Philadelphia 76ers: It’s time for a proper sweep

Joel Embiid | Philadelphia 76ers (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Joel Embiid | Philadelphia 76ers (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

The Philadelphia 76ers are embarrassing at every level.

It’s time for the Philadelphia 76ers to pour a bottle of lighter fluid on the current roster — on the current organizational structure — and set it ablaze. The Sixers are an abject failure. An embarrassment of riches turned swiftly into an embarrassment, period.

The Sixers were once the most promising young team in basketball. A series of poor managerial decisions has left them with no clear path forward — not unless major changes are made this summer. No team with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons should be without hope, but Philadelphia in its current state is a lost cause.

Ownership, and the NBA bigwigs at large, deserve criticism for guiding the Sixers’ front office down its current path when Sam Hinkie was unjustly discharged. The front office — from Bryan Colangelo, to Elton Brand, to the entire “collaborative” in between, deserves criticism for blatant incompetence. Brett Brown deserves criticism for a stark inability to manufacture even the slightest matchup advantage. And lastly, the players — most of them, at least — deserve criticism for not performing up to snuff.

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There is blame to be had at every corner of this organization. The Sixers have hit rock bottom. For all we know, Philadelphia manages to turn around this 0-2 series and provide Boston with some real competition. But after last night’s 27-point thwacking, it feels unlikely. It feels like Philadelphia must finally reckon with its disaster.

This roster was never “built for the playoffs.” All of us who bought in initially, and the organizational talking heads who perpetuated that talking point all season, were fools. You cannot play competitive basketball in 2020 without guards who can dribble, shoot, and pass in equal measure. You cannot play four bigs, four sluggish decision-makers, and expect to maximize the two most interior-oriented stars in basketball.

It was not hard to build a competitive roster around Embiid and Simmons. In fact, for a brief moment in time, the Sixers accomplished that goal. But a shameful strike of ego, complemented by a strange fetish for size, led the front office to squander it in a matter of minutes last summer.

It is difficult to build such a hopeless roster out of two 25-and-under superstars and two max contract slots. Philadelphia had unlimited flexibility, great free agency appeal, and a treasure trove of assets on hand. The result — the end result — being Tobias Harris and Al Horford on egregiously bad contracts is an unspeakable fumble.

Truly remarkable ineptitude led Philadelphia to this point. And to think, pretty much all of us — myself included — bought in at one point. We thought this roster, even this front office, was the future. It unfortunately may still be the future, but not in a remotely positive manner.

The entire point of ‘The Process’ was to avoid no-man’s land. To avoid becoming an aimless quasi-contender with no identity and no real purpose. And yet, the Sixers are already there, not five years after Hinkie’s resignation. They have effectively thrown away the prime years of Embiid’s career, and are well on their way to wasting Ben Simmons.

Philadelphia no longer has cap flexibility, and any trade to purge the roster of Harris or Horford will require a mortgage of the Sixers’ future. Embiid and Simmons are under contract for years to come, but without serious creativity — and significant changes to the organizational structure — it might not matter.

We have reached the point where Embiid, ever the champion of Philadelphia sports and its fans, would be almost well-received if he demanded a trade. The Sixers have so royally screwed up, that an Embiid trade request would feel not only justified, but wholly digestible, even to the most hardcore Sixers fan.

Embiid has done everything in his power to raise Philadelphia’s floor and put them in a competitive position. The front office’s outright refusal to build around him — and to instead build behind him — has been the root of all failure over the past year.

Rather than make life easier for Embiid, the Sixers took the antiquated approach of bully ball. The result, of course, has been an offense deprived of spacing and a superstar deprived of vigor. Philadelphia has actively restricted Embiid’s workspace, and in the process made even 34-point masterclasses feel utterly vain.

The Sixers are down 2-0 to the Boston Celtics. You should hope for a clean sweep. This may finally drive home just how deep-rooted the Sixers’ issues are. You cannot use the injury to Ben Simmons as an excuse, nor an escape. This is a product of incompetent management, incompetent coaching, and incompetent play. And, at the top of the pyramid of failure, is ownership.

A clean sweep may finally rid the Sixers of all pretense. No longer is Philadelphia a “fringe contender,” or a team “pieces away” from getting over the hump. The Sixers are no longer building towards a championship. This is the final product. This is the built version of Philadelphia. This is what everything in ‘The Process’ led to. All the assets have been spent, all the time lost.

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Every decision, in some form or another, led to this dead end. Now it’s time to put the car in reverse, execute a proper three-point turn, and change course.