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A Simulated Path Into the Sixers’ Future(s): Part 2

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With the hands-on approach, I took the Sixers to an NBA Title in 2020, but what if I let go?

A couple of days ago, I laid out a plan to Black Mirror the Sixers’ future. Essentially, I would simulate the Sixers’ future in NBA2k18 using a couple of different methods to see which is the best approach going forward. First, I took a patience-first approach, not jumping at huge free agents, not making risky trades, and keeping the core (and the coach together. That’s right here, but here’s a super quick summary of how part 1 went:

2017-2018: 48-34

Somehow weasel their way into the NBA Finals where they’re swept by the Warriors. Draft Mo Bamba at #9 with Lakers pick. Sign Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Nick Young (who I called Nick Williams twice for some reason), and Ersan Ilyasova. Trade TLC for future 1st. Trade Jerryd Bayless and a protected 1st for a protected 1st.

2018-2019: 53-29

Eliminated by the #7 seed Celtics in the first round. Draft a made-up person at #26. Sign Will Barton to a three-year deal after trading KCP for Ike Anigbogu and a first.

2019-2020: 57-25

Brett brown wins Coach of the Year. Beat Atlanta in 7 in the first round, then beat Chicago in 6. Played Boston in a nail-biting ECF and won in 7. Went up 3-0 in the Finals against the Rockets, nearly blew it, won in 7. NBA Champs.

In Sim 2, I am taking a 100% hands-off approach, allowing the game itself to run the Sixers’ day-to-day operations, never once stepping in to interfere Before we go ahead, a couple of quick reminders:

  • 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.

Each post will be it’s own part because these things take a pretty long time and if I crammed them all into one, it’ll be a near-unreadable barrage of words, transactions, and weirdness. Also this time around because the actual handling of the team took less time (because I didn’t do it), I actually did more writing and research into how the team did, and that just mae me wish I did more of it the first time. Sorry.:

SIM 2 - HANDS OFF

2018

January (8-4)

  • Markelle Fultz returns 1/20 against the Raptors, scoring 22 pts, dishing 7 assists, grabbing 6 rebounds, and going 2-2 from long range.

February (4-7)

  • Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid All-Star reserves.
  • Team stays put at trade deadline.

March (9-7)

  • Joel Embiid hyper-extended right knee (1-2 weeks).

April (4-3)

  • Ouch.

Season Recap

  • Rookie of the Year - Ben Simmons
  • Ben Simmons AND Joel Embiid make All-NBA 3rd Team
  • Ben Simmons All-Rookie 1st Team
  • Joel Embiid 19.5 pts/9.5 rebounds/1.9 blocks (5th in the NBA)
  • JJ Redick 14.5 pts on 39.1% from 3
  • Ben Simmons 17.2 pts/8 rebounds/6.8 assists/1.5 steals
  • Markelle Fultz 11.6 pts/6.2 assists and 36.7% from 3 (only 60 attempts) in 48 games (44 starts)

Playoffs?

6th seed in the East (42-40).

Drew a 3rd seed Cavaliers team in the first, and lose in 6 games. Houston Rockets win the NBA title.

Lottery

The Lakers enter in the 5th spot with an 8.8% shot at the number one overall pick. The Kings hop up to #1, and the Lakers pick falls to #7, keeping it with the Sixers and moving their pick commitment to BOS until 2019. Sixers also have pick #17.

Draft

Marvin Bagley goes #1 overall to Sacramento, and we’ll see how that plays into their pick in 2019. The Sixers, at #7, land Luka Doncic. They take former Mega Leks man Kostja Mushidi at #17. They, again, take Grayson Allen in the 2nd along with two other players. They decline to sign all three 2nd rounders.

Free Agency

Team picks up options on T.J. McConnell and Richaun Holmes. In free agency they offer- and I cannot believe I am typing this - Carmelo Anthony a three-year $80 million contract that is mercifully matched by the Thunder. No one steps in the way when they sign Jeff Green to a three-year, $29 million deal.

2019

PG - Ben Simmons (84), TJ McConnell (75), Jerryd Bayless (70)
SG - Markelle Fultz (79), Luka Doncic (78), Kostja Mushidi (73), TLC (71)
SF - Robert Covington (80), Jeff Green (79), Justin Anderson (73), Furkan Korkmaz (70)
PF - Dario Saric (79)
C - Joel Embiid (89), Richaun Holmes (76)

October/November (9-9)

  • Hinkie back?
  • Richaun Holmes strained right MCL (1-2 weeks).

December (5-10)

  • Joel Embiid pulled lower back muscle (4-6 weeks).
  • Dario Saric BROKEN RIGHT THIGH on December 2nd (6-8 weeks).

January (9-7)

  • Luke Doncic twisted right ankle (1-2 weeks).

February (5-6)

  • Dario returns February 3rd.
  • Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons both All-Star reserves.
  • Ben Simmons is in the dunk contest, which Marquese Chriss wins.

March (11-3)

  • Robert Covington broken nose (4-6 weeks).

April (3-5)

  • Joel Embiid left arm hairline fracture (4-6 weeks).
  • Covington “aggravates” broken nose, will miss 2 more weeks. REALISM.

Season Recap

  • Joel Embiid All-NBA 2nd team
  • Luka Doncic All-Rookie 1st team
  • Embiid 18.6/9.4/2 blocks
  • Ben Simmons puts up 17.5/7.6/7.8
  • Markelle 10 pts/7 assists and shoots 40% from 3 (85 total attempts)
  • Luka Doncic averages 12.2/4.3/3.5 while shooting 34.7% from 3

Playoffs

5th seed in the East (42-40).

Facing the 4th seed Wizards in the first round, with no Embiid or Covington, the Sixers pull out the series win in 6 games. They move on to face the 1 seed Cavaliers, and Joel Embiid returns just before game 1, which they lose. Covington comes back for game 2, which they also lose, before rattling off 4 in a row. They now face the 6th seed Raptors in the Eastern Conference Finals, who they sweep.

They enter the 2019 NBA Finals facing off against a Golden State Warriors team that has lost one game all playoffs. The Sixers have lost 4. Warriors win game one by 20. Sixers take game two by 1 point (behind a Thomas Robinson playoff double-double) and game three by 2 points (JoJo with a cool 23/8/5). Warriors tie it up and win game four by a single point in what is turning into the greatest fake NBA Finals of all time. Warriors take game five by 17 points, Sixers take game 6 by 12 (25/13/10 for Ben, 25/0/1 for Doncic). It all comes down to game 7 and oh wow why am I sweating?

The Warriors take game 7, predictably, as a combined 67 from Durant and Curry cannot be matched by a Sixers team that turned the ball over 22 times. What a heart breaker.

Lottery

The Kings pick has the third best odds for #1, while the Sixers pick isn’t in the lottery. It’s #1 or it belongs to Boston, and ... [clicks Sim Lottery] ... it’s #4 so it belongs to the Celtics. Sixers pick at 17 once again.

In between Lottery and Draft, the Sixers lose Lloyd Pierce and hire some dude named Barney Rowe to a three-year contract, with one year remaining on Brett Brown’s contract.

Draft

Sixers use pick #17 on sharpshooting wing Coby Washington, and snag Ukranian big man Artem Kolomak on a stash deal in the later part of the 2nd round. He has a mullet.

Free Agency

The options for Simmons, Fultz, and Saric are picked up. Korkmaz and TLC’s are declined. The team extends a qualifying offer to Justin Anderson. They renounce the rights to Jerryd Bayless. The team signs Bobby Portis (80) a three-year, $59 million deal. Richaun Holmes re-signs for three-years,$18 million. TJ McConnell signs for a one-year deal. Adrein Payne and Terrence Jones are added near league minimum.

2020

PG - Ben Simmons (87), TJ McConnell (76)
SG - Markelle Fultz (83), Luka Doncic (82), Kostja Mushidi (74), Coby Washington (67)
SF - Robert Covington (81), Jeff Green (78)
PF - Bobby Portis (80), Dario Saric (79), Terrence Jones (75), Adrein Payne (75)
C - Joel Embiid (89), Richaun Holmes (76)

October/November (12-6)

  • Joel Embiid right knee tendinitis (6-8 weeks).
  • Bobby Portis broken right ankle (6-8 weeks).
  • Sixers extend Dario Saric on fresh three-year, $45.67 million deal.
  • Sixers extend Ben Simmons with a four-year, $110.44 million deal.

December (13-2)

  • Sixers end the year of 2019 at 25-8, the best record in the NBA.
  • Elsewhere in the league, the Heat hired Paul Pierce as their head coach, and Paul Milsap was traded for Ryan Anderson and a top-3 protected 1st.

January (6-6)

  • Sixers somehow escape the entire month with not a single game lost to injury.

February (11-1)

  • Joel Embiid misses the All-Star team but Ben Simmons makes it as a starter for the first time.
  • Ben Simmons faces off in the Dunk Contest against former teammate Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, now with Portland. They both lose.
  • Sixers hold NBA’s best record at the ASB, just like the last sim, and I am sensing a pattern.

March (13-3)

  • Jeff Green right shoulder tendinitis (4-6 weeks).

April (6-3)

  • Luka Doncic deep left thigh bruise (1-3 weeks).

Season Recap

  • Coach of the Year - Brett Brown
  • Ben Simmons All-NBA 2nd team, and all-defensive 2nd team

Playoffs

1st seed in the east (61-21), best record in the NBA.

Face Atlanta, the 8th seed, in the 1st round lost in 7 games.

In my first sim, with me at the reigns taking a patient approach, the Sixers were your 2020 NBA Champions. In this one, leaving fate up to the game itself, that wasn’t the case. Therefore, chant it with me, ONE MORE SEASON! ONE MORE SEASON! ONE MORE SEASON!

Lottery

The Sixers, for the first time what feels like forever, have no standing in the lottery. Pistons/Kings/Spurs get the top 3 picks. Sixers have 29th.

In between the Lottery and Draft, the Sixers make head coaching offers to Brett Brown (whose contract expired), Gregg Popovich, and Quinn Snyder. Brett returns on a three-year deal.

Draft

Sixers take the 7’2” Gus Trent from Kansas - sounds familiar - at #29 overall, grab another stash from Greece named Leftos Alexandris, and bring over former stash Artem Kolomak, who is still mulleted.

Free Agency

Team picks up options for Fultz, Doncic, and Mushidi. They renounce their rights to Terrence Jones. The Sixers sign Shabazz Napier as a backup PG to a two-year, $17 million deal. TJ McConnell, obviously angry at the lack of an offer from the Sixers, signs with the Lakers. This hurt me to type.

2021

PG - Ben Simmons (90), Shabazz Napier (78)
SG - Markelle Fultz (88), Luka Doncic (85), Kostja Mushidi (75), Coby Washington (70)
SF - Robert Covington (81), Jeff Green (76)
PF - Dario Saric (80), Bobby Portis (80), Artem Kolomak (71)
C - Joel Embiid (89), Richaun Holmes (77), Gus Trent (67)

October/November (15-4)

  • Robert Covington strained right MCL (2-4 weeks).
  • Sixers extend Markelle Fultz on a four-year, $112.42 million deal.
  • Sixers open the season with 8 wins before losing their first game.
  • Sixers trade Richaun Holmes straight up for Bam Adebayo. Is a team with no TJ and no Richaun even a team?

December (7-7)

  • Robert Covington torn right hamstring (1-2 months).

January (13-2)

  • Dario Saric severe right ankle sprain (4-6 weeks).

February (7-3)

  • Before dropping a game to the Celtics on February 9th, the Sixers strung together 14 consecutive wins.
  • Sixers are 41-16 at the All-Star Break, once again holding the best record in the East, second only to the 44-14 Mavericks, who are carried by Kyrie Irving, Jordan Bell, Miles Bridges, and Jahlil Okafor.
  • Ben Simmons is the leading vote-getter in the All-Star game, marking his 4th appearance. Joel Embiid makes his 3rd. Markelle Fultz makes his 1st.
  • Bobby Portis broken nose, hopefully not punched (4-6 weeks).

March (13-4)

  • Markelle Fultz twisted right knee (1-2 weeks).

April (4-3)

  • A different player leads the Sixers in scoring in each of their wins (Embiid, Simmons, Saric, Doncic).

Season Recap

  • Brett Brown wins his second-straight Coach of the Year award.
  • Ben Simmons All-NBA 2nd team and All-Defensive 1st team.
  • Ben Simmons leads the Sixers in points for the first time, with 18.2 per game to go with 8.6 rebounds, 7.9 assists, and 1.6 steals with a 56.2% FG. He attempts 15 threes.
  • Joel Embiid puts up 17.3/7.8/3.5 assists and 2 blocks (3rd in the NBA).
  • Markelle averages 14.6/7.7 assists/4.0 rebounds and shoots 55.6% from the floor (33% from 3 on 115 attempts).
  • Doncic scores 13.9 pts per game and snags 1.5 steals 1.5.
  • Dario scores 11.9 pts, grabs 5.5 rebounds, and shoots 36.4% from long range.
  • Robert Covington leads the team in 3pt% at 40.2 and scores 11.7 points per game.
  • Sixers are 2nd in ORtg, 5th best in DRtg, and lead the league in Net Rating with +9. They attempt 28.1 free throws per 100 posessions (1st), average 35 assists per 100 (1st), grab 51.4 rebounds (3rd), and 9.2 steals (3rd).

