The last 5 years have not been too kind to Philadelphia 76ers fans. As the team lost pieces of its core left and right and suffered one agonizing loss after the next, team ownership tried to tell diehard fans that this losing all had a greater purpose, nicknamed “The Process” by ex-General Manager Sam Hinkie.
“The Process” was simple in practice: by tanking for many years and trading any pieces of value the Sixers had, Philadelphia would acquire copious amounts of high draft picks that would be both used on top prospects or eventually traded in an effort to get a big star and end “The Process”.
And over the past 3 years or so, the first part of this logic shined, as the Sixers got high draft pick after high draft pick. But the final part of Hinkie’s Process remained unfulfilled until last week, when the Sixers made a deal with the Boston Celtics for the first overall draft pick. With the ability to choose any player they wanted, the Sixers chose to select Markelle Fultz, a freshman point guard out of Washington.
Sixers fans, “The Process” is finally over. Welcome to the Moment.
Thanks to the NBA Draft Lottery, Sixers fans had already rejoiced at the fact that the Sixers, fresh off of an encouraging season, would get the rights to the 3rd overall pick, when it was expected the Sixers would originally be somewhere around the 7th selection. While there were some good options at 3 for sure in Josh Jackson, Jayson Tatum, De’Aaron Fox, or Malik Monk, the Sixers had their eyes set on someone even better.
Enter Markelle Fultz. A 19-year-old, 6’4″, 195-lb point guard out of Washington, Fultz was far and away the most talented player in this year’s NBA Draft. Fultz was the first freshman in 21 years to have season averages of over 20 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists per game. He made 47.6% of his field goal attempts, displayed excellent vision as a passer, and averaged 36 minutes per game. In short, Fultz is the total package.
Meanwhile, the Philadelphia 76ers had assembled an admirable core of young talent through “The Process”. The Sixers were able to draft Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and Dario Saric, among others. They also found diamonds in the rough in Robert Covington, Nik Stauskas, and T.J. McConnell. The one thing the Sixers were missing was a truly dominant point guard and outside sharpshooter, which sat only two picks away from the Sixers in Fultz. The Sixers simply had to move up and pick Fultz. He was everything the Sixers were waiting for, and more.
And thanks to Hinkie’s Process, the Sixers had the picks and the leverage to consummate the deal. In exchange for two first round draft picks, the Sixers had acquired the top pick from Boston. While that price might seem steep for some teams, the Sixers had assembled enough picks where they had the ability to trade a few and still be in good shape.
Now, the Sixers had gotten the top pick in the draft yet again. And three days after the trade, Philadelphia did what fans had waited 5 long years for: selecting the final piece of the puzzle and thus ending the “Process” years with the addition of Markelle Fultz.
Fultz is a dynamic player that perfectly fits the holes that the Sixers had. It is amazing to wonder what a team led by a backcourt of Simmons and Fultz can accomplish when partnered with a frontcourt of Embiid, Saric, and Covington, with help coming from McConnell, Stauskas, Richaun Holmes, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, and Jerryd Bayless coming off of the bench. This is a core that rivals some of the top teams in the NBA, and the time for the Sixers is only just beginning.
Remember how great the month of January was for the Sixers? The team went 10-5 and was playing exciting basketball, executing trick plays, making thrilling comebacks, and dominating the competition. All of that ended when Embiid injured his knee late in January, and then when Covington, Jahlil Okafor, Gerald Henderson, and others bowed out injured as well. But when everyone was healthy, the Sixers looked like a future NBA powerhouse last season.
Now take that group of players and add Simmons, Bayless, and Fultz to that mix. It is easy to see a scenario in which the Sixers challenge for a playoff spot next season. Your time of suffering is over, Sixers fans. The Process has been completed.
Welcome to the Moment.