Fewer wins in the last three years combined than the Charlotte Hornets had this year alone? Worth it. Multiple seasons of watching the team acquire NBA-ish players with Hall of Fame names like Casper Ware, Furkan Aldemir, and Chu Chu Maduabum? Worth it. Simultaneously being the most hated and most laughed-at team in American basketball? Still worth it.
Former Philadelphia 76ers general manager Sam Hinkie's martyrdom was well documented last night. And Hinkie—the man credited for the team’s controversial “Process” who resigned from his position in April after external pressure from the league and internal pressure from wrinkled basketball Judas Jerry Colangelo—deserved every bit of that adulation. This was his doing. This was the goal. Every JaVale McGee salary dump, every minor draft day trade, every seemingly unnecessary second round pick acquisition began with one simple goal in mind: Get superstars. That’s what The Process was all about—landing a superstar. Now, the Sixers have the No. 1 pick. They have a clear path to a potential superstar. And while it’s perhaps too early to explicitly label The Process a success...The Process was a success. Hinkie’s cult members were right. He is vindicated.
Couldn't have done it without the Colangelos pic.twitter.com/o7X1LU09mA— John Gonzalez (@gonzoCSN) May 18, 2016
This isn’t to say that presumptive top picks Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram are LeBron James and Kevin Durant, but, shit, they sure kinda look like them, no? This first pick victory for Philadelphia didn’t happen in an Anthony Bennett year. There are, as current Sixers president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo says, “franchise-type” players available. Which reinforces the feeling that all those years of pain and ridicule were, again, totally fucking worth it.
Adding to The Process’s “worth it”-ness is the fact that future Sixer Simmons (or Ingram) will be paired with other high-lottery, high-ceiling, high-talent players. Joel Embiid aka Mr. Shirley Temples Did This has a serious shot of being one of the best centers in the world. To the casual fan he’s simply the reincarnation of Greg Oden, a 7-foot-plus monster whose career became a tale of “coulda, shoulda, woulda” due to persistent injuries. But to those close to the team (or those with Internet access and no life), Embiid is Hakeem Olajuwon with Kristaps Porzingis’ three-point range. You think I’m exaggerating. You think I’m being naive about the severity of his foot injury. You think I’m overestimating Embiid’s potential. I’m not. And although I could attempt to convince you with quotes from NBA players who’ve worked with him first-hand or inundate you with clip after clip after clip of the 7’2” Cameroonian (he actually grew two more inches since he was drafted in 2014) exhibiting these skills—you still wouldn’t believe me. But his talent truly exists whether you believe it or not. Waiting two years to add a jacked African Porzingis with dunk contest hops and a serious chip on his shoulder? Worth. It.
Then there’s Dario Saric, a 22-year-old drafted 12th overall in 2014 who has yet to suit up in America after playing the last two years in Turkey. He’s a two-time FIBA European Young Player of the Year (2013, 2014) and the type of sureshot point-forward a team with few shooters and few noteworthy point guard needs. Will he live up to the comparisons to Lamar Odom he received during the 2014 draft? Nobody knows. But even if his ball handling and hunger for cocaine aren’t quite on Odomian levels, any time you have an internationally-respected 6’10” pass-first forward who can shoot over 40 percent from three for a season, you have a valuable asset. *Whispers* Worth it!
Immediate gratification nowadays is no longer something we want, it's something we expect.
There’s also the matter of cap room, of which Philadelphia has more than 29 of the 30 NBA teams (the Lakers post-Kobe’s contract have more, but also have two fewer players under contract). The Sixers can afford any player who becomes available, which was not necessarily the case when the team was annually getting bounced from the playoffs while paying off huge contracts to guys like Andre Iguodala and Andrew Bynum. Paul George wants out of Indy and a chance to form a new Big Three? There aren’t many other franchises in the NBA with the draft pick assets, youthful players with upside, and cap room to make something like that happen. The pre-Hinkie Sixers would have been out of the conversation.
Sure, there are fans for teams like the Boston Celtics who swear they are better positioned for the future than the 76ers, but these are the same people on Twitter praying their team trades for Jahlil Okafor, arguably only the Sixers’ fourth most valuable player after July’s draft.
Truth is, no young team is more primed to succeed going forward than the Sixers. The Lakers’ 2017 first rounder and a pick swap with the Kings could land Philly another high lottery selection next year regardless of how much the team improves. They have a young coach who soaked up Gregg Popovich’s gruff knowledge and is respected both around the league and internationally. Hell, they even have “the biggest and best” practice facility in the NBA set to open on the Camden, N.J. waterfront over the summer.
Earlier today, ESPN published an Insider piece entitled “Philly's strategy paying off big time, and best is yet to come.” The opening sentence reads:
Has any recent team been set up for success like the Philadelphia 76ers?
Yet there are still NBA-watching human beings who continue to believe Hinkie failed. Hinkie did his job and did it well. Immediate gratification nowadays is no longer something we want, it's something we expect. Hinkie’s answer to the team’s problems didn’t involve a quick or easily digestible fix, and many fans didn’t have the patience to stomach his Process. But it worked. It fucking worked.
So let’s laugh in the faces of those who believe the team would’ve been better off signing multiple mid-range veteran free agents only to work their way into an immediate playoff exit. These people are offensively illogical. They’ve turned a Fetty Wap eye to the truth, and will only make themselves appear more foolish as time goes on and the Sixers’ strategy proves fruitful. The shit was all worth it, guys. You’ll look better if you admit that sooner than later.