and that’s where it stays. Sixers have pick #30.

With the NBA Title in hand and the Hinkie-era Kings pick gone, I’m gonna call it here. Due to deals made, the Sixers also own:

  • Grizzlies’ unprotected first in 2020
  • Lottery protected Knicks first in 2021
  • Kings unprotected 1st in 2021
  • Top-3 protected Rockets 1st in 2021

It’s almost unfair.

So, to catch up:

Sim 1: Hands-On resulted in 2020 NBA Champs.

Sim 2: Hands-Off resulted in 2021 NBA Champs.

Sim 3: Win Now and Fire Brett, somehow (Kevin Durant) resulted in 2019 NBA Champs, and the fewest injuries in any sim by far. Win now and Fire Brett is our winner, for now.

Next week I’ll be doing one final sim where, as I said above, chaos will reign. There will be rule changes. There will be expansion teams. Cats will befriend dogs. Thealary cap may disappear, and I’m taking suggestions on how to close this all out. Let me know below or on twitter.

P.S. (Post-Sim): I kept going a bit, without taking notes. Sixers went to the NBA Finals again in 2020, lost in 7 games to the Rockets. Went for a third straight year in 2021, won in 5 games against the Kings. I guess digital Vlade was a genius after all. Due to trades, Sixers had picks #8, #22, #28, and #30 in the 2021 draft.