Is the Process complete?
The 2016-17 campaign was Philadelphia’s first in the post-Hinkie era, but it was also the first year where Hinkie’s vision started to materialize. The main reason, of course, was the long-awaited debut of Joel Embiid. The colorful, joyous personality of Embiid, matched with the dominant, suave on-court play made for the spectacle of the first half of the season.
He not only embodied #TheProcess, but he legitimately made the Sixers a good team. When in the limited time Embiid was on the floor, the Sixers played like a 55-win team, compared to an 11-win team when he was on the bench. Unfortunately for everyone, the euphoric hysteria of Embiid-mania was brief, as a meniscus tear sidelined him for the season in March.
After Embiid went out, the Sixers proceeded to lose 26 of their final 33 games, and finished with the second-worst record in the East.
It wasn’t all bad, though. Dario Saric emerged as a serious Rookie of the Year contender, Robert Covington grew into his 3-and-D role, and TJ McConnell gave us NBA history’s second greatest jumping fist pump after a hitting a game-winner against the Knicks.
For Sixers fans, the offseason always overshadows the regular season, and the 2017 campaign was no exception. For the second straight season, they selected first in the draft after swapping picks with Boston. With that pick, they selected point guard Markelle Fultz out of Washington. Fultz is a super-athletic, versatile defender, who should be capable of being a reliable playmaker the moment he steps on the floor.
However, questions surrounding his health are tampering the hype train for the time being. His pick-and-roll IQ is extremely high, but his shot looks, well, shot. He’s trying all types of funky things out with his free throws, which is apparently a result of his sore shoulder.
Markelle Fultz changed his free throw shooting form and this is how it looks… pic.twitter.com/OO8fJLsZuD— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) October 10, 2017
His preseason shooting splits of .292/.000/.400 (!) are hopefully a result of that shoulder injury because…woah.
Fultz will compete with Ben Simmons for top rookie, and although the 2016 #1 isn’t a “new addition,” he’ll make his Sixers debut just like the rest of the new guys. They also added J.J. Redick, who will fill out the starting five.
The acquisition of Redick, who shot just under 43% from the three last season, was praised from all corners, and rightly so. The veteran will add reliable three-point shooting and should do wonders for floor-spacing.
Former 2016 first-rounder Furkan Korkmaz, glue guy Amir Johnson, and champion James Michael McAdoo will round out the rotation. The only notable losses: role players Gerald Henderson and Sergio Rodriguez. All that’s left is the case of their backup center Jahlil Okafor which is as sad as it is hilarious. In a recent SB Nation interview he legitimately asked if he still had a roster spot:
“I’m unsure if I’m still on the team. Am I really a part of this process? Am I really a part of this culture?”
This is about as awkward as an ex-partner who doesn’t move out after a breakup. And the Sixers have fallen hard for Embiid — inking him to a 5-year, $131 million-dollar contract despite just seeing him in just 31 games in three years. You can’t blame them, though. Embiid’s is out of Okafor’s league.
The masses, perhaps prematurely, have announced the era of the Process is over, and expect the result will come into fruition this season. And hey, it’s easy to get lost in the excitement; Fultz, Embiid, and Simmons all possess skill sets that would indicate they have potential to be superstar players in the near future. It isn’t unreasonable to say this is the best trio of young players since Durant-Westbrook-Harden (almost) bloomed into the West’s best team earlier this decade. One can’t help but get excited by imagining Fultz prancing his way through a Joel Embiid pick with the option of kicking out to Redick for a three, or finding Simmons on a cut.
And like that Thunder team, the Sixers have exciting young pieces to help round out their roster like Dario Saric, Robert Covington, and Nik Stauskas. Timothe Luwawu-Cabaret and Furkan Korkmaz are waiting in the wings. Simply put: the ceiling for this team is extremely high. If not for this season, in the next five.
The 2017-18 campaign will offer a glimpse of that potential, and considering the landfill that is the Eastern Conference — there’s a real chance this team can upset, say, the Raptors if they get them in the first round. There’s seemingly one huge question mark that could put both the short-term and long-term plan in jeopardy.
Staying healthy. It’s been a goddamn plague on the Sixers’ rebuilding blueprint, and it makes things extremely hard to predict. A quick recap: the injury bug took away Embiid for about 90% of his three-year career, axed the rookie year of both Ben Simmons and Nerlens Noel, and has caused Okafor to sit 60 games in two seasons. It makes the Hinkie demotion seem extra cruel considering the most valuable members of the organization were team doctors. Even this year the anxiety has set in. Embiid is still not 100%, and the team is managing his health very conservatively.
Embiid just called his minutes restriction “fucking bullshit”— Kyle Neubeck (@KyleNeubeck) October 17, 2017
It helps that the Sixers have two high-impact players waiting in the wings, but these guys haven’t played their first game yet. The uncertainty of this team makes it impossible to predict.
Bottom line: this team will be insanely fun to watch, and if the health stays on their side, they could be a playoff team. In fact, they should be a playoff team. The East is straight trash and there’s only five teams in the conference that look better than Philly on paper. I expect them to land in the 6-8 range, competing with teams like the Heat, Hornets, and Pistons, to get into the playoffs. But in terms of League Pass value, the Sixers will be competing for the top spot all season.
Final Prediction: 8th in East.
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