Two years ago, at 10-72, the Sixers fielded one of the worst teams in NBA history. Joel Embiid was sidelined for the second year straight, and Michael Carter Williams, the 2013 rookie of the year, was long gone. Towards the end of the season, Sam Hinkie, the manager who was supposed to turn everything around, stepped down from his position. This wasn't the end of the Sixers' woes however.
After being drafted no. 1 overall following the dismal 2015-2016 season, Ben Simmons promptly did the fashionable thing among Sixers prospects and broke his foot, leaving his team without much to go on. Still, in 2016-17, the Sixers managed to win a few more games and that time around, they didn't come in dead last. And before getting injured again, Joel Embiid showed flashes of greatness, averaging 20 points per game. They weren't good. At all. But, they looked to be a team in recovery, a group of guys who might someday limp, arm in arm, into an 8th seed playoff birth just to get dominated by Boston or Cleveland.
Joel Embiid and his fellow Sixers were imploring fans to "Trust the Process", but after the fourth straight year of depressingly low win percentages, most people had written the Sixers off at the start of the 2017-18 season. This weekend, following an incredible victory against Lebron James and his Cavaliers, Philadelphia snagged their 50th win of the season, marking the first time the team has done so since Allen Iverson took them to the championship in 2001.
Ben Simmons trusts the processFanRag Sports
For a team that couldn't get anything going two years ago, this turnaround can seem miraculous, but upon closer inspection, Sam Hinkie was definitely onto something when he started tanking the team. This year, most of Hinkie's plans, albeit a bit too late, came to fruition, and the city of Philadelphia is enjoying the spoils of his process. Hinkie, unfortunately, hasn't been around to see the team he built blossom into the juggernaut it is today and has reportedly gone back to working in venture capital. Still, it's easy to look back now and say that Hinkie was a genius, the real question is, how do the Sixers stack up against other teams who were struggling back when he took over?
The Sixers and the Raptors have both improved significantly since 2013SB Nation
For all the teams with records similar to that of the Sixers in 2013, growth has been pretty steady. Every single team within five wins of Philadelphia in 2013, with the exception of Detroit, is headed to the playoffs this year, and with the league heavily criticizing Hinkie's tactics, some are questioning whether or not tanking was a better option than steady growth. But here's the thing, Hinkie's Process is far from over. There are still chips on the table, one being a conditional first round pick from the Lakers' in the 2018 draft. If the Lakers draw the 1st overall pick or picks 6-30 in the lottery, the Sixers get the Lakers' pick. The other remnant of the Hinkie era is Markelle Fultz. While Fultz wasn't one of Hinkie's draft choices, Fultz's pickup was made possible by Hinkie's Process, and while his play hasn't been stellar, Fultz has only played twelve total NBA games. He's going to get better.
Embiid USA Today
Each year , there are realistically about six to eight teams that have a chance of winning the NBA championship. Sam Hinkie internalized this idea and decided that instead of building a team that gets incrementally better each year, losing over and over again in the conference semi-finals, he would shoot for greatness. He left Philadelphia in disgrace and was vilified by the press and fans alike. Now, as his grand design becomes clearer, people are beginning to see the light. Hinkie sacrificed the team's record, its former stars, and ultimately his NBA career in order to provide the 76ers a chance at championship glory. Now that the Sixers are so close to realizing Hinkie's goals, Philadelphia fans are beginning to wonder why he ever left.
Matt Clibanoff is a writer and editor based in New York City who covers music, politics, sports and pop culture. His editorial work can be found in Inked Magazine, Pop Dust, The Liberty Project, and All Things Go. His fiction has been published in Forth Magazine. -- Find Matt at his website and on Twitter: @mattclibanoff
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