After losing to the Mavericks last night, the Philadelphia 76ers remained winless, dropping to 0-11, the only team in the NBA without a win.
This comes one year after starting the season 0-17. The Sixers are also currently riding a 21-game losing streak that dates back to last season, and you’d have to go all the way back to March 25 to find the more recent Philadelphia win.
But if you’re a Sixers fan, this shouldn’t at all surprise you, much less should it bother you. Because yet another year of abject basketball failure is, of course, all part of GM Sam Hinkie’s highly debated Process: lose now in order to win later; or, more accurately, lose now in order to accumulate as many trade assets and draft picks so that one day, eventually, a competitive team will emerge.
In its current iteration, the Philadelphia roster has a few young, promising pieces to build around: 19-year-old Jahlil Okafor is averaging 19.2 points and 7.9 rebounds per game in his rookie season, and 21-year-old Nerlens Noel is a defensive powerhouse. Dario Saric, whenever he makes the jump from Europe, will help speed things along, too. It’s also possible that the Sixers could have as many as four 1st-rounders at the 2016 draft (although two or three is more likely).
But what Hinkie’s process gains in assets it loses in veteran experience. And while veteran experience may be more difficult to quantify than 1st- and 2nd-round picks, for young and rising NBA stars, it’s arguably more important.
Consider the Minnesota Timberwolves, an upstart team many criticised for using valuable roster spots on ageing veterans Kevin Garnett, Tayshaun Prince, and Andre Miller. To Hinkie and like-minded front office architects, these three players are preventing a team from discovering a star (like the Heat did with Hassan Whiteside) or accumulating pieces that could be swapped for 2nd rounders.
But for budding superstars Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins (and for the other youngsters on the 4-6 T’Wolves) these three veterans are invaluable for the experience and basketball intellect they provide. It’s like having three more coaches to learn from on the bench, plane, and locker room day in and day out.
Zach Lowe wrote about this on Tuesday for ESPN.com, calling it an “NBA Big Brother” program.
“Look at our young players,” Minnesota GM Milt Newton told Lowe. “They’re talented, but they also have mentors who are showing them how to play. And that’s huge.”
Towns has repeatedly called Garnett his mentor and praised the former MVP. From NBA.com (via CBS):
“He’s my mentor,” said Towns, who spent time with Garnett in Los Angeles last month. “Everything he knows, and countless years he’s been playing this game at a high level, [I am] just trying to garner information from him every day. Learn how to be a better leader, how to be a champion, just to be a true professional.”
When you read this, you almost feel sorry for Okafor. The oldest player presently on the 76ers is 32-year-old Carl Landry. Everyone else is 24 or younger.
The tank will continue to roll through Philadelphia for at least a season longer. But when Hinkie finally does decide to spend money an put together a respectable team — and let’s hope it’s after this season — he could do worse than bringing in some veteran leadership.
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