“The Process” As a Sixers fan, this has been something we have been hearing for a few years now and with Joel Embiid anointing himself, “The Process,” we will hopefully be hearing it for many more. This all began when former GM Sam Hinkie traded Jrue Holiday and a second round pick to the Pelicans for Nerlens Noel and a pick that, after another trade, became Dario Saric. Ever since that trade, the Sixers have been in tank mode to collect superstars. In doing so they purposely lost games and the Adam Silver and other owners are clearly not happy about it. The Sixers traded away players for future assets and loaded their roster with players who wouldn’t make most NBA teams. This year, with Joel Embiid returning from injury and with 2016 number one pick Ben Simmons, it looked like it was finally time to turn things around. Well Ben Simmons ended up out for the whole year and Embiid was limited to 31 games. They finished with a 28-54 record. So why are the Sixers the big winners of the last few weeks of the NBA season and the future is looking so bright?
Even though Joel Embiid was limited to 31 games, he looked like a future star both on and off the court. We all knew that he is a social media master, and his personality in games led people in Philly to fall in love with his style of play and attitude immediately. His play was even better. He looks every part of a future star. Embiid averaged 28,7 points, 11.1 rebounds, 3 assists, 3.5 blocks, and 1.2 steals on 46% shooting and 37% from three. Those stats are insane for someone who is still fairly new to basketball and should only get better. Embiid should be a force inside on both offense and defense for years to come as long as he can stay healthy. He had a minor tear in his meniscus that required surgery, but it has all gone smooth so far and he expects to be back by the start of the season. Regardless of what happens with the rest of the roster, the Sixers have their star and as long as he stays healthy, there is someone they can build and market around.
Ben Simmons has been cleared for 5 vs. 5! This is great news to end the season on. It is nice going into the offseason knowing that he is on track to play at the start of 2017. We have not seen Simmons play but he was a number one pick for a reason and is such a unique talent. His ball handling and passing skills should only make those around him better. The hope is that he is the second star to go along with Embiid.
AS the season went on, especially in January, it looked as though the Sixers were going to finish with right around the tenth worst record. This would have been nice to see the Sixers finally start winning games, but would have hurt their draft position. The Sixers need more talent on the roster and obviously a high draft pick helps that. The front office ended up getting the best of both. They same this roster could win games, but when the injury bug hit, the losses started to pile up. The Sixers started to slowly moving down the standings. It looked like they were going to finish with the fifth worst record. But they lost a few games and the Magic won a couple and going into the last night of the regular season, they had matching records. The Magic played the Pistons and the Sixers played the Knicks, so it looked like if anything Orlando would lose and the Sixers would win. The opposite happened: the Magic won by four and Sixers lost by one. So on the last night of the season the Sixers clinched the fourth worst record, which in this draft, in my opinion, is important. I think this draft has four prospects, Markelle Fultz, Josh Jackson, Jayson Tatum, and Lonzo Ball, in that order, that are significantly better than the rest, so staying in the top four is key. Another important aspect of the last few weeks of the seasons was where the Lakers finished. The Sixers are owed the Lakers’ top three protected pick, which, if not conveyed, becomes an unprotected 2018 first round pick. The Lakers had been sitting with the second worst record for a while now, but after a five game winning streak, clinched the third worst record, as the Suns leapfrogged them. Even though this stills puts them in the top three and the Sixers would not get the pick, it means now that only one team needs to jump over the Lakers in the lottery for them to drop down to the number four pick. The Lakers have a 46.9% chance to stay in the top three. The ideal situation would be the Sixers jumping up to the third pick and the Lakers falling to fourth. Picking up two of the four players I mentioned before would be incredible for this rebuild. The Sixers also have the right to swap picks with the Kings. The Kings, with the eighth worst record, have a 8.2% chance of landing in the top three, which although slim, would likely knock the Lakers out of the top three and the Sixers could still get a top three pick. This is as good of a setup for the draft the Sixers could have hoped for three weeks ago. The NBA has a history of conspiracy theories, especially when it comes to the NBA Draft Lottery. The NBA does better financially when the Lakers are an elite team. The Lakers will also have to convey their 2019 first round pick to the Magic if their 2017 pick goes to the Sixers. If the Lakers keep their pick this year, they just have to send two second round picks to the Magic. This all means that the lottery this year is incredibly important to the Lakers, which in turns means it is important to the NBA financially. I don’t want to think the NBA would rig this and I don’t think they do, but if history is any indication, the Lakers will have their top three pick this year.
