From 2013-2016, the Philadelphia 76ers very carefully configured the worst possible rosters the league had to offer. Thus giving them the opportunity to lose a lot of basketball games. This was no accident. The construction was all the idea of the team's General Manager Sam Hinkie.
This man had a vision for the Sixers, and that was to create a title contender in the most frowned upon way; Lose on purpose. This gave the team the chance to garner assets from contending teams, add value to their own assets, and put themselves in the best position to draft the world's best young players.
Hinkie was criticized relentlessly, while living through the motto "Trust The Process." But he knew what he was getting himself into. His job was to go in there and be the one bold enough to put this plan into fruition. He was the sacrificial lamb.
It's April 13th, 2016 and the Sixers have just finished their season with a 10-72 record. They lost 27 of their last 29 games to put one final beautiful disastrous bow and the finishing touches on the end of an era.
Three months later, with the first pick in the draft that they had so rightfully (yet so wrongfully) earned, they added one final piece to their broken puzzle. After stockpiling top picks and taking their chances in the draft, they added Ben Simmons to go along with Joel Embiid. Creating a bright future, and a glimmer of hope for all of those who stuck around through all the losing.
Although Hinkie's tenure had ended, his work was not done. Every choice he made ultimately lies within Joel Embid. Hinkie drafted Embiid while he had a broken foot, knowing that his potential could change the future of the team forever. He is the reason they lost on purpose. He is the one piece they were looking to start their rebuild around. He is The Process.
Through all those years of losing, many critics believed it was not the way to build a contender. A culture of losing will only create more losing. Losing on purpose was irresponsible, and cowardly. Not putting yourself in the best position to contend every year was a slap in the face of the NBA. There's no way it was going to work.
Markelle Fultz was supposed to be the team's bad karma. He was supposed to be the big swing and miss that would derail all of the work that Hinkie had created. But the team's new General Manager Elton Brand could see this situation for what it was; Fluid.
In one of his first interviews in his new position, he was forward and honest about his role throughout the entire process. Which clearly began when he was brough back as a player just 4 years ago.
When Sam Hinkie took me to breakfast and said he wanted me to mentor some of the younger guys on the team, I saw something special. I wanted to be a part of that. I was allowed to be a part of that, and it's turning out just as I thought it would.
This was the plan from the beginning. Hinkie showed Brand the ropes, and now he is the one orchestrating the future of the process. This is what they did it for. This moment.
There has been no better time for the Sixers to create a contending squad than right now. They have an All-Star in Ben Simmons, who is averaging nearly a triple-double, has an extremely high field-goal percentage, and has over 30 double-doubles on the season. They have Joel Embiid who is an All-Star starter, an MVP candidate, and the best big man in the game. The window to get to the championship is right now.
Brand knew the team needed to add a third star in order to be taken seriously as a contender. He traded two fan favorites in Robert Covington and Dario Saric to bring their star in Jimmy Butler to the squad.
Then he had the blockbuster trade to land another budding star in Tobias Harris. He has only been the leading scorer for a Western Conference playoff caliber team in the Los Angeles Clippers while shooting with incredible efficiency from three-point range.
And finally, getting rid of the bad karma in Markelle Fultz in exchange for future assets and a strong bench player in Johnathan Simmons. The fact that he is now someone else's problem allows the Sixers to focus on the task at hand; getting to the NBA Finals.
The new criticism for the Sixers is that they are wagering their future on the backs of Jimmy Butler, Tobias Harris, and JJ Redick. What if they all leave in free agency? What if only one wants to stay? What if this plan blows up in their face?
We already know what Ben and Joel are capable of, and having them both in the youth of their prime is time that can't be spent wasted on kicking the can down the road. By creating a starting five as potent as this one, they now have the chance fulfill The Process.
The future of the team is no longer in the equation. They lived in the "Play for the future" world far too long. This is what all of that losing was for. The future is now for the Philadelphia 76ers.
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