The Philadelphia 76ers are doomed, but not because of “The Process”.
It was only a few short years ago. The Philadelphia 76ers looked like the most promising team in the NBA, having just drafted Markelle Fultz after acquiring the number one pick a few days prior in a trade with Boston, sending over the third pick and a future first-rounder in exchange for the right to draft seemingly the most complete player in the draft.
At Washington, Fultz was a star. Even though they didn’t make the NCAA Tournament, everyone knew that Fultz was the heart and soul of his team. The Ringer’s Mark Titus wrote this blurb about him while he was still at school:
Fultz is so gifted that his best attributes can change from game to game. Sometimes he counts on the 3-point shot that he’s hitting at a 41.3 percent rate on the season, like when he went 5-for-10 from deep and dropped 25 in a 107–66 loss to UCLA on February 4. More often, he makes his living in the paint by relying on his midrange jumper, change-of-pace dribbling, and array of crafty and unorthodox moves, like when he scored a career-high 37 in an 85–83 win over Colorado in January despite going just 0-for-2 from 3. He can be a traditional point guard and try to get his teammates going with his great ballhandling and court vision, he can crash the glass as well as any guard in America, and he can morph into a solid defender with excellent hands and instincts. In short: You could put Fultz on any team in the country and he’d instantly become its best player.
Over the next year though, Fultz weirdly started to try to change his own shooting motion. The reasons would vary, from Fultz having the yips, a common term used to describe just losing the ability to play at your usual level, to him actually having medical issues with his shoulder. In any case, the Fultz saga was ended when he was traded to Orlando in shame, and most Philadelphia 76ers fans came to the notion that this was the first domino to fall.
Outside of Philadelphia, basketball fans have this idea that “The Process” failed. I don’t think that that’s an accurate way to put it. The Process succeeded. It worked because in 2017 they had Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and Fultz all on one team, with support from Dario Saric and Robert Covington. That was supposed to be THE group.
On that team, there was no need for Tobias Harris, cause they had JJ Redick and Marco Belinelli to shoot 3’s with regularity. There was no real need for Al Horford either, because they had guys like Ersan Ilyasova and Jahlil Okafor. All the pieces were in place for the team to be a juggernaut.
The Bryan Colangelo burner account scandal thankfully brought an end to his tenure as the GM, but not before he shipped off Okafor and a couple other key pieces. Enter Brett Brown and Elton Brand as the new GM, and Brown told the media that they were “star hunting, because that is how you win a championship.”
For all the people that argue that this team was perfect before they arrived, Harris and Jimmy Butler were great for this team in their original roles. Nobody had ever asked Harris to be a star player, he was just fine as the third or fourth option. As far as Butler, he was a leadership guy and a closer, and he played that role perfectly for the Sixers, coming in with game winning baskets in two of his first five games.
That all changed last offseason, though. Butler wanted a max contract, and the Sixers refused to give one to him, so they shipped him off to Miami for Josh Richardson, and Harris did receive a max deal along with Simmons. This is where things started to go wrong. For one, Harris is not a max deal guy. He’s again more of a $20 million a year guy who should be the third or fourth option, not the second.
The second, and more pressing issue, is that the Sixers never really replaced any of their 3 point shooters that left the team in the past 3 years. Redick, Belinelli, Stauskas, they all left the organization with no clear replacement. They opted to go with Harris and Richardson as their main options with Alec Burks and Shake Milton as secondary options.
The current iteration of this team has many, many issues. The cap issues brought on by Horford and Harris are outstanding, and the team may have no choice but to attach first round picks to them to get themselves out of a sticky situation.
At the end of the day, the Philadelphia 76ers may not have started out in a bad situation, but now they are smack in the middle of a holding pattern with no easy solve. The fanbase wants the coach and GM gone, there are multiple personnel problems that need to be fixed, and after years and years of tanking for The Process, everyone wants to see the fruits grow. The question is, when?