It’s about time that we, as Philadelphia basketball fans, take our heads out of our asses and realize that the future that Sam Hinkie once talked about, seems to finally be here. Well, that’s what the rest of the country and the media might say, as they roasted the 76ers for the past few years over “The Process”. But, it seems like the Sixers will have the last laugh.
Joel Embiid was held out of 5-on-5 competition for the summer and the fear and speculation was that he wouldn’t be healthy, again, for the season. Turns out that the Sixers and Embiid were just hammering out the final details of a massive $148 million dollar extension for him. Embiid returned to the court, albeit against the hapless Nets, and dropped another 20 points and seven rebounds in under fifteen minutes of action.
With a healthy Embiid on the floor, the Sixers are a completely different team that’s able to compete as well as win against the other quality teamsin the league. Are they on par with the Warriors, Cavaliers, Rockets, Spurs or Thunder yet? No. But, and this is the big one, if they can stay healthy, there’s no reason to believe that they won’t be right there in a couple of years.
The Sixers boast one of the potentially best young cores in the league. What other team wouldn’t want a 7-foot player that can average 19 points and 9 rebounds a game, like Jahlil Okafor can? He’s an afterthought and more than likely traded asset on this Sixers team. They’ve taken all the picks and players that Hinkie was hell bent on assembling and quietly developed a deep, young and talented roster.
Take in to account that Embiid, even based on his 31 games last year, should have been the rookie of the year. But, if you remove him from the debate, then Dario Saric was the winner. AS good as Malcolm Brogdon was, Saric outscored and outrebounded him. The assists were close as Saric averaged two less per game, but everything else was the same. The only real issue is that no one was letting anyone from Philly win that award last year. Joel Embiid was, without question, the best rookie last year. Saric, was a close second. Brogdon, while almost equally as good, was only the third best. Yet, he’s the winner of the award, because he’s not from Philly.
The Sixers need this year, to have some players that can work with the quality young core that’s been assembled, so what did they do? They brought in J.J. Reddick and Amir Johnson. While both are still viable NBA players, they’re going to be counted on to teach the younger Sixers what it’s like to be an NBA player and how to improve their games. They’ll provide some punch and leadership to a team that has lacked both in the past few years.
Ben Simmons and Markell Fultz are the two “rookies” that everyone will be watching. Can they work together on the floor? Can Fultx operate off the ball as Simmons is going to be the point guard on this team? They’re the #1 picks form the past two drafts and there are a lot of expectations for both of them. Simmons hasn’t shown a reason to not believe in him, so far in the preseason. His size and athletic ability are astounding and his vision should allow for him to be one of the premier players in the league in the near future. If he and Embiid can play together on the floor, throughout the season, then this duo may be more unstoppable in the next couple of years than anyone had expected or predicted.
What we haven’t spoke of yet, are two players that can really grow their games and develop in to quality players as well. TImothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and Furkan Korkmaz have the talent to become special players, in their own right. TLC showed last year that he could provide some depth and defense with his athletic ability. Korkmaz has shown in the preseason that the Sixers were right when they said he was a gifted shooter.
All of these are questions as well as they are statements as these players need to stay healthy as well as continue to develop in to the players they’re expected to be. But, where does that leave the Sixers as a franchise? On the verge of real greatness. Home grown greatness.
Right now, contrary to people from Boston, the Eastern Conference and the road to the finals there, head through Cleveland. As long as Lebron James is on the court, history has proven this correct over the past seven years, then the Cavs will be in the finals. But, as Lebron gets older and his career starts to wind down the Sixers, if all works out, will be primed to take over the Cavs spot as the top team in the conference. (Remember that they still have quality picks in the next couple of drafts as well, so they’ll be bringing in more talent.)
Can the Sixers make the playoffs this year? It’s not a sure thing, but it’s a safe bet. Beside the Cavs and the Celtics, it’s open season in the Eastern Conference this year. The Sixers should be able to make some real noise and give some of the other teams a real concern when playing them.
Joel Embiid can’t be defended, according to him last night, and guess what? He’s right. The guy can shoot from anywhere on the floor and plays defense like it’s the only thing he’s good at. Ben Simmons will be causing problems all over the court trying his best to emulate Lebron. Fultz should be able to assimilate himself in to the game without the burden of having to be the man while playing for a team that just made him the first overall pick. Dario Saric will come off the bench and is looking at a few sixth man of the year awards. These three alone are cause for alarm to the rest of the conference and the league, but the rest of the roster seems to be just as ready to prove a point.
What’s the point? The Sam Hinkie wasn’t wrong. He preached patience. He told us all to wait and see what happens in a few years, with a steady approach and idea to build a team from the ground up. To look past the years of being the worst in the league, to a time when they’ll continually be one of the better teams. No more sitting through 35-40 wins seasons and hoping that we can catch a break in the playoffs or go on some miracle run. This team, with the patience he preached, should be primed to be a very good to great team for the foreseeable future. Here’s a little secret, it is.
We need to make sure that when we’re sending out our Christmas cards this year, that we all get Hinkies address and thank him for the gift that he’s given us. The gift that he promised us. The gift that he said we just needed to wait for. It’s the one that the NBA saw fit to seem like it came from one of their preferred agents (Jerry Colangelo) and realize who truly made this team what they’re finally becoming. Sam Hinkie, The Process that you spoke of and preached about is finally paying off and we’re all thankful for it.
Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports