Trust the process: The Philadelphia 76ers have revolutionized rebuilding in the NBA

Nerlens+Noel+has+been+on+the+76ers+for+the+entirety+of+the+process.+%28Courtesy+of+WikiCommons%29

Nerlens Noel has been on the 76ers for the entirety of “the process.” (Courtesy of WikiCommons)

Michael Keating

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Winning has not been something the Philadelphia 76ers have done recently. From 2013 to 2016, their record was 47-199, which was good enough for last in the NBA – but just barely. To put that into perspective, 10 teams had more wins than them last season alone. For the Sixers, however, that was just part of the plan.

During the 2012-2013 season, the team hired Sam Hinkie as the general manager. Hinkie, a Stanford graduate, is a strong advocate of the use of advanced analytics in basketball. With the transition in philosophy, many expected changes on the horizon – but few could have guessed what was going to happen next.

Following that season, Hinkie traded away All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday for center Nerlens Noel, who was drafted that offseason by the New Orleans Pelicans. Noel was not expected to suit up for the Sixers that season due to a torn ACL he suffered at the University of Kentucky the year before. This sent shockwaves around the league that the Sixers were tanking in order to secure a higher pick in the next year’s draft. Although the team never admitted it, it was exactly what they were doing. It turned away some fans, but most of the diehard fans accepted the idea and dubbed it “the process.”

In the 2013-2014 season, the Sixers went 19-63 and had the second worst record in the NBA. Point guard Michael Carter-Williams, due to the fact that he was the only mediocre player on a terrible team, won the Rookie of the Year award. With two first round picks in the draft, the Sixers took center Joel Embiid and Croatian power forward Dario Šarić. This fueled the tanking fire even more because Embiid was supposed to be sidelined for the entire year with a foot injury and Šarić was locked into a contract for the next two years in Turkey.

The next season, without any draft picks from the year before playing, the Sixers had the second worst record in the league again going 18-64. At the trade deadline, the team cashed in on Carter-Williams’ play and traded him to the Milwaukee Bucks for the Los Angeles Lakers’ first round draft choice in this year’s draft. Trading Carter-Williams, in addition to losing Embiid for another year due to a reinjured foot, essentially started the process all over again.

After going 10-72 in the 2015-2016 season and avoiding the all-time single season loss record by just one, the Sixers finally landed the coveted first overall pick in the draft. With that selection, they took point-forward Ben Simmons, who many consider to be the most highly touted prospect since Lebron James. Unfortunately for the Sixers, Simmons was injured in training camp and won’t make his debut until February. Also, reportedly due to pressure put on them by the league, according to an article in CBS Sports, Hinkie was relieved of his duties and Bryan Colangelo was hired as the new general manager – but that doesn’t mean that the process was stalled.

After two years, Embiid finally made his long awaited debut this season, and to say he’s shattered expectations is an understatement. At 7’2”, Embiid plays the game almost like a guard with his ability to move on the court and hit an outside jumper. In addition to his offensive play, he’s also established himself as an elite rim protector on defense. His play is reminiscent to that of Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon; a player Embiid grew up idolizing in his native country of Cameroon. On the back of Embiid alone, the Sixers are 17-27 and on pace to finish with more than 30 wins for the first time in four years.

With Embiid playing like a future superstar, and other various assets like Šarić, Noel, Simmons and two first round draft picks next year, the Sixers are in great shape to be a competitive team for years to come. Although there was much suffering in the Philadelphia fan base for several years, it’s finally looking like there’s light at the end of the tunnel. But for now, all you can do is trust the process.