Just How Bad Are the Philadelphia 76ers?
Philadelphia 76ers fans, long regarded as some of the most committed and vocal sports types in all of American sports, have had to deal with their team being less than all right, let alone good this season. They watched during the draft when they sent All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday to the New Orleans Pelicans for 2013 draft pick Nerlens Noel and a 2014 draft pick. This wouldn’t have been such a big deal if Noel wasn’t already slated to be out for the entire season and Holiday wasn’t their best player.
For a franchise that can lay claim to some of the most memorable NBA players in history, guys with last names like Barkley, Iverson, Malone and Erving (you know him as Dr. J), the 76ers have had frustratingly little success in the last decade plus — aside from a Finals appearance in 2001, when A.I. and company dealt the eventual champion Los Angeles Lakers (featuring an in-his-prime Shaq and “turning into a superstar” Kobe Bryant), their only loss of the postseason. It’s been a long run of first and second round exits for the Liberty Ballers. Now, with general manager Sam Hinkie committed to bottoming out the season in order to accumulate assets, the Sixers have limped along to fifteen wins and no real hope of being very good in the next couple of years.
Hinkie, who was the Vice President of Basketball Operations for the Houston Rockets before taking over in Philly, earned his reps working with Rockets GM Daryl Morey, a guy so strongly in support of advanced sports analytics and team-building through statistics that he earned the name Dork Elvis and agreed that it fit. While Morey traded players in and out of the Rockets like puzzle pieces, he managed to field a competitive team in the hopes that a winning team would attract superstar players (and it eventually did, in the form of James Harden and Dwight Howard.) Hinkie seems ready to embrace the Sam Presti model — Presti, the General Manager of the Seattle Supersonics/Oklahoma City Thunder, is famous for his strategy of trading away talent in order to build his team through the draft — or, more cynically, to facilitate a team relocation to OKC.