By Dylan MacKinnon
Eight years later, along with three second round exits, and several years of losing Basketball, the prognosis on ‘The Process’ is still sketchy at best. It did get them Embiid, but besides that its hard to say there are many more great additions because of the process. So did it work?
Many might argue that it worked just by getting them the assets. They will say that it worked like it was supposed to, and made them contenders, and it’s an indictment of the GMs, Coaches and Players in the Post-Hinkie era that it hasn’t had better results. But should Hinkie really be let off the hook for how this went? Let’s revisit all the major decisions that were part of the Process, so we can get an honest accounting of how it worked out.
Trading Jrue Holiday for Nerlens Noel and a 2014 1st Round Pick
The move that kicked off The Process. They flipped their best player at the team in Holiday, and got Noel, and a 1st that they would later use to take Dario Saric. On paper, Saric and Noel is not great value for Jrue. But the point of the move was not just to get value back, it was to tank. They had to move Jrue if they wanted to be bad enough to get a high pick.
If they kept him, would they have gotten the 3rd pick in 2014 and been able to get Embiid? Perhaps, but it seems unlikely. So while yea, two role players that are no longer on the team is a bad return for a guy still playing at a high level 8 years later, it takes further context to evaluate this move. This makes it hard to say if the trade worked until we decide if the Process worked or not. We can’t evaluate this move until we know if The Process ends up working or not.
Drafting and Later Trading Michael Carter-Williams for a 1st Round Pick
Michael Carter-Williams never turned into a great or even decent player. He is still in the league, but as a bench guy who cant get to double digit points. But his one year in Philly was productive enough for him to win Rookie of the Year, albeit in a weak class without many year one standouts. Hinkie capitalized on that one year, and traded him to the Bucks for a Top 5 protected Pick from the Lakers. That pick would not come to the Sixers until 4 years later in 2018, because the Lakers kept getting high picks. They ended up with the 10th overall pick in the 2018 draft.
Now what they did with that pick is a matter we can get to later. For now let’s focus on the move itself. Hinkie recognizing MCW was playing way above his talent, and flipping him for the first round pick of a at the team bad Lakers team was a brilliant move. They sold very high on a guy who now you wouldn’t get a 2nd round pick for. This was a move thaat the sixers failed to do later on, trading away the over achieving guy.
Drafting Joel Embiid
I don’t think I need to spend much time on this one. This is inarguably the best thing to come out of The Process. Has it gotten them a ring? No, but you can’t put too much blame on Embiid for that. He has not been perfect, but he has been far and away the best player the Sixers have had since Allen Iverson.
Drafting Jahlil Okafor
This was Hinkie’s first big mistake. Okafor was a complete bust. Like MCW he had a productive first season a very bad team, but even then you could see the flaws in his game. Okafor is barley sticking around the NBA, getting deep bench minutes, and doing very little with them. He couldn’t play defense, didn’t rebound, and could only score in the post. And that was basically what he was in college to, just against weaker competition so he looked a bit better. But the tape was there, and that is why he fell to them at 3.
It was also the 3rd center Hinkie took in 3 years, which makes the move even more questionable. A guy with problematic tape, at a non-premium position that you already have two first round picks at. Perhaps if they had only taken him to flip him, knowing Embiid was not going to play that year anyway. But Hinkie never got the chance to do that. Jerry Colangelo was pushed onto the Sixers in December of that season, and Hinkie resigned before the season’s end.
So you can either blame Hinkie for taking him, or blame the Colangelo’s for holding onto him way too long. Either way, this was a major bust. They held on to him way too long, until his value was non existent. They made the same mistake with Nerlens Noel.
Replacing Sam Hinkie with Bryan Colangelo
Bryan Colangelo was a disaster. As we evaluate the moves he made that much will be made clear. To be fair I don’t know how much of this was the Sixers, and how much was Adam Silver. The NBA more or less forced Jerry Colangelo onto the Sixers, and in a brazen move of Nepotism he hired his son to replace Hinkie after he “resigned.”
To be fair Bryan had NBA Front office experience, but still, it was a bad look, made worse by the result. And it ended in a bizarre scandal involving a burner account, his wife, and shirt collars so large it made it look like his neck had wings.
Drafting Ben Simmons
A year ago I would have said this was a great move. They finally got a first round pick after years of coming in third in the lottery. It netted them a super promising talent. And it is hard to argue against taking him even in hindsight. Yea Brandon Ingram might be a better fit, but Ben had the potential.
But even if it was the right pick to make, it still might not have panned out. I suppose it will depend on what they end up doing with him this off season. If they trade him and get something good back it could still pan out. And if he magically decides to improve his game it could pan out. But after that Hawks series, it is more than fair to doubt Ben Simmons, he came up very small, and Sixers would be justified in giving up on him. He wont shoot, and at times refuses to even try to score. The defense is great, but they need him to be more than a defender. He needs to be involved on offense, but in the half court set he just isn’t.
