Breaking Down Philadelphia 76ers’ Shooting Guard Position for 2014-15 Season

After a 19-63 season, it’s hard to say the shooting guard position was anything but a complete and utter failure for the Philadelphia 76ers.

Gone are the two men who played the majority of the minutes at the 2 last year—James Anderson and Evan Turner. 

The 25-year-old Anderson—the 2010 Big 12 Player of the Year and former All-American—signed a one-year deal over the summer with Lithuanian League champion Zalgiris Kaunas after being waived by the 76ers in June. He had his best year as a pro in Philly, averaging over 10 points a game in 62 starts.  

Turner, the much maligned 2010 No. 2 pick, never lived up to his lofty draft status. At the trade deadline’s 11th hour back in February, Turner and forward Lavoy Allen were dealt to the Indiana Pacers for Danny Granger and a second-round pick. He signed with the Boston Celtics in July. 

With Turner never fulfilling his promise as a potential franchise cornerstone, the shooting guard position is one in which there is no discernible direction, let alone a future franchise player. Anderson was nothing more than a temporary fill-in, a journeyman holding a spot for someone who’s a more permanent fit. 

For a team whose history boasts the likes of Hal Greer, Andrew Toney and the incomparable Allen Iverson as notable names from backcourt’s past, who will be next in line to stand alongside Michael Carter-Williams, Nerlens Noel and Joel Embiid when the 76ers are ready to take the next step?

 

Influx of New Faces

With all the roster trimming 76ers general manager Sam Hinkie has done in the last 12 months, he focused most of his efforts on improving this once-proud position. 

Philly drafted K.J. McDaniels in the second round of the 2014 NBA draft, and he should be an immediate contributor on the perimeter. 

Alexey Shved was acquired from the Minnesota Timberwolves along with Luc Mbah a Moute in exchange for Thaddeus Young. 

Second-round pick Jordan McRae would have been in the mix as well had he not signed a deal with Australia’s Melbourne United in August. Veteran Jason Richardson, a reliable three-point shooter who’s had a productive career at the 2, is listed on most depth charts as a small forward—if his balky knees and $6.6 million expiring contract actually see the court this year.

He missed all of last season nursing a knee injury.

The influx of new guards will be a welcome addition to a team lacking any noticeable depth in the backcourt. There are plenty of holes and opportunities for new guys to carve out a place on the team beyond this season. 

 

Looking Ahead

According to both ESPN and Rotoworld, there are four names to keep an eye on as contributors at the 2: Shved, Elliot Williams, McDaniels, and Tony Wroten—the explosive yet inconsistent scorer who logged the most minutes there out of this group last season.

Williams averaged just 17 minutes per game during his 67 appearances last year. He averaged six points and shot just 29 percent from three-point range. 

The remaining three years on Williams’ contract are not guaranteed. He can be waived at any time, but given the team’s thin roster and dearth of talent in the backcourt, he has as good a chance as anyone to make the roster—albeit in a reserve role. 

Out of the top-20 five-man units the 76ers deployed last season, only five had a positive plus-minus during their time on the court. The second-most successful lineup consisted of four players still on the roster (a feat in itself): Carter-Williams, Williams, Hollis Thompson and Henry Sims.

In a minuscule sample size (28.7 minutes) they had a plus-10 rating, per 82games.com. They were also one of only three units to have an effective field-goal percentage over 50. If head coach Brett Brown and Hinkie believe that lineup can improve with increased playing time and continuity, it could bode well for Williams. 

The Russian-born Shved has shown flashes during his nascent NBA career but has lacked the consistency to force his way into significant playing time, even with a franchise like Minnesota which was plagued by injuries. A playmaking 6’6″ guard, he struggled often during his two NBA seasons. He saw a decline in minutes last season, playing just 10 a game, down from 23 the year before.

He shot just 32 percent from the field and 29 percent from beyond the arc. 

Shved is a project for Hinkie and Brown and will have a chance to prove his worth this year before the organization makes a decision on his $4.1 million qualifying offer in 2015. 

