Philadelphia 76ers: Bryan Colangelo and Elton Brand ruined this team

(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) /

Once the most promising young team in the NBA, the Philadelphia 76ers are fading fast, and it’s all because of a clueless owner and two incompetent GMs.

Remember when the future looked bright for the Philadelphia 76ers? Joel Embiid was showing flashes of brilliance in his first (finally) official campaign. With number one overall pick Ben Simmons sidelined by a season-ending broken foot suffered in training camp, Embiid ‘s injection of enthusiasm and youthful dominance ignited a fanbase that had largely grown dormant for the better parts of five years.

But now finally, after a half-decade of bad basketball and a revolving door of who’s who, the Sixers were on the verge of greatness.

Or so it seemed.

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Flash forward three years later, and the Sixers once again find themselves on the verge of dreams unfulfilled. After Saturday’s loss to the top-seeded Bucks, it became painfully obvious just how far this team has fallen. They cannot compete with the league’s best, and while Embiid and Simmons are still here (despite the latter leaving Saturday’s game with a lower back injury), the radiance of hope once accompanying this franchise has faded faster than a desert rose.

The Sixers have wilted, and it’s all because of an incompetent owner and two clueless GMs who have done their best at burning the roots of every once-promising seed.

Joel Embiid. Ben Simmons. A plethora of unprotected first-round picks. Robert Covington. Dario Saric. Salary cap flexibility… all of it vanquished by the impatience of an inept owner and the moves forthcoming.

Bryan Colangelo was appointed as 76ers’ GM on April 6, 2016. While riding the wave of the previous regime’s efforts, Colangelo and the Sixers enjoyed initial success. Equipped with the first overall pick in the upcoming draft (which would become Ben Simmons) and a young roster with promising talent, the 2016-17 squad actually pushed for a playoff spot before faltering in the season’s waning months. Despite only playing 31 games, Joel Embiid provided a glimpse of greatness with his rare combination of size and elite athleticism.

But that wave of optimism was nearing its peak.

After trading up to select Markelle Fultz in the 2017 NBA draft and signing free agent sharpshooter J.J. Redick, it was clear the Sixers were implementing a shift in philosophical approach. The organization was in win-now mode and would attempt to do so at any cost.

Unfortunately, the cost is today’s losses, uninspired play, and an offense that looks as sluggish as a middle school basketball team.

Prior to Colangelo coming on board, the team’s leadership was steadfast in its decision to acquire assets while maintaining roster and salary cap flexibility. They understood the draft is a crapshoot, and that the more darts you have to throw, the greater the odds of hitting a bullseye. The previous regime had plenty of misses – Jahlil Okafor and Nerlens Noel come to mind – but they also hit on Embiid, Saric, Covington (FA signing), and a nice assortment of valuable role players. Their work also allowed for the selection of another hit – Simmons – and the upside of future draft capital.

All of that is now gone. The wave of optimism growing has crashed into a tsunami of in-house squabbles, poor roster construction, and an ever-present need for “change.” Following the unceremonious departure of Bryan Colangelo, Elton Brand was tasked with appeasing the careless “win-now-at-all-costs” mantra of team owner Josh Harris. (Perhaps Elton Brand shares in this philosophy.) Either way, it was the wrong attitude to take for a team not quite ready for that next step.

Now they’re suffering the consequences.

Trading Robert Covington and Dario Saric for Jimmy Butler was a mistake. Packaging Landry Shamet and two first-round picks for Tobias Harris was foolish. Re-signing Harris to a max contract in the offseason while trying to force an aging, out-of-place Al Horford onto the roster (at $97 million for four years, no less) was ridiculous. You can put all the lipstick you want on a pig, but it’s still a pig. The makeup of this team continues to regress as glaring uncertainty now stains the luster of every once-promising hope.

Wouldn’t Landry Shamet look nice in a Sixers uniform? Do you think the team could benefit from a 3-and-D winger like Robert Covington (whom they reportedly were interested in re-acquiring)?

At this point, there are more questions than answers regarding the Sixers. Brett Brown is captaining a sinking ship, and his ability to patch the holes created by Bryan Colangelo, Elton Brand, and – ultimately – Josh Harris, play a vital role in the organization’s future.

Maybe he steers the team towards a strong playoff push. Maybe the boat sinks. Either way, the implications of the next three months will be huge.

Next. Tyler Johnson could help to fill in for Ben Simmons. dark

And if the boat does go down, who will be left swimming in 2020-2021?