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The Philadelphia 76ers Had a Great Season
Recently, the owner of the Philadelphia 76ers got a lot of grief for proclaiming his team's season a "success", even though the team finished with the second worst record NBA's second worst record. I say, he's not only right, but anyone who disagrees with him is an idiot.
The NBA is different than all of the other major sports due to the fact that the rosters are so much smaller. One or two superstars are enough to win a championship in basketball and if you don't have one, you're out of luck. Of course, the best way to get one of these superstar players is to draft one, since players like LeBron James don't become free agents every day. Plus, the NBA's salary cap and guaranteed contracts makes it difficult to afford the rare star player when they become free agents.
This isn't news to anyone who is even a casual fan of the NBA. I guess people are just upset with Sixers owner Joshua Harris because he was being brutally honest about how things really work in the NBA. If you want to have a legitimate chance at a championship, you have to get really bad first.
The Sixers went into the season with a plan to tank the 2013-14 season and still they didn't finish with the worst record. Somehow the Milwaukee Bucks actually had less wins that the 19-63 Sixers. That's hard to do when the Sixers tied an NBA record with a 26-game losing streak, but the Bucks did it.
GM Sam Hinkie was hired to rebuild a Sixers roster that was 34-48 and failed to make the playoffs the year before, thanks mostly to Andrew Bynum. Being a team that finishes around .500 and either just misses out on the playoffs, or makes it and loses in the first round, is not the way to go in the NBA. You need to be monumentally bad and Hinkie made sure that would happen.
Was the Philadelphia 76ers Season a Success?
He traded away his best player on draft night, when he traded Jrue Holiday for injured draftee Nerlens Noel and the New Orleans Pelicans' 2014 first round pick. That pick will most likely end up being the 10th pick in the upcoming draft. It is top-five protected, but there is such a small chance of the Pelicans pick ending up in the top five of the draft lottery, we can assume the Sixers will get that pick this year.
Noel never played a single game this past season, as he recovered from a knee injury, and still Hinkie didn't think they were bad enough. As a result, he traded off every NBA starter-level player on his roster except for Thaddeus Young and likely rookie or the year, Michael Carter-Williams. The fact that he only got second round picks in return for serviceable NBA players just goes to prove that Hinkie was determined to tank the season. And I say that in a good way. It was the right thing to do if this team ever wants to compete for a championship.
The Top Three?
The reward for their tanking is that the Sixers are guaranteed a top five pick in the upcoming draft. Here are their odds for each pick in the draft lottery:
First overall pick: 19.9%
Second overall pick: 18.8%
Third overall pick: 17.1%
Fourth overall pick: 31.9%
Fifth overall pick: 12.3%
Whichever player the Sixers take with their pick, and the player they take with the Pelican's pick, will team with Carter-Williams and Noel to form one of the youngest rosters in the NBA. Speaking of Young, Thaddeus Young will almost certainly be traded, since the Sixers are years away from contention. If Hinkie could have gotten something of value in return for Young, he would have been traded at the deadline this season. He's sure to be playing somewhere else next season as the Sixers continue their rebuilding project.
1996 NBA Draft Lottery
And make no mistake about it. This is a full-blown rebuilding of the Philadelphia 76ers franchise from top to bottom. Hinkie is the new GM; Brett Brown was brought in from San Antonio to teach a young roster how to play the right way. And the losses will continue to pile up next season as the team looks to add yet another young piece early in next year's draft.
That's the way it's done in the NBA. To think otherwise is just plain stupid.
San Antonio became a dynasty after tanking a season and drafting Tim Duncan and that just happens to be where Brown came from, remember? Hinkie is big on analytics and the numbers say the smart move was to tank this season to improve the chances of success later. The owner understands that, he just shouldn't have said it out loud. It upset the small-minded out there; especially the dopes on local sports talk radio.
The Sixers had a total of 28 players on their roster this season. Six of those players were on 10-day contract and two others - Danny Granger and Earl Clark - never put on a Sixers uniform after being acquired in trades. Hinkie and Brown said they used so many to see who might fit into Brown's system, but the reality is that they were just the square pegs they needed for the round holes on the roster to make this team as bad as possible. The players gave effort, but management made sure their talent level wouldn't be enough to compete.
Tanking is the dirty little secret of the NBA. Teams do it every year. Others are just a little better at hiding it than the Sixers were this past season. That doesn't make it wrong. As a matter of fact, the Sixers did it right. They did a great job under the current rules to ensure that they can have the best possible chance at success in the future. How is that not a great season?
Some might even call it a success.