This leaves us with the two players who will share the majority of minutes at the 2: Wroten and McDaniels

Wroten started 16 games last season but spent most of the year as the scoring punch off the bench. He’s explosive as a slasher and ball-handler, with per-36 numbers of 19 points, four rebounds and four assists. He lacks a consistent outside shot—just 21 percent from three-point range last year—and is a work in progress on the defensive end, but he has legitimate upside.

He impressed all summer during his run in the Seattle Pro-Am thanks to his ridiculous handle.

Wroten can also log minutes at point guard, which will be needed with Pierre Jackson lost for the season and no reliable depth beyond Carter-Williams and Casper Ware. 

McDaniels is the real intriguing prospect who projects to be a long-term fixture at the position. While at Clemson, he led the entire ACC in blocks and won Defensive Player of the Year. At 6’6″ with a long reach, he looks to be a perfect fit in Brown’s scheme.

He’s a fantastic athlete and should fit in nicely on the defensive end alongside Carter-Williams, Noel and Embiid. The 76ers finished dead last in team defense last year, having given up 109.9 points per game. 

Offensively he runs the floor well and can finish, but his three-point shooting was a pleasant surprise during summer league, shooting over 50 percent from long range. Already a stout defender, if McDaniels can keep his shot consistent, he could step in immediately as an effective 3-and-D player. And since Philly also finished dead last in offensive rating, McDaniels‘ emergence would be huge. 

McDaniels and Wroten, with some seasoning and maturity, could become two key players on this team in the not-so-distant future. In the meantime, they’ll share the backcourt load with Carter-Williams through the growing pains of the upcoming season. 

 

Unless otherwise noted, statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference. Contract information courtesy of Sham Sports. Follow Stephen on Twitter for more hoops discussion. 

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George Karl’s Harsh Words on the 76ers

“What is happening in Philadelphia should not be called ‘tanking’; rather, it should be called ‘destruction.’  The Sixers are at least three to five years away from even being a respectful — respectful — NBA roster.  They are worse than they were at the end of last year.  Three of the five starters barely played last season.  I understand building around talent, but people have to understand that sometimes young players just don’t develop.  You put all your eggs in that basket, but if the kids don’t pan out, you’re sunk.”
Those are the words of former NBA coach and current ESPN basketball analyst/expert George Karl put out to the World Wide Web on Tuesday via the ongoing “Front Office” series in ESPN.com’s Insider section.
While I may not agree with everything the former NBA Coach of the Year had to say on the 7-6, the article did have me asking, “What if Karl is right?”

A little setup information is probably necessary here…
Karl’s quotes came from the latest editi

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Watchability: Will 76ers be worst team ever?

The 76ers have dismantled their roster at an arguably unprecedented rate.

      
 

 

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76ers’ Joel Embiid Does ‘Shmoney Dance’ in Streets of Philadelphia

Philadelphia 76ers rookie Joel Embiid is continuing to enjoy himself in his new city.

While on the streets of Philadelphia, Embiid decided to break into the “Shmoney Dance” and post a video of it on Instagram.

Embiid isn’t the first athlete to do the dance, as Denver Broncos tight end Julius Thomas busted the dance out after one of his touchdowns against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday night.

[Joel Embiid]

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Watchability: Will the 76ers be the worst team ever?

The 76ers have dismantled their roster at an arguably unprecedented rate.

      
 

 

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Trading Thad Young Was Right Move for Philadelphia 76ers

At the end of the 2013-14 season, Thaddeus Young was the only member on the Philadelphia 76ers‘ roster who played on the team that ended up one game away from beating the Boston Celtics to get to the Eastern Conference Finals in the 2012 NBA playoffs.

He is now gone.

Trading away Young is like going to the doctor to get a shot. Sure, you hate seeing the needle, and thinking about how much it’s going to hurt. The pain that comes when it actually hits you is worse, and you’re counting down the time until it’s over.

But then it’s done. The needle is gone and there’s no blood to be seen. You know you’re going to be sore for a short amount of time, but the worst of it is over. Not only are you done with your shot, but the thought of a healthier future is one that made everything you went through worth it.

That’s the hidden beauty in what Philadelphia did by moving Young. He was the heart and soul of the team, a player who showed people how good he was when most undervalued him. To be honest, he was probably the franchise’s most liked and well-respected player.

