How ‘The Process’ Led the Sixers to James Harden
Trust the process.
For years 'The process' has been debated. Some loved it, some hated it.
Did it work or is it still working?
For me, 'The Process' was more of a business decision, meant to re-energizer the Sixers apathetic fan base that was tired of perpetual first-round playoff exits. From 2002–13, the Sixers made the postseason six times and missed the playoffs in five seasons.
It was also done with the intent that mistakes were going to made (and plenty were), draft picks were going to be busts (and plenty were), but getting multiple picks, in multiple drafts would give you a better opportunity to find a super star level player that is needed in the NBA to win a NBA title.
Enter Sam Hinkie.
The Process was the mastermind of Hinkie, who essentially turned the Sixers into an expansion team, ripping the team to the studs and starting from scratch.
Hinkie was hired, and promptly traded the teams All-Star guard, Jrue Holiday, for a first-round draft pick that turned into Nerlens Noel and later in that draft selected point guard Michael Carter-Williams.
Noel sat out his first season and Carter-Williams won the NBA Rookie of the Year award before being sent packing for future draft picks.
At that point, the writing was on the wall.
Hinkie saw Carter-Williams as a flawed player and took the chance at more picks to try and find a franchise leading star that every NBA team needs to compete for a title.
In his second crack at the draft, Hinkie landed Joel Embiid and Dario Saric, both missed their first two full seasons, while the team continued to pile up losses. The losses led them to another Top 3 pick, landing another center, Jahlil Okafor.
Okafor had a solid first season, but the team struggled their way to just 10 wins, which gave them the No. 1 overall prize in the draft, Ben Simmons. With the pain of losing 72 games, the Sixers essentially forced Hinkie out the door in the middle of the 2016-17 season, replacing him with father-son duo of Jerry and Bryan Colangelo.
Colangelo selected Simmons, who like many of the top picks before him, missed his first full season. However after two full seasons on the sidelines, fans finally got to see Embiid and Saric on the floor, getting a glimpse of what was to come.
The following year, the Sixers with Embiid, Saric and Simmons, went from 28 to 52 wins and made the playoffs, winning a first-round series and setting the foundation for future success.
The team won 52 games and won a playoff series and also had the No. 3 draft pick from a past deal Hinkie made with Sacramento.
The future seemed bright, but Colangelo made a deal with the devil, trading the No. 3 pick to the Sixers biggest rival, the Boston Celtics. Colangelo moved up to the No. 1 spot to take Markelle Fultz. The team also sent another first-round pick for the right to swap spots. Boston landed Jayson Tatum, who has turned into a perennial All-Star, while Fultz has been traded and made a minor NBA impact since being selected No. 1 overall.
Colangelo was gone after a bizarre 'burner-gate' scandal involving fake twitter accounts set up by his wife, that was critical of Hinkie and Sixers players, and defended the work of her husband.
Brett Brown took over and traded away Mikal Bridges in exchange for another shot in the draft, along with Zhaire Smith. Bridges has gone on to become a keep player on the top team in the league, while Smith is out of the league. The pick was used as part of a trade the brought Tobias Harris to Philadelphia the following season.
Elton Brand replaced Brown as the teams top decision maker and made more trades. Brand brought in various pieces to try and find the right combination around Simmons and Embiid. They added Jimmy Butler in a November deal and added Tobias Harris right before the deadline, which ended in a disappointing Game 7 loss to the eventual NBA champion Toronto Raptors.
Butler left for Miami and the Sixers gave Harris a max-deal to remain and went to 'bully ball', adding a former nemesis, Al Horford. The pairing with Embiid did not work and Horford was sent packing after just one season.
Brown was fired after a first-round sweep by Boston and the team hired Doc Rivers and then brought in Daryl Morey to be the teams top decision maker.
Rivers led the team to the No. 1 seed in the conference, but a disappointing Game 7 loss to the No. 5 seeded Atlanta Hawks led the team to where they are today. Simmons asked out and the team held firm that they wanted a top-level star in return.
The team played well without Simmons, allowing Morey to sit on his hands and wait for exactly what he wanted -- James Harden.
Harden is in Philadelphia, not because of the great cuisine, culture and history that the city offers. Harden is in Philly because he trusts Morey. Harden is in Philly because he believes Embiid is that top-level super star that is needed to win a NBA championship.
Morey doesn't come to Philly without Embiid and Simmons, who were both products of 'The Process'. Harden doesn't come to Philly without Morey.
So while many think 'The Process' was a failure or has been over, it remains a key part of the Sixers we see today.
It was meant to find a super star -- Embiid is exactly that. He attracted Morey, who attracted Harden.
Hopefully it accomplishes what many had hope for when it started -- an NBA title.