Trading Up and Drafting Markelle Fultz
Yea, this did not work out at all. Fultz was a complete bust here. He barley played, and when he did he wasn’t good. Sometime between College and getting to the Sixers his shot was completely broken, and even on another team he has yet to fix it. Not to mention all the drama with his bizarre shoulder injury that required several second opinions to diagnose. And on top of that him just leaving the team directly after Brett brown pulled him for TJ McConnell when Fultz was about to enter the game.
I guess you could say at the time it was the right pick. The Fultz that we saw at Washington was a perfect fit for this team. He could shoot, play defense, and was a play creator. But the way it all went down, makes it hard to give the Sixers that slack. Especially considering the guy the Celtics ended up with, Jayson Tatum, is a star. Sixers traded Fultz after only a couple years here. We will get into the trade itself later. But this pick was a failure.
Drafted and Traded Mikal Bridges for Zhaire Smith and Pick, Later Flipped Pick for Tobias Harris
There is a ton that goes into this one, so bear with me. The Sixers drafted Mikal Bridges with the pick they got back for trading Michael carter-Williams, and it seemed like an amazing fit. Then while his mom was celebrating her son getting drafted by the local team, the Sixers pulled the rug from under everyone and traded him to the Suns for Zhaire Smith, and a unprotected first round pick. On the surface, it seems bad. Bridges is a very good player for the Suns. You could argue he should have been on the All NBA Defense Second Team. And he is a scoring threat too, and dangerous from 3pt range. He is a tremendous asset for the Suns, who may be on the brink of winning it all. Meanwhile Zharie Smith has played 13 games in 3 seasons, and 0 this year.
The wrinkle is the pick they got. It was the Heats unprotected first round pick in 2021. And that pick was a big part in the trade they made for Tobias Harris. And while I love Tobias Harris, it still feels like this trade was perhaps not worth it. Say you take Harris off this team, and instead you have Bridges. Bridges is not yet the scorer Harris is, but he is a better defender. And on top of that, you would have the space for an extra max contract. Who would they have signed? I can’t answer that. But would they be better off with Bridges, Landry Shamet, and another max player, than they are now with just Tobias Harris? I think so.
That is nothing against Harris. The Harris trade on it’s own was a good move. But put it in the full context of how they got the pick to trade for him, I’d rather have Bridges, and the cap space.
Trading for Jimmy Butler, and Then Trading him Away in Offseason
This is another complicated one. They moved Dario Saric, and Robert Covington, to get Jimmy Butler. And in the year, it paid off great. He played very well for them when it mattered. But it all quickly fell apart, and Butler was not happy here. So in the following offseason they moved him to Miami for Josh Richardson.
Josh Richardson is a fine player, but he did not work here. It is not his fault; it was just a very poorly designed roster. So after one season they traded Josh Richardson for Seth Curry, who is a perfect fit here. So it is hard to judge this whole collection of moves, because in the end it worked out. But the road along the way was bumpy. Overall, the Butler move was a smart risk, that perhaps didn’t work as well as they hoped, but it is hard to say it was a bad move.
Trading Markelle Fultz
Put aside how bad the Fultz pick was, the compensation they got back, was worth it. At the time it seemed like a meager return. They got Jonathan Simmons, who never contributed, and a heavily protected first round pick that seemed unlikely to convey. But thanks to Mike Muscala, the pick did convey. And with that pick they took Tyrese Maxey. Maxey is one of the best assets you have in your pocket. Either he sticks around, and looks to at least be a solid contributor; or, they can move him in a deal to bring in a star to put around Embiid. Either way, getting Maxey out of Fultz, a guy who can’t shoot, and refused to play, is a great move. It got rid of a headache, and got great value back.
Going through it move by move paints a very bleak picture. Say what you want about the strategy of The Process, but the execution has been poor. There are at least two, and perhaps three, top 3 picks that did not pan out here. Fultz was a bust, Okafor was a bust, and while Simmons is very talented, he has underwhelmed.
And with their non-top 3 picks, they got Nerlens Noel, Dario Saric, Michael Carter-Williams, Landry Shamet, Furkan Korkmaz, Zhaire Smith, Matisse Thybulle, and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot. Some of them they smartly flipped for better assets. But still, that’s not a great track record later in the draft. Under Elton Brand the late picks have worked, so there is that. But in the Colangelo era they were not getting anything out of those late picks, and that showed in how poor their bench played in the playoffs.
It’s too early to call The Process a failure. As long as Embiid is here, there is hope. But if this were a midterm report, the Sixers would be getting sent home with note to their parents warning them they are in danger of failing the semester.