Though the Philadelphia 76ers have now accrued four lottery picks and an abundance of other late picks and undrafted young players, the trajectory of their radical rebuilding plan is still a bit of an unknown.
The Sixers have blatantly tanked for high draft picks the last two seasons, and don’t seem any closer to competing for a playoff spot than they did two year ago when master-tanker Sam Hinkie was hired as GM.
According to former Sixer and NBA player Julius Erving, this is part of a seven-year rebuilding plan.
Erving appeared on Sirius XM radio and said he was told in 2012 that the Sixers planned to compete for a championship in seven years.
“When they acquired the team in 2012 maybe, I think the talk was about seven years,” Erving said. “Seven years. So, I think it’s still on that same timeline.”
When asked if seven years meant making the playoffs, Erving said, “No, to be good. To be good, to be formidable, to be a contender. So that’s probably ’18-19.”
Hinkie was hired in 2013, when the Sixers rebuilding plan started. That would make this coming season Year 3. With 2015-16 looking like another throwaway year — the 76ers pretty much sat out of free agency, with their biggest offseason addition being No. 3 pick, Jahlil Okafor — that means they won’t start aiming for the playoffs until at least Year 4.
Unfortunately, the Sixers’ plan has faltered a bit. 2013 lottery pick Michael Carter-Williams was traded last season. 2014 lottery pick Joel Embiid will miss the 2015-16 season to get foot surgery and hasn’t played a minute in the NBA yet. Their other 2014 lottery pick, Dario Saric, is playing overseas and likely won’t come to the NBA until next season.
That makes Okafor and fellow big man Nerlens Noel the stars of the rebuild, while last year’s breakout wing Robert Covington looks like an intriguing supporting piece. Assuming Noel and Okafor both need two to three seasons to reach their peak as stars that can carry a team, the Sixers still need some serious help through other draft picks and free agency to support them. Those draft picks will need time to develop, too, and they’re currently not a hot-spot for free agents.
The Sixers are basically trying a more radical version of what the Oklahoma City Thunder and Golden State Warriors have done: accumulate a few high draft picks who will turn into superstars, nail a few later picks, build a solid core, and fill in the gaps in free agency.
What’s overlooked is that players like Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and Stephen Curry are on pace for Hall-of-Fame careers, while supporting players like Serge Ibaka, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green are all max-level, borderline All-Stars. A team can be patient and accumulate assets and do their due diligence on prospects all they want, but luck is still very much part of the process.
There’s no saying the Sixers’ plan won’t work, but to go from a lottery team to a championship contender in three years is pretty tough unless someone the Sixers have drafted turns into a bonafide superstar very quickly. Thus far, the Sixers’ rebuilding plan is a little bit sloppy and building their core has taken longer than expected.
With tons of holes to fill and at least a couple developmental seasons needed, the Sixers’ seven-year plan currently looks a little ambitious.
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