The Sixers: Done Processing(?)
The Philadelphia 76ers' telling fans to "Trust The Process" is like your alcoholic friend drunkenly telling you that he's "got it under control". It's time to take the keys away from him and intervene. In fact, if you told me that same friend was behind the wheel of the Sixers the last three years, I would not bat an eye.
The team took some risks that did not pay off. Rather than keeping their 3rd overall pick in 2017, they traded up and selected Markelle Fultz as the first player taken in the draft. From Washington, Fultz was supposed to be the guy that completed "The Process". He was labeled as the "Karl Anthony Towns of point guards", the total offensive package with no weaknesses in his game on that end of the floor. Their original 3rd pick went to Boston and became Jayson Tatum from Duke. One of these players lost the ability to shoot a basketball and has since been traded for Jonathon Simmons and the other is an All-Star and future MVP candidate.
It is easy to shit on the front office for this decision, but Philly is a victim in the Fultz-fiasco. He was the bonafide number-one pick and LOST THE ABILITY TO SHOOT A BASKETBALL. Fuck it, maybe it is the team's fault. Every player they draft magically gets hurt and redshirted their first year. Regardless, they lost this trade big time. Even if the trade never happened and Danny Ainge took Tatum with the first pick (he said he would have), and the Lakers took Fultz with the second pick (Magic Johnson was in love with Fultz and considered trading up), the Sixers would have Lonzo Ball, Josh Jackson, D'Aaron Fox, and Jonathon Isaac to choose from. They might've considered trading down, finding a team to jump on the opportunity to take Lonzo (Pacers were looking to move PG13, maybe they get him?). There's a lot of what-if's. Always fun to go down that road.
The next season the 76ers have the 10th pick in the draft. They chose Mikal Bridges, a Philly native who won a championship at Villanova and who's mom works for the freaking Sixers. What does Philly do? They trade him away on draft night for the rights to Zhaire Smith who has played 13 games the last two seasons and scored 8 points in 7 games this season. Meanwhile Mikal Bridges has emerged as one of the league's best young wing defenders and is hitting 36% of his 3's and showing improvement on that end. He's also a fantastic cutter, and would have fit in well with Simmons at the point.
Shai Gilgeous Alexander was the 11th pick in that draft, FYI.
Other than their drafting woes, the Sixers traded away Dario Saric and Robert Covington for Jimmy Butler, let Jimmy walk for next to nothing (sorry, Josh Richardson), let JJ Redick go for nothing, traded a career 40% 3-point shooter in Landry Shamet for Tobias Harris who shoots worse than Shamet and is forced to play out of position, paid Harris $180 million, and then paid a past-his-prime 34-year-old Al Horford $109 million. Dare I say this is Knicks-level Tomfoolery?
They have no shooting, no spacing, and no interest in playing from their supposed-to-be-superstar Joel Embiid. I'm over hearing him and Simmons can work things out. They just can't. One can't shoot, won't shoot, and can't stay healthy while the other also can't stay healthy and is totally disinterested in half the games he's able to play.
I know Philly took some risks and made some "win now" moves, but let's say they didn't. Let's say they swallowed the Fultz thing but never made those trades. They'd have this starting lineup:
PG: Ben Simmons
SG: JJ Redick
SF: Robert Covington
PF: Dario Saric
C: Joel Embiid
And then with Fultz, Shamet, and Bridges off the bench plus some free agent signings to round things out? That's a 50+ win team for the next 3-5 years if (and I mean IF) Simmons and Embiid can muster 60 healthy games a season.
A part of me feels like I got scammed. I know we all had high hopes for this team as basketball fans but now we must face the reality that maybe there was no final destination and it was always just "a Process".
Follow me on Twitter @DanManCarney and IG @danmancarney. I also have a podcast called "The Dan Show" where I talk hoops and other fun stuff with my friend Jensen Butler from Whistle Sports (@WhistleJensen). That's available on Apple, Spotify, and YouTube.