Still though, the Sixers ended up trading him to the Minnesota Timberwolves as part of a three-team deal. There was a lot of hesitation when it came to thinking about Young being moved at all.

Just like when you see the needle for the first time.

The news released that he was actually moved, and the thoughts began to sink in. Reliving all of his positive moments, his great attitude, made thinking about him leaving hurt a little.

Similar to the pain associated with the shot going in.

Now it’s time to both wish him well and look at all of the positives that could come out of the situation. Sure it might take some time, but all parties have a real chance at being better off because of the deal.

Let’s take a look at some of the reasons why trading away Young was a good move for everyone involved.

 

Thaddeus Young’s Future

Averaging 13.7 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.4 steals per game over the course of seven years should be applauded. Raising those numbers to 17.3 points, 6.0 rebounds and 2.1 steals during the 2013-14 season shows the degree to which Young is actually getting better.

He’s been a member of the Sixers since 2007, but he is still quite young, having recently turned 26 over the summer. It’s not that farfetched to believe Young’s best days as a player are ahead of him.

And one can certainly argue that trading him to a different team was in his best interest.

Though the Timberwolves might not be the best situation in the short-run, they’re nonetheless trending upwards right now faster than Philadelphia. Their roster is more balanced, and Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett, Zach LaVine and Ricky Rubio give the team a core that should improve quicker than does Philly’s.

On top of that, Young will also have the opportunity to join free agency at the end of next season were he to opt out of his player option. Free-agency could give him the chance to join a championship-caliber squad immediately, while he’s still in his prime.

The Sixers moved their best player in Young, but it’s going to be a great opportunity to see how well he can help a team that’s on the rise, as opposed to one in decline banking on future greatness.

 

The Sixers Are Still at Least Four Years Away from Where They Want to Be

Having a very good player around to teach the younger players is crucial, but it’s an argument for keeping Young on the roster that only made sense in about three or four years, when all of Philadelphia’s young talent is ready to take the next step.

There are a number of problems with that thought process, though. The first of which is that Young will be 29 or 30 years old at that time. He’ll still be an excellent player, but only for a handful of seasons. There’s a chance the Sixers could be getting better at the same time that Young is getting worse.

That’s not good for either side.

Would Young have stayed beyond next season? The 2014-15 campaign would have been the last before he had the option to opt out of his contract. It would have given him the decision to move on at that point.

Instead, Philadelphia saw the writing on the wall and decided to bite the bullet and get some value for him while they could. Acquiring Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Alexey Shved in the deal won’t have much impact, but getting the Miami Heat‘s top-10 protected 2015 first-round draft pick certainly sweetens the deal a bit. 

It’s going to be strange not seeing Young in a Sixers jersey during the upcoming season. He’s been a staple of the franchise for the past seven years.

Still though, the end of one brief era means a new one is beginning. There will be some initial pains as the Sixers grow and develop, but the worst is behind them.

Exactly like when you leave the doctor’s office, and you know it’s all taken care of.

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Philadelphia 76ers: Room For Improvement For New Sixer Alexey Shved

It turns out that the Philadelphia 76ers were involved in the trade that sent Kevin Love to the Cleveland Cavaliers and Andrew Wiggins to the Minnesota Timberwolves. Just, Philadelphia’s participation didn’t look like what people thought it would. When the Love-Wiggins trade talks were preliminary rumors, it was believed that the Sixers would send veteran power forward […]
Philadelphia 76ers: Room For Improvement For New Sixer Alexey Shved – Hoops Habit – Hoops Habit – Analysis, Opinion and Stats All About The NBA

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How Do the Philadelphia 76ers Keep Moving the Epic Rebuild Forward?

The Philadelphia 76ers are supposed to be in a rebuilding phase, but so far it’s hard to tell where exactly the tear-down ends and the rebuild begins.

In the one season and (nearly) two offseasons since Sam Hinkie took over as general manager, they have shipped out many of their most notable players—Jrue Holiday, Evan Turner, Spencer Hawes, Thaddeus Young.

In their place, they’ve added Michael Carter-Williams, the most recent Rookie of the Year, and Nerlens Noel, one of the biggest question marks in last year’s draft.

In this most recent draft, they selected the highly rated pair of Joel Embiid and Dario Saric. However, the former is recovering from surgery and the latter is still under contract in Europe, meaning neither is likely to play a minute for the 76ers this season.

