“Trust. The. Process.” That’s all the miserable Philadelphia 76ers fans have heard in the past few years, as they have endured some horrid basketball in the City of “Brotherly Love”. They have fallen a long way since the 2011-12 season, when they lost to the Boston Celtics in Game 7 of the 2nd round of the playoffs. Since almost upsetting Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo and Paul Pierce in what would be that trio’s final season together, the 76ers have compiled a dreadful 109-301 record. Former General Manager Sam Hinkie ran this franchise into the ground. So the big question now is, has the long and miserable wait been worth it?
In the past four seasons, they have had the No. 1 draft pick twice and the No. 3 pick twice. Their selections included Markelle Fultz, Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, who are now the cornerstones to this franchise. Add in a newly hired GM in Bryan Coangelo and Philadelphia fans are starting to feel – dare they say it – optimistic. After all, they did improve from 10-72 two years ago to 28-54 last season. Baby steps, but progress nonetheless.
Last year was supposed to be the coming out party for the oft-injured Embiid and the 2016 No. 1 pick Ben Simmons, but Simmons missed the season with a foot injury. Embiid did show some real promise in the 31 games he played, posting game averages of 20.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.5 blocks. Had he been healthier, he would have been a top Rookie of the Year contender to be sure. Couple that with the fact that his future counterpart, Simmons, is being compared to LeBron and it’s understandable that long-suffering 76ers loyalists are thinking big.
To this already potent recipe, the 76ers picked up Fultz, a can’t-miss prospect, in the 2017 draft. What’s more, they signed the great role-playing veterans J.J. Redick and Amir Johnson to round out a lineup that includes other young players with great potential including Jahlil Okafor, Robert Covington, Dario Saric and Nik Stauskas.
The competition in the Eastern Conference, meanwhile, has weakened considerably in the off-season. Paul George and Carmelo Anthony left for the Thunder, Jimmy Butler is now a Timberwolf and rumors continue to swirl that LeBron James could be a L.A. Laker by 2018. The 76ers could be serious threats in the coming years.
Still, fans should be patient. This year is unlikely to deliver much more than continued improvement. As exciting and young as this team is, there will be growing pains, there will be chemistry issues at times and as most fans know, there are bound to be injuries.
In the end, though, fans may well be rewarded for, as they say, “Trusting the Process.” It’s been a long one, and the Hinkie Era was certainly a long, frustrating slog. Buckle up, folks. “The Process” seems to have a light at the end of this five-year tunnel.
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