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The Rebuilding of the Philadelphia 76ers Rebuild

Serious question: When should the basketball world expect to start seeing results from the Philadelphia 76ers’ tear-it-down-to-build-a-winner rebuilding plan? Serious answer: Not any time soon.

Serious question: When should the basketball world expect to start seeing results from the Philadelphia 76ers’ tear-it-down-to-build-a-winner rebuilding plan? Serious answer: not anytime soon.

Let’s just be honest, let’s just be real: This is year three of their grand plan, and it’s the worst incarnation of their team thus far. The Philadelphia 76ers rebuild is far from the finish. Even if the benefit of the doubt is granted to the Sixers front office, one has to wonder: If the plan was to tear down the team to the bare minimum in order to acquire the most future assets, does that process really have to take more than three years? It’s increasingly relevant to question what the end game is, or perhaps more appropriately, question when it will start to take shape. Since adopting the tanking method, Philadelphia’s highest picks have been spent on Nerlens Noel, Joel Embiid, and Jahlil Okafor. Three guys with redundant and non-complementary skill-sets.

The Rebuilding of the Philadelphia 76ers Rebuild

The Sixers can justify those picks as merely taking the best value at the slots they were drafting at. Fine. However, there are reasons those players were passed over, allowing the Sixers to take them. For starters, the league as a whole has never been more down on the value of big guys in general, with the small-ball formula currently running the league, and the league’s front offices. Noel, Embiid, and Okafor are all 6’10” or taller, and none of them have much of anything resembling a perimeter game (yet), so it’s not like any of the three can play a stretch-4 position and another can play center. Even still, that leaves one of them on the bench.

The embattled Embiid was once considered a number one pick. After injury concerns slipped him behind Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker, his bum foot hasn’t allowed him to log a single minute of NBA action thus far, and he won’t be ready to play until at least the start of next season. Which means his “rookie” season will be two full seasons removed from him being drafted, and it’s not like he’s a European draft-and-stash guy, he’s been rehabbing a foot. It’s fair to question how much his conditioning and game have slipped. It’s not like he can still work on his game in any meaningful way if he can’t run or jump.

The year before taking Embiid, the Sixers spent a number six overall pick on Noel, who likewise missed his entire first season with a knee injury. In his second season, technically his rookie season, Noel played in 75 games, and averaged a respectable 9.9 points, 8.1 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 1.8 steals, and 1.9 blocks. For a guy not only looking to get healthy, but also acclimate to the speed and physicality of the NBA game, putting together a well-rounded campaign like that was inspiring. He’s a great defender. However, if the offensive growth doesn’t begin to show itself soon, his value as a NBA player will be capped. Moreover, he might be a luxury player stuck on a team where luxury players are rendered useless. Being on such a bad team has given Noel every opportunity to implement himself as the number one option on offense and grow his offensive game. That’s not happening. As of this writing, Noel has scored over 20 points in a game exactly twice in 89 games … not exactly what you’d want to see from a prospective franchise cornerstone.

If Philadelphia decides to move any of Okafor, Embiid, and/or Noel, where do they get the value they so desperately seek? Okafor is the youngest of the trio and has the highest upside. Putting any sort of trade value on him at this point is just asking to wrongly appraise him, good or bad. Nobody’s buying on Embiid, given his injury status unless the asking price is (very) low. Which leaves Noel. But he’s a defensive specialist, no other team is giving the Sixers the return on investment they would need to justify moving him. As odd as it is, Noel’s value to the Sixers is probably higher than his value is on the trade market, despite the fact he only helps them so much. Three years of awful basketball in, and the Sixers three most important players are a still-unknown offensive specialist (Okafor), a defensive specialist (Noel), and a guy (Embiid) whose last game was March 1, 2014, and next game won’t be until at least October 2016.

The logjam in the frontcourt would make one think that if they had a young, versatile guard who could be Rookie of the Year and put up 16 points, 6.7 assists, and 4.7 rebounds per game, they’d hang on to him, right? Nope. That award and those numbers belong to Michael Carter-Williams, who Philly shipped to Milwaukee at the trade deadline last season (his second season). For the reigning Rookie of the Year, the Sixers got a future first-round pick from the Lakers (more on that later). For what it’s worth, it’s not like Carter-Williams is lighting the world on fire in Milwaukee, as his performance has been up and down, with more down as of late. However, trading him when they did illustrates how Philadelphia’s front office is finding reset buttons for their reset buttons; the Sixers are rebuilding within their rebuild, like a droste effect picture.

Aside from the atrocious record, that’s where Philadelphia is now with their core roster make-up. Arguably their most accomplished young player was traded, and of the three bigs they spent lottery picks on, none would be considered sure-fire superstars at this point. Especially when considering that at some point, Okafor’s off-court issues might become problematic (if they aren’t already), and have a negative influence on his on-court development. Needless to say, the 76ers are far from a winning team, let alone a contender.

Stay tuned, this exploration into the Philadelphia 76ers rebuild. In Part 2, we’ll further examine the remainder of the roster, as well as the team’s upper-management, and more!


Image credit: Wikimedia


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