They have essentially turned a mediocre roster into one built around a mix of D-League talent and tantalizing question markswith a surfeit of extra draft picks and financial flexibility on the side.

What the 76ers have done is create a wealth of future possibilities for themselves at the expense of their present. However, none of those possibilities have become certainties, and they probably won’t anytime soon.

In the interim, it’s essential that they continue to move things in a positive direction organizationally while they wait and hope for the roster’s smattering of young talent to coalesce.

The 76ers are likely not going to be chasing a playoff berth this year, but they do have real and tangible goals to improve.

 

Continue Building the System

In the three seasons (2010-2013) during which Doug Collins led the 76ers, they were always among the league leaders in the percentage of field-goal attempts coming from mid-range jumpers.

That’s not a problem when Kevin Durant or Dirk Nowitzki are taking them, but when Holiday, Turner and Andre Iguodala are soaking up all those mid-range jumpers, it absolutely is. 

Last season, their first under head coach Brett Brown, the 76ers made some dramatic changes to their shot-distribution patterns. Derek Bodner broke some of these down in a great piece for Liberty Ballers a few weeks ago:

The difference, whether because of Hinkie and Brett Brown drilling in an offensive philosophy to the players, because of the roster change, or both, was drastic.  The Sixers cut their mid-range attempts virtually in half, from it making up 32% of their attempts (most in the league) down to 16.7% of their overall field goal attempts.  That 16.7% would end up being the second fewest in the league.

(Related: It’s probably easy to guess who had the fewest in the league, even without clicking on the link above.  That would be the Houston Rockets, Hinkie‘s former team, at an incredible 9.4%.  Just to display how ridiculous of a number that is, the Sixers were the only team in the league that had less than double the attempts of Houston: the Nuggetscame in 3rd at 18.9%).

Obviously, the shot-distribution patterns of the hypothetical juggernaut 76ers of the future will be highly influenced by the roster at the time.

For now, the organization has been teaching a process to help nudge its players toward the good habits of generalized offensive efficiency.

It also upped the tempo at which the team played, pushing its average pace from 93.3 possessions per game to 101.6the fastest in the league. This allowed the 76ers to leverage their athleticism, getting out in transition and generating easy baskets against a disorganized defense.

At the other end of the floor, they began instilling a different set of defensive principles, applying swarming ball pressure and working hard to generate turnovers.

Although the results were fairly lousy—they allowed 107.5 points per 100 possessions, 27th in the league—many of their key players were increasingly consistent in their implementation of the team’s defensive principles.

In just one season, Hinkie and Brown have laid out a road map for how this organization will play.

Changes will certainly be made as different talents and skill sets join the roster, but their basic tenets are solid: They play with pace, take good shots and play aggressive defense. As the young roster continues to grow, it’s important that these things become ingrained not just as habits, but as instincts.

 

Develop Their Young Talent

This ultra-slow rebuild the Sixers are attempting will only come together if some of the young assets they accumulate pan out. Since they will be waiting on Saric and Embiid this year, the focus must be on Noel and Carter-Williams.

76ers Las Vegas Summer League coach Chad Iske spoke with reporters about the challenges for Noel after a game in July:

He’s active, he’s all over the place. He’s trying to do everything, he’s trying to do too much on both ends. The hard part is do you want to just settle him down or do you want him to play with that aggressiveness? I don’t want to give him too much and cloud him, and then he’s thinking instead of playing. I think we just have to get out there and find the happy balance between him being within our rules and him being himself.

This season is Noel’s introduction to professional basketball, so expecting any sort of specific quality or quantity of impact is probably foolhardy. The goal this season is to get him on the floor, acclimated with speed of the NBA game and to start getting repetitions with the structural team processes we mentioned above.

Carter-Williams, on the other hand, has a year of experience under his belt and is ready to start sanding down some of his rough edges.

Although his per-game statistics—16.7 points, 6.2 rebounds, 6.3 assists—were impressive enough to earn him Rookie of the Year honors, to a certain degree they were the product of playing a lot of minutes, at a fast pace, for a bad team.

