The Sixers Tank is Necessary for Rebuild to Work


Since Sam Hinkie took over as the Sixers general manager and pulled the trigger on a trade that sent All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday to the New Orleans Pelicans for Nerlens Noel and a 2014 first-round pick, much has been made about Philadelphia’s strategy to bottom out, collect assets, and maintain optionality. Or as it’s more popularly known — “tanking.”

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Everyone has their own take on tanking. Some Sixers fans seem to completely buy into the idea of it, almost being cult-like in their trust for Sam Hinkie. Then you have others who are completely against the idea and can’t even seem to wrap their mind around it.

As a member of Sam Hinkie’s cult, I must admit: tanking isn’t always the right option. But for the Sixers, not only was it the right option, it was necessary.

When you look back at previous Sixers’ seasons since their trip to the 2001 NBA Finals, you may notice that it’s filled with mediocrity. From 2001-02 to 2012-13 the Sixers never won more than 48 games. They made it to the playoffs a respectable seven times, but only made it out of the first-round twice. The first time in 2003, and  in 2012 with a little bit of help from an ailing Bulls squad without Derrick Rose.

So while you had an organization committed to staying competitive, you also had an organization that was stuck in basketball purgatory. Good enough to squeeze into the playoffs, but not good enough to be true title contenders. Bad enough to miss the playoffs some years, but not bad enough where they were acquiring top-five draft picks.

That’s not to say that the Sixers of the mid-2000s/early-2010s weren’t trying to get over that hump to become contenders. Whether you agreed with the moves or not, the desire to win was there. Trading for Chris Webber, signing Elton Brand, and trading for Andrew Bynum. With the benefit of hindsight, those were all crappy moves. But at the time, they were moves that were made with the attempt to get out of basketball purgatory.

That’s where Sam Hinkie came in. He came into an organization that had been on a decade long stretch of suck, traded multiple first-round picks (Moultrie lololol and Bynum), and had Jrue Holiday as its star player. It’s safe to say as a whole the Sixers’ fan base was fatigued. Sure, fighting for that last playoff spot and getting it is satisfying, but it’s merely a temporary high when you know another first-round playoff exit is surely to follow. At some point, you have to accept that what you’re doing isn’t working and try something else.

That being said, what Sam Hinkie is doing isn’t guaranteed to work. I may already have tickets to the 2019-2021 three-peat championship celebration, but that doesn’t mean it’s a lock to happen. Nerlens Noel could end up never developing a jumper. Joel Embiid could need to have his foot amputated. Whatever the case is, tanking isn’t a bulletproof plan. It would be foolish to think such. But for a team and a fan base that was stuck in the middle, it was simply the right place and the right time.

You can follow Patrick on twitter (@GoodDudePat) if you like Sixers nonsense, sports stuff and the occasional motivational quote.