Is it Still Worth Trusting the Sixers “Process”?
It's one of the most polarizing debates in all of sports.
Do you agree with the Sixers "Process"?
Essentially, then Sixers GM Sam Hinkie, began to dismantle what was a mediocre team, referred to by many in NBA circles as being stuck in purgatory. Hinkie traded away many players who were good, solid NBA players, but not stars. His goal was to take the team to the bottom of the NBA standings, while adding high draft picks, giving the team the ability to get their hands on top level incoming NBA talent.
Many people expressed disgust, saying "you play to win," no matter what.
Fans of "The Process" maintain, they tried to win, they just put a team on the floor that simply wasn't talented enough. In doing so, the team began to search for pieces that might someday be able to become NBA players, guys like Robert Covington and T.J. McConnell are two products of being able to play NBA minutes without the extreme need to win games now. While evaluating cheaper talent, they were also grabbing high draft picks in an effort to find a superstar level of play that is essential to win in the NBA.
I almost immediately become a fan of what the Sixers were trying to accomplish, finally a direction, finally a chance to get out of NBA purgatory.
Instead of banging their heads against the wall year-after-year, the Sixers looked at themselves in the mirror and admitted they had a problem and needed to hit rock bottom.
Consider since their improbable run to the 2000-2001 NBA finals, the Sixers have qualified for the playoffs just seven times, winning just two playoff rounds. Go further back to the 1991-1992 season and the Sixers have been to the playoffs just 10 times, winning seven rounds overall, three of which came in 2000-2001.
The one time the Sixers made any noise and won some playoff rounds you ask?
When they had Allen Iverson. Who was, you guessed it, drafted No. 1 overall.
While drafting high gives the team no guarantee for success, as the Sixers well know, they did of course draft Shawn Bradley and Evan Turner in the No. 2 overall position. It does give you much better odds of success then being say the No. 5, 7 or 8 seed to win a title - which since the start of the NBA is 0.0%
So when a listener asked me a question via twitter the other day, I thought it was a great question to show you the reason that I think the way I do about the Sixers and "The Process".
I have maintained all along that, while I am not a fan of all the losing, I do understand why they choose to go this route.
Here is mine and why I think they way I do about "The Process".
I have more hope and optimism for the future by drafting in the lottery, particularly the top three, over being in the playoffs as the seventh or eighth seed for one simple reason - math.
The chances of the Sixers finding top level talent drafting in the top three is better than the percentage chance that a No. 7 or 8 seed have of winning a playoff round, let-alone a NBA title.
Consider since the NBA began back in 1947 the No. 5, 7 and 8 seeds have never won a NBA title, according to sportingcharts.com.
- #1 Seed: 49 (72.1%)
- #2 Seed: 10 (14.7%)
- #3 Seed: 7 (10.3%)
- #4 Seed: 1 (1.5%)
- #6 Seed: 1 (1.5%)
- #5, 7, 8 Seeds: 0 (0.0%)
Of 68 title winners, only two didn't finish as a top three seed in the league, the '69 Boston Celtics and the '95 Houston Rockets are the only two teams that finished lower than a three seed to capture the Larry O'Brien trophy.
Meanwhile, finding top level talent, to help you become a No. 1 or 2 seed has a much higher percentage of happening, if you are picking in the top three picks in the draft.
Think LeBron James and Kyrie Irving, Tim Duncan and David Robinson, Shaquille O'Neal, and Magic Johnson a guys who have NBA championships while being No. 1 overall picks. The No. 2 spot hasn't been nearly as kind, but it still produced players like Kevin Durant, Jason Kidd, Alonzo Mourning, and Gary Payton.
The point is getting a chance to get players of this caliber, like the Sixers think they did with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, should give you a better chance at finishing as a top three seed rather than a No. 7 or 8 seed.
"Its a smart way to think," said Philly.com and Inquirer columnist Mike Sielski recently on the Sports Bash. "The league incentives this, a single superstar has so much power to affect a team's outcome in the NBA more so than any other sport."
Most of those 66 teams that finished as the top three seeds, most likely had a player on the team that was drafted if not in the top three, in the lottery. The more opportunities you have to get your hands on top level, lottery talent, the better you percentage is to become a better team, and earn a top three seed.
So why have many fans almost accepted losing as a way to improve a team's chance of winning down the road?
"I think fans are more knowledgeable now-a-days," Sielski explained. "The internet has given them information in volume and quality that they never had before."
Sielski notes the fact that only 10 NBA teams have won a title since 1984.
"That speaks to the value of getting incredibly great players," Sielski stated. "So, if a team takes the route that we're going to be bad, so we can be good, I think fans recognize that's probably a better way to go than be the Atlanta Hawks."
"There is a smart way to be bad and it will help you get good in the long term," Sielski continued.
Who knows what Hinkie's plan for Nerlens Noel, Jahlil Okafor and others were when he drafted them? To me, Hinkie's plan was all about taking the best player available until he found his star, while adding as many chances to select top level talent as possible. He had two picks in 2013, two more in 2014, he got another high pick in exchange for Michael Carter-Williams, a player he felt was good, but not a star. He gave the Sixers two more picks in 2019, the more chances to draft players, the more chances to find a star and if the team is starting to win, he has the ammunition to allow then to continue to add and get better with young talent.
Noel became expendable, because he was going to ask, and most likely get from another team, a very high paid salary. But with Hinkie's stock-pile of second-round picks, came Richaun Holmes, an active, athletic big-man that could back-up Embiid for a fraction of Noel's price.
People knock and are tired of hearing the word assets, but they eventually turn into talent, and if you are in the lottery enough times, they might eventually turn into top level, franchise changing talent.
Meanwhile, still no No. 5, 7 or 8 seed has won a title.
The one issue with the Sixers rebuild as I explained on the Sports Bash on Friday's show is almost like the movie Back to the Future. Sam Hinkie is Marty McFly and has the idea to grab Grey's Sports almanac and to have long term success. When old Biff gets his hands on the almanac, it ended up creating an alternative 1985 - and that's when Bryan Colangelo comes in.
Marty's plans for what he did with the almanac are probably much different than Biff's plans for the almanac. Just like Hinkie's plans for the Process may be much different than what Colangelo's may be.
So while much of what the Sixers have done has been frustrating, bad basketball, non-transparent, and might not even work, it is basic math that your chances are still better than the alternative.
So, I choose to trust the process.