He racked up points, rebounds and assists, but also turned the ball over 3.5 times per game, just barely kept his field-goal percentage above 40 percent and shot an abysmal 26.4 percent on three-pointers.

In short, he accumulated a wealth of counted statistics but didn’t fare as well in the efficiency department.

In fact, as the chart below shows, he averaged fewer win shares per 48 minutes than any previous Rookie of the Year winner going back to 1984-1985:

According to mySynergySports (subscription required), Carter-Williams was ranked 138th in the league in points per possession as the ball-handler in pick-and-rolls, turning the ball over on nearly one-fifth of such possessions.

A lot of his problems were simple and correctable things, like leaving his feet to make a pass:

However, he also seemed much more hesitant in the pick-and-roll than in other offensive situations, particularly with regards to attacking the basket.

Carter-Williams drew a shooting foul on just 5.9 percent of his pick-and-roll possessionsremember we’re only counting possessions where took a shot, made a turnover or drew a foulcompared to averages 13.2 percent on isolations or 10.9 percent in transition.

In isolations or transition, the task is simple: attack and keep the pressure on the defense. The various options available in the pick-and-roll, the intricacies of shooting, passing and moving multiple defenders to create the best scoring opportunity, seemed to put the pressure on Carter-Williams.

Here, he misses a wide-open passing lane to his rolling big man, opting for an awkward, one-footed runner instead:

On this possession, he makes the opposite choice, forcing a pass when there is no angle instead of attacking the sagging defense:

We see the same sort of timidity here, where he opts to shoot an awkward fadeaway instead of forcing the issue with Al Jefferson, a relatively poor defender at the rim:

It’s clear that Brown and the 76ers’ coaching staff have encouraged Carter-Williams to be decisive in the pick-and-roll, and that message has clearly gotten through. His problem is not hesitation so much as simply reading the situation wrong.

That is exacerbated by the fact that he doesn’t seem confident in his ability to force the issue in the face of a big defender.

You can see from his shot chart that there is a lot of work to do in building his scoring efficiency:

Although his jump shooting may seem like the most glaring deficiency and an obvious place to start, I think figuring out how to throttle up his pick-and-roll attacks may be more important at this point.

Figuring out how to take advantage of a retreating big maneither drawing a foul or creating a better angle for a shotseems like it would pay more offensive dividends since he spends so much time with the ball in his hands.

The 76ers don’t appear in any rush to return to the league’s upper echelon, preferring to take their time and make sure things are done in a sustainable way. But don’t be fooled into thinking they are just waiting, killing time until luck strikes. They have a plan and they’re putting things together piece by piece.

Just like any other team, they’re hoping for forward motion this season.

However, their successes will be found around the marginsnot in win totals and playoff seeds, but in the steady march of player development and an ever-increasing consistency in their style of play.

 

Unless otherwise noted, statistical support for this story from NBA.com/stats.

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Oklahoma City trades C Thabeet to 76ers (Yahoo Sports)

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Oklahoma City Thunder have traded center Hasheem Thabeet and cash to the Philadelphia 76ers for a protected second-round draft pick in 2015 and a trade exception.

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Philadelphia 76ers Showing the NBA How Rebuilding Is Done

Thaddeus Young’s departure from the Philadelphia 76ers was but one piece of a much broader puzzle.

The 26-year-old forward was sent to the Minnesota Timberwolves as part of a three-team deal centered around the exchange of disaffected star Kevin Love for 2014 first-overall pick Andrew Wiggins.

Per Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski, “The Timberwolves will send Philadelphia the Miami Heat‘s 2015 first-round pick Minnesota will acquire as part of the Kevin Love deal with Cleveland, sources said. The T-Wolves will send forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and guard Alexey Shved to the Sixers.”

Wojnarowski adds, “The draft pick is lottery protected to No. 10 in the 2015 and 2016 drafts, and unprotected in 2017.”

According to 76ers general manager Sam Hinkie, that draft pick was key to the organization’s involvement in the deal.

Meanwhile, Young has a player-option for the 2015-16 season, meaning he very well could have walked away from the $9,721,740 he was owed—and leaving Philadelphia with nothing to show for it.

To be sure, however, this deal was about more than hedging bets. It was part of Hinkie‘s long-term effort to rebuild a franchise that wasn’t going anywhere fast, an effort that began in earnest with last season’s 19-63 record.

