Trust The Process?

With the Philly 76ers having been eliminated from the NBA playoffs by the Boston Celtics, there are many opinion pieces out there with the following flavor:

  • What will/should the Sixers do now?

Would that it were as simple as that…  Would that I had a magic elixir for someone or some ones in the organization to sip such that their wildest fantasies would be manifest in the real world.  That sort of thing happens in Disney animated movies on a routine basis; it happens in the real world far less frequently.

For about a decade, Sixers’ fans were told to “trust the process”.  THE PROCESS was a long-term plan whereby the team would stink out the joint for several years thereby accreting high draft picks such that the team would emerge as a juggernaut based on the talents of those high draft picks.  Make no mistake; that thinking makes a ton of sense – – so long as the picks made in the first round of the NBA Draft that accrue to the “stinking Sixers’ teams” bear fruit as top-shelf NBA players.

Let me interject Hamlet here for just a second:

“Aye.  There’s the rub.”

The Sixers began “The Process” back in the 2013 NBA Draft but the players they picked when they had high draft picks turned out to be closer to duds than to studs.  Consider:

  1. 2013 Draft : Michael Carter Williams  11th overall\.  Acquire Nerlens Noel via trade.  Perhaps both players achieve the label of “journeyman” but nothing more.
  2. 2014:  Joel Embiid  3rd overall.  Great pick
  3. 2015: Jahlil Okafor 3rd  overall.  Couldn’t play defense against a corpse.
  4. 2016:  Ben Simmons  1st overall.  Seemed good at first.  But now … ?
  5. 2017:  Markelle Fultz  1st overall.  Seemed like a reach at the time.  Now it looks like a wasted pick.
  6. 2018:  Mikal Bridges 11th overall but sent to Suns and 1st round pick that stayed with the Sixers was Larry Shamet.  A horrible miscalculation
  7. 2019:  Ty Jerome  24th overall and acquired via trade Matisse Thybulle.   Ho hum …
  8. 2020:  Tyrese Maxey 21st; overall and an excellent pick.
  9. 2021:  Jaden Springer 28th overall.  If you ask, “Who’s he?”, you run the risk that someone might feel compelled to tell you.
  10. 2022:  David Roddy 23rd overall.  Hey, he does not throw up on his shoes…

The harsh light of reality says that “The Process” would work just fine if – and only if – the Sixers’ braintrust was able to use their first-round picks to assemble reel and actual NBA on-court talent.  And the 10-year record under two leaders of the drafting/trading process have not shown the ability to do just that. Here is the painful reality for Sixers’ fans:

  • In the last 10 Drafts and trades associated with the Drafts, the Sixers have obtained 2 very good players.  Call that a 20% success rate or a .200 batting average.  It’s the NBA equivalent of The Mendoza Line…
  • They had the chance to get another star player (Mikal Bridges) but traded him away to they could draft a “journeyman-at-best”
  • They had two overall #1 selections and whiffed on both.  Neither Ben Simmons nor Markelle Fultz lived up to a tenth of what a first overall should turn out to be.

We have seen various teams in pro sports in the US “tank” a season or two as a means to acquire top of the draft capital.  Such tanking can be intentional or unintentional – – but it happens; and if anyone tries to deny that it is happening, that person is either a paid stooge or a fool.

The lesson here is straightforward:

  • You can try to stink out the joint and hold your top picks out for a season due to injury – – but if you whiff on your first-round picks – – even when you won the lottery and had the overall #1 pick – – then your team is going to achieve mediocrity as its upper bound.

Deal with it, Sixers’ fans.  Even if you have “Trusted the Process” since the Sixers stunk out the league back in 2012/2013, you are a decade deep in “The Process” and have little or no reason to aspire to the Eastern Conference Championship next season – – let alone an NBA Championship.

Finally, the Sixers’ braintrust has been striving to get the team to the top levels of the NBA for a decade.  So, you may expect me to finish with a quote related to the pursuit of excellence here.  Rather, I choose to close today with a pithy observation by Johann Wolfgang Goethe:

”Man errs as long as he strives.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………