Philadelphia 76ers: The Double Standard Of Trusting The Process

Oct 11, 2016; Memphis, TN, USA; Philadelphia 76ers center Jahlil Okafor watches from the bench against the Memphis Grizzlies at FedExForum. Okafor did not play. Memphis defeated Philadelphia 121-91. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 11, 2016; Memphis, TN, USA; Philadelphia 76ers center Jahlil Okafor watches from the bench against the Memphis Grizzlies at FedExForum. Okafor did not play. Memphis defeated Philadelphia 121-91. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports /

The Philadelphia 76ers convinced their fans to Trust The Process, and they did. But the hypocrisy within the fanbase can’t go unnoticed.

The Philadelphia 76ers and the old regime of Sam Hinkie came in and proposed a 7 year plan to take a low-seed playoff team, break them down, and build them up to a hopeful top seed in the Eastern conference. The old school fans in they city laughed in the face of this plan.

I mean could you blame them? This city is infamous for demanding winning seasons every year in every sport. For someone to come and say “Hey, we are going to stink for half a decade but it’ll lead to years of glory” to the city of Philadelphia seemed incredulous.

Still, Sam Hinkie overcame those odds and convinced a large segments of fans to be patient with his plan. The three seasons that saw the once perennial playoff contenders turn to bottom feeders still brought excitement. Hinkie’s plan to breakdown and build through the draft gave the Philadelphia 76ers draft prospects that were considered top of their class in Nerlens Noel, Joel Embiid, Dario Saric, and Jahlil Okafor.

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The plan was loved, and when Hinkie resigned near the end of the 2015-16 season, some fans were devastated. Despite the 10-win season. Despite the needed patience with draftees Nerlens Noel, Joel Embiid, and Dario Saric. Despite seeing the rest of the league’s rebuilds move faster. These fans saw the bigger picture. It was long term success.

In the 2015 NBA Draft, many thought the team’s star would finally come in the form of Ohio State guard D’Angelo Russell. When the Los Angeles Lakers swooped him with the 2nd pick, the Philadelphia 76ers picked up Jahlil Okafor. With Embiid and Noel on the roster and seemingly ready to pair up this coming season, many were confused by the selection.

Embiid’s setback shortly followed the draft, and the criticism of the Okafor pick started to dwindle. Okafor was still viewed as an offensive superstar. He led Duke to a NCAA National Championship as a freshman and his post play gave him Duncan-like comparisons on the offensive side of the game. Okafor’s defense of course brought concerns of both upside and fit with the team.

Development was a keyword for the Philadelphia 76ers throughout this process. The Sixers developed forwards Robert Covington and Jerami Grant into solidified NBA players, finding diamonds in the rough through the D-League and the second round. For some reason, that same ability to develop isn’t given to Jahlil Okafor.

Okafor’s rookie season saw multiple off-court issues and trade talks. The rookie still put up numbers, averaging 17.5 points and 7.0 rebounds per game. Analytically, however, Okafor finished in the middle of the pack for rookies in most shooting statistics and in the bottom tier for defensive rebound percentages. As the soured cherry on top, an injury ended his rookie season after just 53-games.

Okafor’s rookie season didn’t answer the question of whether he’ll be the start Sam Hinkie and the Sixers were searching for, but it didn’t close the door on it either. Or it shouldn’t have anyways.

Maybe it was the poor play of Noel that was conveniently credited to the fit next to Okafor. Or maybe it was the immediate explosions of fellow rookie big men Karl Towns and Nikola Jokic. It may also have been the inevitable debut of perceived franchise player Joel Embiid.

Jahlil Okafor’s development was actually already shown in his rookie season. His mid-range game and free throw shooting were a sign that Okafor can improve on weaknesses. Improving agility on the defensive side is a bigger animal, however.

Okafor’s commitment to fitness despite recovering from a knee injury is a sign that he’s ready take a step towards the next level in his game. But many fans of the Philadelphia 76ers are ready to see him go before this season starts.

Why is this? Well the impending restricted free agency of Nerlens Noel is pushing people to rush for a move to clear some of this logjam. Those who disregard Okafor as a productive player would rather give Noel close to max money, although Embiid will likely lay claim to the starting center spot with years to come.

Okafor still has star potential. It’s more of a long-shot than it was this time last year, but it’s still there. The hype of Noel should be mutually exclusive with the play of Okafor, but it’s not. Building up Noel has turned to breaking down Okafor.

At 20-years old and just 53-games under his belt, it seems many are ready to give up on him. Giving up on a potential value player after 53-games seems hypocritical of a fanbase ready to commit to 7-years of subpar basketball in hopes of long-term glory.

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When you trust the process, you believe in development. It’s not case-by-case, but in this case it’s been prematurely decided that Okafor can’t develop. Over time that belief might be proven true, but the patience of the process must carry over to player development as well.