Right now, the big talk in the world of the Philadelphia 76ers is that they didnt get the big star that everyone had hoped for this offseason. Names like James, George, Leonard, Paul, etc were all out there and the team didnt sign any of them. Is that really that big of a deal? Not really.
At the start of the offseason, everyone knew that LeBbron would be in Philly, George would be in LA and Kawhi would be, well, no one knew what would happen with Kawhi. But, nothing worked out liked it was supposed to according to the experts.
The Sixers, after the whole Bryan Colangelo twitter fiasco, let Brett Brown run the draft as the interim GM and it seems that people are losing their minds over what hes done or more importantly, in their eyes, what he didnt do for the team.
The overall feeling among fans is that one player was going to bring with them a championship this upcoming season and thats all that the Sixers need. But, theyre wrong and theyll never admit it. This team wasnt built to win next year. They were built to win in the next three seasons.
The Process, for all of those that forget, was started to accumulate assets and players. To build a sustainable and successful franchise for the future. The idea was that being a mid-level team that made the playoffs but, never really had a chance to win a title was something that Sam Hinkie was not going to have. The owners didnt want it. The fans didnt want it. It was horrible all around. If the team got to the playoffs, they were going to maybe win a round or two, but that would be it. The hype of the fans that maybe this year would be different and that the team could get hot and run through everyone, was completely misguided. Too many times had we watched the team finish with enough wins to get to the playoffs in a poor Eastern Conference only to be wiped out by much better teams. So, there wasnt really any harm in blowing the whole thing up and starting from scratch.
The headscratching started when the team drafted three straight centers and Ill agree that it wasnt the best move. But, as the team continued losing, Hinkie laid the ground work to be good, or very good, in the near future. The number of draft picks and the number of players that he would get would make the difference. Even though this is the fifth year of The Process, its only the second year where the Sixers are featuring a respectable and talented team. The young players are getting better. Weve seen the abilities of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons on display this past season and both should get even better this year. Dario Saric has developed in to a star in his own right and is part of the tough spirit that the team has shown. So, whats next?
Markelle Fultz Is the elephant in the room, so lets talk about him. The ability is there but hes had some problems to say the least. What it seems happened is that he had a hard time dealing with being the #1 overall pick in the draft and thats understandable since he was nineteen years old. The talent he possesses cant be denied. Now, this summer hes been working with a shooting specialist who says that hes completely rebuilt. Weve seen the blurry and cropped videos of shots. Weve seen the Instagram posts. Forget about them all. What we should be looking at is a kid, thats right a kid, that came back at the end of the season and showed some of the promise that was held in such high regard when he was drafted. For someone who battled anxiety to get out there at the end of the year, it made sense to sit him in the playoffs. The pressure was too high. Brett Brown made his first great move.
People, all of the sudden, have made out Irsan Ilyasova and Marco Belineli to be some sort of Gods that came to Philly, by luck, and made this team great. They were good situational players that fit in the role they were asked to perform on a team that needed shooters. The way the fans reacted to them signing elsewhere, you would think that the team was destined for the draft lottery again. Theyre not. Both players were older and limited in what they could provide for the team. Letting them go was another good move by Brett Brown.
Now comes the draft. Mikal Bridges from Villanova seemed to fit the mold for what the Sixers were looking for in a young, talented defender who can shoot the three with consistency. But, The Sixers have a young talented small forward in Robert Covington that they just gave a pretty good sixed extension to last season. Youre not giving him that money if you dont expect him to start for the team. So, what do you do when Bridges is available when you pick? You take him and trade him to a team that really wants him for a guy that actually fits your team better.
Zhaire Smith was considered one of, if not the, best athlete in the draft. The guy played out of position for his height throughout college and is projected as a two-guard in the NBA. What he does have is a 611 wingspan and plays defense better than anyone available in the draft. He graded out as one of the best defenders in the draft with those above him all playing center and power forward. In addition to getting Smith, Brown picked up an unprotected first round pick from the Miami Heat that will come to be around the same time the NBA is looking to add high school players back in to the draft. So, a draft that would be deep, will now be twice as deep. The pick is gold. Another Brett Brown win. This was a move that Sam Hinkie would have made to keep improving the team and one that Bryan Colangelo wasnt smart enough to visualize.
With their second pick of the first round, the Sixers took Landry Shamet. Why, many people asked. Because he can shoot. Its what he does best. Its what he does better than almost anyone in the draft. What do the Sixers crave? Shooters and defenders. They got one of each and thats not even taking in to consideration that Smith is actually a pretty good shooter. Another good move by Brown.
Amir Johnson? At $11 Million dollars, Im not a fan of Amir. Five points, five rebounds and almost two assists per game in sixteen minutes? Ill take that at the veterans minimum, as he signed with the team for. Brett Brown win. JJ Reddick and his 42% from three-point land at $12.5 Million? Take that too. Another Brown win. Mike Muscala? Wilson Chandler? Absolutely. They will both fill specific roles on the Sixers squad this year.
When the Sixers lost to the Celtics to end their season, this past year, they did so because they couldnt stop the Celtics from scoring. For all of the love that people have shown Ilyasova and Belineli, they were not good defensive players. The team that theyve put together this season is much better in that regard.
When the starters are off the floor, youre looking at a lineup with Fultz, Smith, McConnell, Chandler and Muscala or Johnson, the defense on the second unit is already much better and theyll be able to score as a result of it. The team doesnt need ten stars. They dont even need one more star. They have plenty of stars already and a few that are just getting started.
So, when people say that Brett Brown didnt go out and get that one big star, ask them if the team is better now than it was at the end of last season. That answer, clearly, is yes. Theyre more prepared to handle the teams like Toronto and Boston, while still maintaining their identity and staying true to The Process. Brett Brown has won his offseason, contrary to what the guys on the corner or the message boards might tell you. You all know them, theyre the ones that will be wearing the brand new Shamet or Smith jerseys when theyre cheering the team in the playoffs this upcoming season.
Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports