I fell in love with the Sixers in 2000. The team started the season 10-0 en route to a 56-26 record and an eventual NBA Finals appearance. They showed grit, heart, and enough fight to make it to the precipice of basketball greatness while carrying a roster that included NBA legends like Geiger, Buford, and MacCulloch (or as they say in Latin, deadweight). Allen Iverson encapsulated everything this city is, the good and the bad, in a way that bonded me to the sport forever. And I’ve never left, never wavered, and always Trusted the Process. But where has that faith led me? Funny you should ask…
I’ll spare you the long version of my Hinkie love. WordPress has word limits at 500,000 anyway (don’t Google that). He set us up forever and will deserve 85% of the credit when this team succeeds. But this isn’t about our sweet fallen prince, this is about the state of the Sixers right now. As of January 1st, 2017, the Philadelphia 76ers are a bad team with some real talent. Joel Embiid is a cornerstone to build around and should be a top 10 player in the NBA within a few seasons – he’s basically a real-life Monstar. Ben Simmons could be a matchup nightmare that can grab-and-go better than anyone not named “LeBron James”. I have my doubts that he’ll be a true superstar (see: shooting) but I have no doubt that he’s someone I want on my roster to build around; they don’t make 6’10” 250-pound point guards. We have a war chest of draft picks and didn’t even get any from the Nets (missing you, Billy King). Robert Covington has developed into an elite wing defender which is arguably more eye-opening than his shooting woes. Dario Saric is a little doe-eyed in a new world but shows all the signs of being a rotation point-forward that will leave it all on the court every night. Even the lesser prospects could have a role on an eventual NBA power. Richaun Holmes is a projectable big that has shown glimpses of a jumper while improving as a rim-protector and rebounder. Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and Furkan Korkmaz are long, European wings with cool names and legitimate tools.
It’s not all unicorns and gravy, though. They have a handful of their own deadweight that make waves in box scores today but won’t be a part of anything tomorrow. James Franco Ersan Ilyasova is fun but barring a major injury to Joel or Ben, more than likely won’t be back next season. Sergio Rodriguez has a beard like a Girard Avenue hipster and throws passes between his legs. Gerald Henderson plays like a 58-year-old version of Kobe Bryant. Nik Stauskas made 46 treys in a row on some dude’s driveway in the rain! TJ McConnell is (probably) really good at Scrabble! Don’t get stuck in today’s team, keep your eyes set on the horizon.
I left out two big men because like Bryan Colangelo, I have no idea what to do with them. With Noel entering restricted free agency, he has even less trade value due to the minimal control a team would have going forward. Jahlil Okafor can look like a game-changer on the offensive AND defensive ends in the same game. But not in a good way, using a bevy of low-post moves to score at will on one end while destroying any concept of individual or help defense on the other. Trade? Resign? Let walk? One thing is clear: they are not part of the picture long-term. It will sort itself out in time.
All that said, the team is pointed in the right direction. If Joel Embiid stays healthy, he could change the landscape of the NBA as teams scramble to combat his combination of size and skill that hasn’t been seen before. If he doesn’t? You still have Ben Simmons. You still have the war chest. You have no long-term financial commitments. The Sixers will be fine. There will be bad trades and signings that lead to sleepless nights. There may be more injuries that will test our resolve and support liquor stores in the greater Philadelphia area. There will be many more losses to endure, both this season and into the next.
But mark my words, it will happen. We don’t know when, maybe it already happened, but there will be a moment when we start the climb. Was it when Joel took the court for the first time this season? Is it when Ben takes the court this winter? Is it after the 2017 draft? Is it after we trade for a legitimate star player? We don’t know, but I can assure you, it will happen. And it will be glorious.