Playoffs

The 1st seed in the East (59-23).

Sixers take the 8th seeded Nets in the first round in 6 games, take the 5th seed Milwaukee Bucks in 5 games in the second round, and are 1-0 in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Orlando Magic when Ben Simmons breaks his ankle. After dropping two straight in the absence of their best player, the Sixers take three right back, winning those three games by a total of 14 points. They head to the NBA Finals, just as Joel Embiid begins to suffer from back spasms.

Before going down, Ben Simmons was averaging 16.3 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 7.3 assists, while shooting 59.9% from the floor. Embiid will attempt to play through the back spasms, and continue his line of 18.2/6.9/3.4 and 2.5 blocks. Out in the West, the 7th seeded Oklahoma City Thunder took the top-seeded Orlando Magic Houston Rockets to seven games and squeaked their way into the finals behind 34 from Russell Westbrook and 21 from...uh...Victor Oladipo (who signed back with the Thunder in free agency). They were also helped on the boards by former Sixers playoff legend Thomas Robinson.

The Thunder take game one by 1 point as Thaddeus Young drops 15 for the Thunder, and Luka Doncic leads the Embiid-less Sixers with 25 on 4-7 from long range. The Sixers take game two by 2 points behind 15 points from a returning Joel Embiid. Game three also belongs to the Sixers as Doncic steps up once again, posting 24 points on 12 shots and dishing 8 assists. Embiid puts up a double-double (13 points/11 boards), and Shabazz Napier notches 11 assists in the absence of Ben Simmons.

Game four gets a little testy as the Sixers blow a 12 point halftime lead and have to finish off the Thunder by 3 in overtime. Six Sixers post double-digit points, while Bobby Portis also grabs 15 rebounds and Doncic again leads the team in scoring (19 points, tied with Fultz). It’s enough to win even though Westbrook puts up a 13/11/14 triple-double (in 47 minutes) and his backcourt counterpart Oladipo drops 26.

Game five is the Sixers chance to right the wrongs of years past and win the franchise’s fourth NBA title in front of a home crowd. Joel Embiid, right on time, had his best game of the series, posting 24 points, 12 rebounds, 3 assists, a steal, and four big blocks. Westbrook put the Thunder on his back, as he often does, and put up 18/13/9, just an assists shy of a triple-double, though he went 0-4 from long range. Though the game went back and forth (and the Sixers once led by 9), the Thunder entered the fourth quarter with a 66-64 lead. Then, the floodgates opened. Both teams shot the lights out in the fourth, neither bowing to defeat. It was the first game all series where both teams shot above 30% from three (39% for OKC, 42% for the Sixers). But in the end, the Sixers were on the better end of a 40-36 fourth quarter and confetti rained down upon back-to-back Coach of the Year Brett Brown, three-time All-Star Joel Embiid, surging star Luka Doncic, and a medical-booted Ben Simmons. The Philadelphia 76ers are your 2021 NBA Champions.

Luka Doncic held the Finals MVP trophy at center court after posting 18.8 points, 4.2 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 1.6 steals, and 47.6% shooting from three while keeping the Sixers afloat after losing Ben Simmons and working with an 81% Joel Embiid. Your NBA Championship roster:

PG - Ben Simmons (90), Shabazz Napier (80)
SG - Markelle Fultz (90), Luka Doncic (86), Kostja Mushidi (77), Coby Washington (72)
SF - Robert Covington (81), Jeff Green (77)
PF - Dario Saric (81), Bobby Portis (81), Artem Kolomak (72)
C - Joel Embiid (90), Bam Adebayo (80), Gus Trent (69)

So in the sim where I took control, the Sixers won the title in 2020. In this one, they won in 2021. In Sim 3, we’ll be firing Brett Brown right off of the bat and taking a more win-now approach to the team, taking it until we win an NBA title or 2021, whichever comes first. Sim 4 will be pure mayhem. Check back in then.