To put it quite simply, the end of this season sucked. There’s no way around it. A Philadelphia 76ers team that we grew accustomed to watching win by double digits most nights fell flat on its face in a seven-game series to the Atlanta Hawks. I don’t want to take any credit away from Atlanta because they more than deserved to win that series, but everyone knows the Sixers should be far and away the better team. For seven games they played down to their competition and paid the price for sleepwalking through what they thought was an easy series win. It was despicable, but the one thing it made evidently clear is that the Sixers should have no qualms about making a trade for a true superstar to pair with Joel Embiid, even if that means mortgaging the team’s future.
For a large portion of the early season there was a massive debate on whether or not the Sixers should attempt to lure James Harden out of Houston for a package built around Ben Simmons and some of the team’s younger players. As we all know, Harden was traded to the Brooklyn Nets and the Sixers held on to their assets, somehow making everyone believe that keeping Simmons and young role players was a better option than acquiring one of the best scoring guards in NBA history.
Had Harden been traded to Philadelphia, I have no doubt in my mind the team would be headed to its first NBA Finals since 2001. Instead all fans were given was more heartbreak. This cannot happen again.
Now with Ben Simmons’ trade value seemingly at an all time low the Sixers are going to have to piece together packages that will almost assuredly have to include young players like Tyrese Maxey, Matisse Thybulle and potentially Shake Milton along with picks. With the recent news that Damian Lillard might want out of Portland, the Sixers cannot make the same mistake twice. They need to push their chips to the middle of the table and be willing to part with the young guys fans have grown to love.
Once again Damian Lillard proved to be one of the brightest, most clutch stars in the entire league on a team he had to drag with him while Ben Simmons faltered down the stretch, raising more questions about his fit on the team than ever before. Lillard is a year younger than James Harden with two more years of control on his contract than the Nets star. If Lillard is even thinking that his time as a Trail Blazer is over, the Sixers front office needs to be badgering Portland about the point guard every single day.
At this point, after several years of the same outcome, the only mission should be to get Joel Embiid a championship, no matter what the team around him looks like. There’s no more time to wait around for players that have come through the Sixers’ system and have shown “potential to be a star in a few years.” This nucleus doesn’t have a few years to spare, it has to be winning time.
If the Sixers waste Joel Embiid’s prime, the most likely outcome is the exact thing that began The Process: mediocrity. This could end one of two ways, with the Sixers doing everything possible to get Embiid a second bonafide star that can help him lift the Larry O’Brien Trophy, or slipping back into the pack of the Eastern Conference, being good enough to make the playoffs but not exactly good enough to be a true competitor.
I know which route I want the team to take, and to get there it means mortgaging the future in order to win now.