“Trust the process”. That was a statement created by Sam Hinkie, the former GM of the Philadelphia 76ers. When Hinkie first took over the team he immediately began the slow process of a rebuild. This process was highlighted by tanking for draft picks, selecting the best available players, and selling any asset of value. With the process now over it begs the question of was it a success and is it replicable?
Did The Process Fail?
The Process Itself
One of the first signs that the process was going to be a long and painful process was when Hinkie traded All-Star Jrue Holiday for the sixth overall pick. With this pick, the 76ers decided to select Nerlens Noel. This was capped off with a 19-63 season. They continue the tank by drafting the best player available in Joel Embiid and losing with an 18-64 record. They again draft what they believe is the best player in Jahlil Okafor and continue losing with a 10-72 record.
This three-year span for Hinkie showed a failure to win 20 games and three centers drafted in the top 10. It wasn’t all bad as Hinkie did make good trades for the organization. He also drafted some diamonds in the rough in Robert Covington and Jerami Grant.
Hinkie was eventually forced out of Philadelphia after his “failures occurred”. It wasn’t until years later that some of his draft picks hit and his trades for future picks came into play. This led to Philadelphia becoming a contender year in and year out for the last couple of years.
The End of the Process
The process ended when Hinkie left and the 76ers began to trade future assets to win now. The core of the process, primarily Embiid and Ben Simmons, remained together for a multitude of years. The duo of Embiid and Simmons first made the playoffs in the 2017-18 season. After moving on from Simmons this past year for James Harden, the only player besides Embiid on that playoff roster still on their current roster is Furkan Korkmaz.
The process gave the 76ers the future assets to later flip into winning players for contention. The most significant example of this is the trade deadline where they traded for Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris in 2018. This gave the 76ers their best chances at winning a title. The season had a disappointing ending when they lost on a game-winner to the Raptors and were eliminated from the playoffs, but that core showed hope.
The process all seemed to be building to something. Bringing in Harris and Butler was the exact move in the right direction that all these assets led to. This all fell flat when Butler wanted out and went to Miami. This led to several years of failed playoff series’ followed by the letting go of Simmons. The loss of the original duo was the true end of the process.
Was The Process a Failure?
The process was a failure in the sense that it never led to a championship with the main core. So many young stars were shuffled in and out of Philadelphia, yet they never made a conference finals with these teams. There’s still hope for this team’s future though, as Harden recently took a pay cut to help this team win a championship. With most of their players on the decline of their career and not a stockpiling of other teams’ first-round picks, it’ll take some luck for the process to not fail.
Is The Process Replicable?
When people think of a current team trying to replicate the process, most come to the consensus thought of the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Thunder are currently in a complete rebuild as they have 19 first-round picks up until 2029 and a lot of young talent. They also continue to take on salary for assets and take the best player available.
The main difference between the current Thunder’s strategy of tanking and Hinkie’s strategy with the 76ers is the worse lottery odds. Back when Hinkie rebuilt the 76ers, the worst team had a 25% chance of winning the lottery. Now the three worst teams have a 14% chance of winning the lottery. This is shown by the level of high draft picks the 76ers lucked out with.
The 76ers also eventually used those picks to obtain assets to win now. If the Thunder hopes to eventually reach 76ers status, they can’t be afraid to sell future assets. If they can get some good players on their roster before paying their young players, they may be able to surpass what the 76ers ever did and win a championship.