The Long Connection Between The Philadelphia 76ers And The Los Angeles Lakers


The Philadelphia 76ers have endured a long rebuild focusing on bringing in talent, and the Los Angeles Lakers have played an interesting role in it.

Every superhero needs its supervillain. Flash has the Reverse Flash. Batman needs its Joker. And the Philadelphia 76ers have the Los Angeles Lakers, in a way. The beauty of the Sam Hinkie-led rebuild is that it made the Sixers intertwined with various NBA teams through talent acquisition.

It started with the New Orleans Pelicans. The new GM sent all-star guard Jrue Holiday and a second-round pick to New Orleans for the 2013 pick that would become Nerlens Noel and a 2014 first round pick. That same draft, the Philadelphia 76ers would draft future Rookie of the Year point guard Michael Carter-Williams.

Next, the Orlando Magic. The 2014 pick acquired from the Holiday-Noel deal turned into the 10th pick in the draft. The Philadelphia 76ers drafted guard Elfrid Payton, whose skill set was reminiscent of the guard they selected the year prior. But the Sixers moved Payton on draft night, acquiring Dario Saric.

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But before all of this happened, the Los Angeles Lakers tried to make waves out west in 2012. In an attempt to rival the Miami Heat super-team of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh, the Lakers tried to form their own team.

The first step in the super-team was trading for all-time great Steve Nash. In the Nash deal, the Lakers sent a 2013 first-round pick and a 2015 first-round pick. That 2015 first-round pick would be important.

The next step in the Lakers super-team would be trading for Dwight Howard. This is the first connection seen between the Lakers and the Sixers, serving as a precursor to the arrival of Sam Hinkie. The Lakers would get Dwight Howard, the Sixers would get Andrew Bynum, Nuggets would get Andre Iguodala, and the Magic would get Nikola Vucevic, essentially.

This trade served as the deal that would kick-start a rebuild. With Bynum never appearing a game for the Philadelphia 76ers due to injury, the team would have to look elsewhere for a star. Fast-forward to the middle of the 2014-15 season where the Sixers seemingly have found a foundation for the rebuild in Michael Carter-Williams, with Nerlens Noel finally making his debut after recovering from injury in 2013-14.

The Sixers looked stagnant however, with poor surrounding talent. Sam Hinkie, being the trade maestro he is, found his way to be a part of a huge three-way deal. He sent Michael Carter-Williams to the Milwaukee Bucks, who received Tyler Ennis from the Phoenix Suns. The Suns received point guard Brandon Knight, but had to send that protected 2015 Lakers pick received in the Steve Nash deal to the Philadelphia 76ers.

Carter-Williams would end up having a short and underwhelming Bucks career, being traded to the Chicago Bulls for Tony Snell prior to the 2016-17 season. Through that time however, the Philadelphia 76ers would have to be patient to see their valuable return.

Okafor’s rookie season brought questions about the formation of the roster in the future, and would be all a chain reaction of the Lakers swooping Russell from underneath the Sixers’ noses.

The pick was top five protected in 2015. Not only did the Lakers fall in the top five, they picked ahead of the Sixers. The team was geared to select D’Angelo Russell, with the Timberwolves and Lakers expectedly taking Karl-Anthony Towns and Jahlil Okafor respectively.

The plan was spoiled by the Lakers, who instead took Russell, leaving the Sixers to take a center in Okafor for the 3rd straight year. The Lakers were in the midst of a rebuild of their own. Jordan Clarskon, Julius Randle, and D’Angelo Russell were viewed as the core to lead the Lakers post-Kobe Bryant. The seemingly complementary core the Lakers was contrasted by the pure talent, no fit core of the Sixers.

With Joel Embiid still sitting out with a foot injury, the Sixers moved through the 2015-16 season with Noel and Okafor. Noel and Okafor themselves would be intertwined in comparisons that would split a fanbase in two. Okafor’s rookie season brought questions about the formation of the roster in the future, and would be all a chain reaction of the Lakers swooping Russell from underneath the Sixers’ noses. It would also be the end of Hinkie in Philadelphia.

The Lakers and Sixers were destined for the top spots in the draft. The lottery would play out that the Sixers would finally get the top pick they sought out for, followed by their rebuild rivals. The pick once again didn’t convey, this time being just top 3 protected.

The debate between Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram would circulate through the Sixers fanbase, with the Lakers’ decision playing off of what Philadelphia would do. The Sixers took Simmons, and the Lakers would land Ingram.

Now, the Sixers and the Lakers will continue their connection, as the top 3 protected play is still a huge factor in this rebuild. The 2017 NBA Draft is set to be a loaded one, and if the Philadelphia 76ers could land two lottery picks in this draft, it could accelerate the timeline of the long rebuild.

The Lakers made some other huge moves. They signed Timofey Mozgov, Luol Deng, and brought on promising head coach Luke Walton. The core of Russell, Clarkson, and Randle have more talent and chemistry, and promising prospect Ingram coming off the bench will ease him into what should be a long career.

The Sixers were more conservative in their free agency, signing Jerryd Bayless, Sergio Rodriguez, and Gerald Henderson to short and relatively inexpensive contracts. Joel Embiid made his debut this season, with Noel and Okafor battling injuries.

The difference? The Sixers have started 0-4 and the Lakers have secured a 4-3 start. The bad? The “supervillain” Lakers will undoubtedly have a better record than the Sixers, who will be near the bottom of the league once again this season. The good? It’s unlikely the Lakers will keep this run up, let alone holding the 7th spot in the conference the entire season. The Sixers should end up with another lottery pick from the Lakers, unless the team does somehow find a way to put itself among the best eight teams in the Western Conference.

The Lakers might be nearing the end of the rebuild, but the Philadelphia 76ers are still just getting started. Joel Embiid’s rookie explosion has been inspiring, and with the team yet to see their top pick in Simmons play, there is high hopes. The hopes will be even higher when the team secures a top 3 pick and potentially another lottery pick from the Lakers.

The connection between the Lakers’ rebuild and the Philadelphia 76ers’ dates back to 2012, and it will continue to show through the next decade. The glamour of Los Angeles and the blue collard-ness of Philadelphia have put these two cities in a rivalry. One matched by their basketball rebuilds. The Lakers had a legend in Kobe through their rebuild, and now have the glamour of three to four potential stars. The Sixers are finally seeing their star, after two years of injury.

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