State Of The Process: Sixers Ahead Of Some In The Rebuild

Nov 18, 2015; Philadelphia, PA, USA; The Sixers flight squad holds a giant Philadelphia 76ers flag on the court to start the second half against the Indiana Pacers at Wells Fargo Center. The Pacers won 112-85. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 18, 2015; Philadelphia, PA, USA; The Sixers flight squad holds a giant Philadelphia 76ers flag on the court to start the second half against the Indiana Pacers at Wells Fargo Center. The Pacers won 112-85. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports /

While some still scoff at the Philadelphia 76ers, they are far ahead of some teams in the rebuilding process.

How to approach rebuilding a basketball team is always a controversial debate. Do you put all your faith in draft luck, free agency, trades, or an even mix of all three? NBA teams have shown different mentalities when it comes to rebuilding, and a lot of theories have been tested with both success and failure. This era of basketball is no different, and leading the rebuilding clan is none other than the Philadelphia 76ers. Led by their polarizing general manager Sam Hinkie, the Sixers stripped down their whole team in an effort to gain talent through the draft and stockpile assets.

Currently, it looks like everything is going pretty much as planned (minus that Jerry Colangelo guy having some power). The Sixers have acquired three young and talented players, developed a few “no-name” guys into potential starters, and own potentially 7 first-round picks with a few rights to swap picks all with keeping their salary cap near the bottom of the league. The plan is in full gear and with some luck with player personnel, they will be sitting pretty for the next few years. —That’s from Philadelphia’s perspective anyways.

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The rest of the league and outside media has been skeptical of the 76ers’ plan, and sometimes with good reason. The Sixers have three young stars who all play the same position, and have accumulated a whimsical 42-165 record in the past two and a half seasons. The Sixers, besides the past month or so, were a feeding ground for negative reports and suspicion of dysfunction, and it seemed like other rebuilding teams got off the hook in a media sense. The fact is the Sixers are far off from being competitive, but their are other teams in a more questionable long term situation.

The Brooklyn Nets are the prime example of that. After firing coach Lionel Hollins and general manager Billy King, the Nets finally admitted to themselves that it may be time to rebuild. The only problem is, it’s hard to start over when you’ve mortgaged every first-round pick you had until 2019 in a feeble attempt at a championship. The Nets went after Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett hard, only to end up with no championship, a 2017 second-round pick, and Thaddeus Young as a result of those deals just a few years later. The only real valuable assets is an injury riddled Brook Lopez, who could land them a late first-round pick, and their most recent first-round pick and Philadelphia product the Sixers are undoubtedly in a much better position than Brooklyn. It’s clear that the Nets must develop an almost perfect plan to turn this mess around quickly. Contrary to the Nets are the Los Angeles Lakers, who maintained an out if they ever hit a championship dead end, which they did.

The Lakers had went all-in on an old Kobe Bryant which led to their eventual competitive demise, but while doing that, the Lakers managed to grab promising guard D’Angelo Russell and scooped up a surprising Larry Nance Jr. in last year’s draft to join the young Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson. They still put themselves in a risky draft situation by potentially giving up their first-round pick to the Sixers if they fall out of the top 3 spots, and by trading a future first-rounder to Orlando. Post-Kobe era Lakers will have to find a proficient offensive center and find an athletic wing player that can bolster the defense. What really drags down the Lakers situation is their old-fashioned front office, including head coach Byron Scott who has already shown a reluctancy to prioritize development. The Sixers plan still seems clearer, and although the Lakers have a slight advantage with their current roster, but the Sixers have more of a shot of drafting a star and more cap space to put the necessary pieces in place to accelerate the rebuild. Drafting right and building a culture is the key to a solid rebuild, which is exactly what is happening in Minnesota.

The Timberwolves are what the Sixers would be if the Sam Hinkie new how to use black magic and ate rabbit feet every day. Luck and good scouting has allowed the Timberwolves to become the league’s golden standard on how to rebuild through the draft and trades. The team flipped an unhappy Kevin Love to Cleveland for one of the most promising prospects the league has seen in the past decade in Andrew Wiggins. Wiggins went on to win the Rookie of the Year award, then the Timberwolves landed the number one pick in the draft to select Karl Anthony-Towns, the current front runner for this year’s ROY. Minnesota’s roster is practically full of players in their early to mid-20’s and seem to be just a few pieces away from competing in the grueling Western Conference. The Timberwolves have also managed to maintain their picks. The Sixers fall short in comparison to Minnesota’s rebuild, and Philadelphia fans will continue to envy this team for the near future.

The Phoenix Suns might be the “less cute” version of the Sixers. The team is full of young promising players and has plenty of draft picks to accompany them. The team is full of guards with star potential led by Brandon Knight, Eric Bledsoe, and Devin Booker. Internal strife is what is hurting this team. An unhappy and less productive Markieff Morris mixed with an uncertain future of head coach Jeff Hornacek really hinders the rebuild. The Sixers are behind the Suns in productivity and will have to out-draft Phoenix in the next few years to fight for rebuilding bragging rights. The same could be said about the Denver Nuggets, who could boast as many as four first-round picks. The Nuggets roster is feeble compared to the Sixers in terms of rebuild, but have two studly pieces in Danilo Gallinari and Kenneth Faried. The Sixers find themselves ahead of the Nuggets in terms of building a cohesive unit, but fall short to the Suns’.

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The Sixers are near the top of the rebuild. They seem to be only behind Minnesota and Phoenix in the battle of building a promising team, but it’s safe to say they are in a more comfortable situation than a couple of teams in the NBA. In the end, the Sixers must start hitting home runs on at least one of their draft picks to gain praise for the organization’s plan. Only time will tell, but for now, “at least we’re not the Nets” will be heard the rest of the season.