The Sixers can have over 50 million dollars in cap space this summer, and even if all the options are picked up and every draft picked used, should still have around 40 million is space. With a roster full of young, talented prospect, they should be looking to spend a significant portion of that rather than bring in more bench depth. They will be tight on roster spots as is. Bringing in a point guard such as Kyle Lowry, a Philly native who played his college ball at Villanova, Jeff Teague, or bringing back Jrue Holiday would be at the top of my wish list. It would be nice to bring in a star such as Gordon Hayward or Blake Griffin, but it does not seem realistic. They will most likely have to overpay a second tier free agent. The Sixers could also hoard cap space with the knowledge that all their high draft picks will have to get paid recently, and instead just sign veterans to short term contracts until those extensions kick in. A big question this summer is going to be around a contract extension for Joel Embiid. He is eligible but having only played 31 games in the first three years of his career, it will be tough to gauge his value. He has looked like a max-contract layer when healthy, but has not really been healthy. Embiid could sign a below market value extension now in exchange for long-term security. This is what happened with Steph Curry. Curry had issues with his ankles and signed a below market deal in exchange for the long-term security. He has stayed healthy and is now currently one of, if the, best bargains in the NBA. Embiid could also play out the 2017-2018 season in hopes that he stays healthy and performs at the same level of played he has showed so far. There is no risk for the Sixers. Embiid would be a restricted free agent after the season and the Sixers would surely match any offer he receives. The only person who is risking anything is Embiid. If he had to sit out the season or missed a bunch of games, he could lose a lot of money.
I have spoken already about the first round picks the Sixers have and could potentially have this year. They will also get the Mavericks 2017 and 2020 second round picks from the Nerlens Noel trade. They will also receive Miami’s second round pick, and depending on how the remaining of the standings play out, two more second rounders. I will update when they are official. They also have seven more second round picks coming in between 2018-2021, with no outgoing picks beside their own 2017 second round pick. The Sixers also own the rights to the Kings’ 2019 unprotected first round pick, which became much more valuable with the DeMarcus Cousins trade. With their current roster makeup, it would not be surprise for that pick to end up top three. They also own the Thunder’s 2020 first round pick, protected 1-20 in 2020, 2021, and 2022. Besides the Celtics, the Sixers have the most enviable collection of draft picks over the next few years.
Other Role Players Currently Under Contract
Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid are most likely the two stars of this roster moving forward. The Sixers also have the draft capital to potential add another couple high ceiling prospects. The Sixers also have just as many young prospects as any other team in the NBA who look like they can be solid contributors. Dario Saric looks like the most important of the bunch. The 12th pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, Saric just finished up his rookie season in the NBA and will be the likely Rookie of the Year. Not to diminish anything Saric has done, but this year’s rookie class was fairly weak and Saric’s stats were inflated from being the offensive focal point of a bad team the second half of the year. Saric has a unique skillset and is somewhat similar to Simmons. Saric is a big man who can pass the ball. He also has a developing three point shot and can bring the ball down in the post. He looks exactly like what you would want in a stretch four. Saric, Simmons, and Embiid are all 6’10” or above and all three can handle the ball and possess vision like point guards. This gives the Sixers flexibility in building the roster around them. Jahlil Okafor was the 3rd pick in the 2015 NBA Draft. It seemed redundant at the time with Embiid and Noel already on the roster, but both were dealing with injuries and Okafor was highly regarded as the best prospect available. It is easy to look back and say they should have taken Kristaps Porzingis or Devin Booker, both who would have been much better fits, those moves would have been ridiculed at the time. Okafor is a center who does not space the floor or protect the rim and players like that are not valued in the modern NBA. He does have a great offensive post game, but it is the kind of style you have to build around. Okafor has no trade value right now and is under his rookie contract for two more years, so they might as well hold onto to him. He is not a bad backup center at all and can start on nights when Embiid needs to rest. Nik Stauskas, Justin Anderson, Robert Covington and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot are all three and d players who you can never have enough of on an NBA team. They are all very young and have room to develop into more than that as well. Considering all the picks the Sixers have coming in, not all of them will be in the long term plan but they will have time to decide who to keep. Richaun Holmes has looked more than capable of being a backup big. He was a second round pick in 2015 and looked like he was going to be stock behind all the other bigs but he played so well that Brett Brown needed to find him minutes. He also makes it so that the Sixers can move on from Okafor if they get a good offer for him and still be comfortable with their reserve big men. The last of the players on the current roster who could be in the long-term plan is T.J. McConnell. McConnell went undrafted in 2015 and worked his way onto the roster and into a starting role this year. We all know Embiid is a big fan of T.J. as is the rest of the team. He came up clutch a few times this year in big moments and doesn’t shy away from the spotlight. It will be interesting to see where he fits into the Sixers plans. Simmons will take away a lot of McConnell’s ball handling duties next year and without a reliable jumper, McConnell will have a tough time function off ball. He could be moved to the bench and given the responsibility of running the second unit. Although not currently under contract, the Sixers used the 26th pick in the 2016 draft on Furkan Korkmaz. He will be 20 at the start of the 2017-2018 season, so he may stay over in Europe one more year. He is a 6’7” wing who can shoot the ball from the outside and is a good athlete, and these types of players are always in demand in the NBA. If nothing else, he can be used in a trade.
The fact that Brett Brown has stood with this team so long and took on the responsibility of overseeing The Process is commendable in itself. But what he was able to do with the roster this past season was even more impressive. If Brett Brown is able to bring in a few more players and take the 2018-2019 Sixers to the playoffs, it will be one of the more impressive coaching jobs done in recent memory. It is nice to see the Sixers front office realize the situation Brown was put in and that they are letting him see out The Process.
All stats from: http://www.basketball-reference.com
All contract info from: http://www.spotrac.com