Ugly as it may be in the near-term, the franchise’s deliberate approach to starting from scratch is treating the NBA at large to a crash course on how one rebuilds.

It’s a valuable lesson.

Beset by public pressure and overly optimistic prognostications, many organizations rely on half-steps and band-aid solutions in their respective bids to turn the corner. More often than not, the result is sustained mediocrity—teams that are just good enough to miss out on premier draft position while nowhere near good enough to contend for a title.

These are the clubs that barely miss the playoffs or quickly exit in the first round, the kind of middling disappointment that characterized Love’s years in Minnesota.

Philadelphia will have none of that. It understands big ambitions often entail even bigger sacrifices.

Parting ways with Young and the 17.9 points he averaged a season ago is only the most recent of those sacrifices.

The first was probably the team’s decision to acquire big man Nerlens Noel despite the risk he’d miss his rookie season after tearing his ACL in the February before the draft, a risk that eventually came to fruition.

“The draft is an important pipeline of talent for our team and our intention was to add players who could position us well for the future, while also allowing us to capitalize on attractive opportunities to acquire top-flight talent or additional future draft choices,” Hinkie said at the time, per the team’s statement. “Nerlens Noel and an additional 2014 first round draft choice give us two new opportunities to add talent to our team.”

That logic similarly characterized Philadelphia’s approach to this summer’s draft.

With the No. 3 overall pick, the organization selected Joel Embiid out of Kansas. Like Noel before him, the 20-year-old may miss his rookie season—this time on account of recovery from surgery performed to repair a stress fracture in Embiid‘s foot.

According to NJ.com’s Matt Lombardo, “Hinkie outlined a similar plan for Embiid to the one that allowed Noel to miss an entire season in order to fully rehab before making his anticipated debut this summer in the Orlando Summer league.”

“We will focus on the long-term health of the player,” Hinkie said, per Lombardo. “That’s all that matters. Will we be smart about that? Of course. Will we be patient? Yes. If he can remain healthy, he can have a fantastic NBA career.”

Indeed, Hinkie and Co. are all too happy to remain patient.

After all, they followed up their selection of Embiid by also acquiring No. 12 overall pick Dario Saric from the Orlando Magic. The Croatian forward won’t make it to the NBA for another two years at the very soonest.

So while this season will offer Noel and 2014 Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams plenty of playing time with which to hone their skills, the 76ers will have to do without any help from this summer’s draft. Two immediate contributors wouldn’t have radically altered Philadelphia’s immediate fate, but they very well might have improved the team’s record by a handful of wins.

And therein would have lied the problem.

Those extra wins would have jeopardized Philadelphia’s chances at landing more premium draft talent. In fact, if the organization’s 2015 pick isn’t among the first 15 selections, it would belong to the Boston Celtics.

Beyond jettisoning Young and using this summer’s draft to think long-term, Hinkie‘s involvement in the free-agent market was non-existent. While there probably wasn’t a lot of interest out there among prospective targets, Hinkie wouldn’t have it any other way.

His end game is the exhaustive aggregation of assets. The best kinds of assets are young, affordable prospects with loads of upside—the kind of guys you typically acquire via the draft.

There will come a time when the 76ers are prepared to invest their ample cap space in outside talent. There will come a time when Hinkie uses the trade market to acquire guys like Young rather than set them free.

That time isn’t now. 

It probably isn’t even a year from now.

But if you fast forward to 2016 or so, things start falling into place in a big way. Carter-Williams and Noel should be entering the primes of their careers. Embiid will have a full season under his belt. Saric will arrive from overseas. And by that time, you can rest assured another prominent draft pick or two will have entered the equation.

A young core will slowly but surely evolve into a respectable one where the sky’s the limit.

The Oklahoma City Thunder traveled a similar path, drafting the likes of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Serge Ibaka. After missing the playoffs in four straight seasons, the new-and-improved OKC has subsequently qualified for five postseasons in a row—once reaching the NBA Finals and twice coming up just short in the conference finals.

It remains premature to predict similar success for the Sixers, but the common theme is that short-term suffering begets much better things in time—even if it takes a long time.

Sam Hinkie is in no rush.

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