Last Friday, for the umpteenth night, the Philadelphia 76ers made NBA History.
On the wrong side.
The heartbreaking loss to the Houston Rockets represented Sixers’ 27th consecutive loss, if we count also 2014/15 last 10 games. A NBA record.
Philadelphia has beaten… itself: previous losing NBA record was detained by both Sixers (2013/14) and Cleveland Cavaliers (2010/11, the life-after-LeBron season).
2013/14 was also the first season with Sam Hinkie, actual Sixers President and GM, fully in charge.
Since taking control of the franchise in the summer of 2013, Hinkie has completely gutted the roster, cleared the cap, poised the team for financial flexibility and stockpiled picks, while trading away a (one-time) All-Star in Jrue Holiday, a reigning Rookie of the Year in Michael Carter-Williams, and numerous role players with clunky contracts like Evan Turner, Spencer Hawes and Thaddeus Young.
Hinkie was appointed by the Sixers after the disastrous management of the Andrew Bynum situation by previous GM Tony DiLeo, a sort of Franchise Factotum in the last 20 years.
Bynum has never played a single NBA minute in Sixers uniform, and his trade (part of the Dwight Howard to Lakers move) meant also losing a more-than-decent center in Nikola Vucevic and franchise-leader Andre Iguodala, the recent NBA Finals MVP.
It’s interesting to recall how this, in hindsight, horrible trade, was perceived at the time.
This is a win for the Sixers on almost all accounts. To think they now have the best center in the Eastern Conference, while making sure that center doesn’t end up in the same division (Brooklyn) is huge. Bynum is not signed beyond this year, but the Sixers will have the upper hand in doing that, because they’ll be able to offer him one more year and more money than any other team. It’s important to note that it benefits Bynum to re-sign after the year when he can sign for five years, rather than extend during they year when he can only sign for three. Even if Bynum leaves, you get his salary cap room a year before you would have had it anyway, assuming Iguodala doesn’t opt out.
Bynum’s move for Sixers ownership represented the straw that broke the camel.
After that season, Hinkie came to revolutionize both Franchise and perspective.
At Year 3 of Hinkie’s Plan is it worth to ask ourselves: Is really the Process “trust-able”?
Season 1 of the ‘Philly Process’ begun in fashion, with an astonishing win against the defending NBA Champions Miami Heat, thanks to an unreal (and unrepeated) debut by Michael Carter-Williams, whom began his Rookie of the Year campaign by flirting with a Triple-Double.
Sixers began the season 3-0 and 5-4, also notching a 4 games winning streak during the season.
On January 29, 2014, Philadelphia’s record was a decent 15-31.
Win number 16 came exactly two month later, ending a 26 losing game streak.
Sixers later ended that season with a 19-63 record, second only to the Milwaukee Bucks for the worst NBA record of that season.
Philly’s high rhythm (first in the league for PACE) was joined by the worst NBA offense (last in Off Rtg and also second in FGA). Defense was also bad (26th for Off Rtg, 30th for Turnovers but 1st for Forced Turnover), and the upcoming NBA Draft was seen as an elixir.
Sixers double top-10 picks were later converted into Joel Embiid and Dario Saric, two players whom, at this day, have never played a single minute with the Sixers.
Saric’s arrival to the NBA is expected for next season, while Embiid’s situation is dominated by a constant uncertainty about his injury status. He could play later this season or (probably) in the next one, but some rumors suggests a Greg Oden Scenario.
Philly’s good 2013-14 start wasn’t matched last year, with the Sixers starting 0-17, one game away from the worst start in NBA History as of today (2009/10, New Jersey Nets).
Despite that, Sixers ended the season with a 18-64, only one win behind their previous record.
2014-15 season wasn’t all garbage: Brown’s work was highlighted by substantial defensive improvements (13th for Def Rtg playing at a slower PACE -6th in the League- added by relevant improvement in terms of FG% allowed, both 2P and 3P).
Philadelphia’s real problem was represented by a poor offense system. Worst by far in terms of Off Rtg (95.5, with the 29th -Knicks- scoring a 99.9), also last for FG% and FT%: besides Furkan Aldemir no Sixers player averaged, through all the season, more than 50% in terms of shooting percentage.
Here comes the current season, which should be the last “tanking” one for many reasons.
The addition of Jahlil Okafor, despite his off-court issues, represents the first real sparkling light in the Sixers process after Nerlens Noel’s defensive impact (at this moment Noel has a Def Rtg of 100.8, against a team one of 106.2). His post game doesn’t seem like a Rookie one, even more if you think that he’s defenses main target when someone face the Sixers.
The constant use of Advanced Stats in analyzing Sixers’ performances isn’t casual: it’s a dominant part of Hinkie’s process. It’s not so surprising that the Philadelphia 76ers are the top team, in professional sports, for their use of analytics.
It will be a tough rookie season for Okafor, despite his good stats: leading a team in which 58 different players (FIFTYEIGHT) were part of Philly’s roster since Sam Hinkie’s appointment.
Will 2015-16 be the last ‘Philadelphia SeventyTankers’ season?
The rewriting of the worst NBA Records could be an indication of that, but future is still bright for Philly, whom would probably detain 4 first round Draft picks next June, two of these being likely top-10.
Their extensive assets’ availability can represent a further advantage into cutting the ‘Process Steps’.
A team with Okafor, Noel, Saric, eventually Embiid, four good first round picks would only need a couple of veterans to be just in contention for a Playoff spot, even in an improved Eastern Conference.
Are this Sixers the worst NBA Team Ever?
It could be surely arguable, but it’s also important to point out how, in none of the first two Hinkie’s seasons, the Sixers have never notched the worst NBA record.
Although this could be a ‘8-74’ year, NBA’s history is packed by even worse teams for records and ratings. Moreover, it’s the very concept of ‘worst’ worth to be discussed.
It’s worse a team like the Sixers or like the current Brooklyn Nets, whom might have a better record so far (3-12) but surely have a less-bright future, with heavy contracts and few draft picks?
If you ‘Trust the Process’, you should know the answer.