Philadelphia wanted to start over. Mission accomplished.
The Philadelphia 76ers entered this season with anything but high hopes, but that wasn’t the plan. Their ultimate goal was accomplished.
Some teams mistakenly overestimate their potential upon the dawn of the season. They pour extraneous amounts of cash into poor contracts and ultimately waste their money because those efforts don’t lead to a championship.
An example can be found with this season’s Atlanta Hawks — I digress.
Sometimes teams need to be realistic about short-term expectations and long-term optimism. The Philadelphia 76ers executed this to perfection.
Sam Hinkie stepped into the general manager position for Philly and made immediate changes. Though Jrue Holiday is a quality point guard, Hinkie decided the team needed to wipe the slate clean and start over.
Holiday was shipped off to New Orleans and Philly welcomed the Pelicans’ first round pick with open arms. Key steps were made to set up a strong push for the Sixers in the near future.
Let’s take a look at how this season went for them:
1) Record: 19-63
The Sixers finished second-to-last in an Eastern Conference that suggests Adam Silver took the NBA 2K route and lowered the attribute sliders for the entire conference — excluding Indiana and Miami. Philly was 19 games back of Atlanta for the eighth seed and 37 games back of the Pacers for the top spot. Though for a team itching for the NBA Lottery to inch closer, this was all but perfect. Milwaukee ended up with the worst record, but the Ping Pong Gods always make room for interesting things to happen in the lottery. Philly will, most likely, end up with two top-10 picks because of that Holiday deal.
2) Expectations vs Reality
It was no secret the Sixers cared less about this season than J.R. Smith cares about finding the open man. Fans in the city of brotherly love knew this was season was a “technicality.” Philly fans haven’t had a real star since Allen Iverson was dealt to Denver. Think about that. The Sixers haven’t really contended in 13 years, when they barely broke up a near-perfect playoff run by the Los Angeles Lakers.
Hinkie made it clear. This season was about getting their priorities straight. The expectation was to succeed by failing, and they accomplished that with flying colors. Philly stole the show in last year’s draft because they acquired a starting point guard in Michael Carter-Williams, who looks like a potential star. They also have a potential prize big man in Nerlens Noel… and the Pelicans’ 2014 pick. All they had to do was lose this season. Mission accomplished.
3) Coaching Staff
Brett Brown was a part of the San Antonio Spurs’ coaching staff for all four of their championship seasons. He’s a good fit for this roster because he’s been involved in the same type of roster-rebuild that Hinkie is instituting. The Spurs’ model has caught on with NBA executives. We’ve seen it work with Oklahoma City, and now Orlando is also taking advantage.
Brown has worked with the greatest power forward of all-time. That could give him some leverage with a young, impressionable Noel. He’s coached an NBA Finals’ MVP point guard in Tony Parker. You don’t think Carter-Williams is anxious to learn from him?
On Brown’s bench is Lloyd Pierce, who could be even more influential over MCW. Pierce played college ball at Santa Clara and was teammates with Steve Nash. The knowledge is there for the Sixers’ bench. With a young roster and a young staff, they can all grow together.
4) The Roster
As far as the players go, Carter-Williams is going to win the Rookie of the Year award. I don’t see a scenario in which he doesn’t. He was four assists and four rebounds a game away from averaging a triple-double. He has a lot of work to do to improve his 26 percent shooting from behind three, but can make a big leap forward in an 0ff-season.
Noel missed the entire season with a torn ACL, but assuming a full recovery, Noel has the athleticism to be a very talented big man. He’s agile and quick, explodes off the ground, and is a defensive presence in the paint. There is a lot of potential for MCW and him to grow together in a Shaq-and-Kobe model.
Evan Turner was dealt to Indiana to clear cap space, and it worked out. Turner’s game was based on inefficient shooting. That isn’t what Philly wanted… nor was it needed. Thaddeus Young had an encouraging season shooting 31 percent from behind the arc and 18 points a game.
With an elder Jason Richardson on the roster, the role for veteran leader is already filled.
5) Front Office
I don’t expect to see many changes within the front office. Hinkie has layed out the path and groundwork for the franchise to embark on. And frankly, in an Eastern Conference that could have merged with the WNBA, there is no need to make any major changes. Hinkie is leading the charge into future.
6) Final Grade: A+
Philly is all about the future — as it should be. Miami and Indiana are running the show in the conference right now. The goal is to build for the future because when LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh do disperse, the Sixers can fill the void.
The goal for this season was to get experience for Brown, Carter-Williams and others. Check. If Philly can land Jabari Parker or Andrew Wiggins, well that just nudges the Sixers closer to their goal of being a contender in waiting.