The achilles heel in Sixers rebuild process


The future for the Sixers is undoubtedly very bright..but if you ask a Sixers fan “when will you guys be competing in the playoffs again?” The likely answer will be 3-5 years when in reality it should be “How long is a piece of string?”

I’m fully behind the Hinkie plan, from building up teams on Football Manager made entirely out of youth candidates due to budget restrictions to making scouting notes for this site, I LOVE the idea of starting from the ground up and quite literally trusting the process. In any sport it’s the perfect way to rebuild, but it requires a few things that a lot of people seem to be overlooking.

  1. Patience
  2. Time
  3. Luck
  4. Loyalty
  5. Achievement

It’s easy to talk about next years picks and the long term future of the Sixers,  but we’re forgetting potential injuries and the negative toll that a terrible season could take on a player who’s so young. For the sake of this scenario, imagine you’re big Jah coming towards the end of his contract after holding out to sign an extension. Every year you’ve improved, maybe hit a few milestones and edged closer to some franchise records but the team is still stagnant. It’s gone from 18 wins in a season to 25-35 but the team are still a long way from playoff contention. A big team who have made the post-season in each of the last three years approaches you as your contract comes to an end. Do you stay with the team that drafted you and risk stunting what should be a flourishing NBA Career to be part of a COULD BE team or do you sign with a team that has been there and done it and will continue to do so? Do you go with your heart or do what’s best for your career?

That’s where the first problem comes in. For the Sixers to be successful in this rebuild, it focuses on poaching the elite from the College system over the next few years which is fine. But how long will it be until that team is complete? If in five years time you finally tick all the boxes and one of your bigs has had enough of losing and wants to challenge for a championship how can you stop him?!

The result would be an endless cycle of acquiring an early draft pick, developing him for a few years around a team that has the foundations but  not the substance and then trading him for another early draft pick. The team is getting younger and younger to the point where the entire Sixers roster had played less seasons combined last season than Tim Duncan. If an average stay at the team is 3-5 years because you can’t deliver what you promised then that’s a position you need to replace every 3-5 years and another player you need to nurture and develop which will take even more time.

Sure there will be supporting cast members along the way and we’re already seeing players grow into those roles now. But what will it do for team chemistry when an emerging Point Guard gets shunned as soon as a number 1-3 pick bursts onto the scene. It damages his career and the morale and trust of those around him. But on the flip side if you stay with the hot hand are you potentially stunting the growth of an early pick that your team obviously needs?

If the players aren’t 110% willing to risk non playoff basketball for the first 3-6 years of their NBA career then when they do start to shine, and their contracts run thin, teams will be glued to them. At some point, for this plan to be sustainable the Sixers HAVE to bring in some experience. Whether that’s at PG or whether that’s at a new position hole that will emerge over time, without that experience all you have are guys hungry for championships but are relying completely on the coaching staff to develop their game. Every team needs a leader. A 21 year old in the same boat as the rest of the team leading a group of 19-25 year olds isn’t going to change the team in the same way a proven talent with post-season experience will.

At this rate it almost seems like when the Sixers finally restore their former glory and reach the play-offs, they won’t have a single player who’s been there and done it. The play-offs are a completely different ball game compared to the regular season and that inexperience at some stage or another could prove costly.

That factor is clear in other areas of the game too, especially closing out what should be an easy win. In last night’s loss to the Heat, the Sixers gave up a 15-2 run to lose a game in which they held a double digit lead going into the last quarter. As the gap began to shrink you could see the confidence draining from the faces of players like McConnell as the team desperately searched for an answer, forcing free throws and making silly mistakes. There’s no D-Wade on this team. No superstar who you turn to in a time of need who you know will sink that three or will make that board. Instead the players are turning to eachother, but they’re all in the same boat.

“You can’t win anything with kids” is a saying over here in the UK when talking about Soccer. They’re two different sports but the saying rings true. The achilles heel in trusting the process is that it relies completely on talent coming through the College ranks. What happens if one year there’s a weak draft class and you’re stacked with injuries? What happens if the lottery dictates you miss that key piece by one or two picks? It’s not a 100% guarantee that this team will ever get to where the “process” predicts it will, purely for this reason and this reason alone.

I love this team, I love the idea, I love the process. But it would be ignorant to fail to acknowledge just how risky it is. I would love nothing more than for this team to return to the play-offs and reestablish itself as a giant in the NBA, but unless the Sixers are prepared to intertwine plans and change things up ever so slightly to bring in some experience and find ways to counter the disadvantages then it could be much longer than anticipated before we return to the promised land.