The 2016-2017 season was a successful campaign for the Sixers. For non-Sixers fans 28 wins may not jump off the page.

“28 wins ? Seriously?” “Talk to me in the playoffs.”  Feel free to keep thinking in terms of the present, with a near-sighted train-of-thought. There are certainly critiques to be made about the Sixers lack of wins over the past several seasons, but don’t fall victim to the shallow, lazy takes about losing never paying off and other bogus arm-chair analyses. While many basketball fans just read box scores, and see Sportscenter highlights of the Sixers losing games. They have been assembling one of the most enviable and talented young cores in the NBA, with future assets and salary cap room to boot.

The Core

Dario Saric’s rookie campaign was a rousing success. The 6’10 Croatian sensation wowed with his feverish hustle and passing wizardry. Saric’s intensity and basketball IQ makes up for his lack of athleticism and less-than impressive physique. There are no physical measures to make “Super Dario” stand out. He stands 6’10 and weighs roughly 240 lbs., his vertical isn’t impressive, his arms are no longer than his body, and he isn’t especially fast. Saric is a concoction of peculiar mismatches. His height makes the average wing defender overmatched, and his quickness gives him the ability to blow by the traditional big man. Saric’s offensive arsenal is as diverse as an investment portfolio. He can shoot from beyond the arc and pull up from mid-range. Closer to the basket is where Dario dazzles. Jump hooks, floaters, up-and-unders, are just some of his crafty moves. Dario doesn’t need to score to be effective. He’s the truest sense of a playmaker. Whether it’s a coast-to-coast push after a defensive rebound, diving for a loose ball, or the pass before an assist, Dario Saric makes winning plays.

Defense is certainly an area where Saric will need to improve. He has the tendency of getting exposed on the perimeter with his slow feet, and can get muscled near the basket by sizable centers. He’s an average defender, but don’t snooze on Dario around the rim. His Olympic block on Pau Gasol will be enshrined in Croatian folklore and his back-to-back blocks against Toronto could be felt from the stratosphere. Dario Saric has earned the right to be talked about as a component of a completed “process” team.

Joel Embiid’s abbreviated 31 game rookie season was disappointing in length, but not quality. Joel Embiid proved he had the talent to quite possibly be the cornerstone of the franchise. Embiid averaged 20 points and 8 rebounds in his injury shortened season. Embiid’s near All-Star season showcased his jaw dropping skill set, paired with unique physical gifts. Not many players in the league can shoot 46% from the floor, 36% from beyond the arc, 78% from the foul line, and block 2.5 shots per game. Embiid has back-to-basket repertoire comprised of feathery finesse intertwined with brute force. He can flip the switch and preform either at a moment’s notice. The Process also possesses the instincts and length to be potential Defensive Player of the Year. To top off his borderline unfair abilities, Embiid possesses immense physical gifts. 7’2 275 lbs. is rare size, but pair it with Zeus-like strength and the agility and footwork of a running back , and it adds up to an anomaly. Joel Embiid could be an extra in the next Jurassic Park sequel… as a dinosaur.

Lauding his basketball talents only does so much justice for what Embiid means to the franchise. He’s a polarizing figure. Embiid can work a crowd like no other athlete in the city. What other basketball player goes to the foul line and asks fans to get louder? All it takes for the Wells Fargo Center to erupt in frenzy, is for Embiid to raise his python-like arms and gingerly flick his wrists upwards. Having a star talent fused with a polarizing personality is incredibly rare. Embiid could go down as one of the best to ever put on a Sixers jersey.

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Ben Simmons is the third piece of the Sixers top tier talent, even though he has yet to suit up. Simmons is a unique blend of size, speed, and skill. He’s nearly seven feet tall and possesses the fluidity of a guard half his size. He is a position-less monstrosity that could eventually dominate all phases of the game. Don’t be surprised if down the line Simmons wades into Oscar Robertson/ Russell Westbrook triple-double territory.

The previous three players are paramount to the Sixers’ success in the upcoming years but there are four other names that deserve to be considered vital to the hopeful success of the Sixers. Richaun Holmes is a fantastic backup center, with his veracity crashing the glass and throwing down rim shaking dunks. TJ McConnell is more than a feel-good underdog undrafted free agent, and a full-fledged NBA player. Timothe Luwawu Carrabot took baby steps but flashed signs of being a late first round steal. Robert Covington began his NBA career jacking up threes, but has turned into one of the best perimeter defenders in the entire league. A true 3-and-D threat.

The Sixers will add to that young core in this summer’s draft. One last summer of depending on ping-pong balls. The lottery could yield the Sixers two draft picks inside the top ten.

In a draft class being labeled as possibly the best since 2003, the Sixers could put the finishing touches on their young nucleus. Long story short, the Sixers will end up with one of the following (Possibly two); Markelle Fultz, Jonathan Isaac, Lonzo Ball, Malik Monk, Jayson Tatum, Josh Jackson, Dennis Smith Jr. or De’Aaron Fox. The Sixers also have four 2nd round picks if they choose to try and find a diamond in the rough. The young will get younger. To compliment a young roster the Sixers will have nearly $55 million in cap space to spend in free agency. This summer could be the transition from relevancy into legitimacy.

The Competition

While the Sixers have been molding a team for the future, they’ve been bypassing teams who were “doing it the right way”.

The Magic don’t have a single franchise building block and they just fired GM Rob Hennigan, who couldn’t keep his secrets off the internet.

The Suns have a guaranteed stud in Devin Booker and two potential twin towers in Marquese Chriss and Dragan Bender, but have minutes-eating vets with hefty contracts that will be difficult to unload.

The Nets and Kings are stuck in quicksand thanks to organizational incompetence and are looking at a long and winding road into becoming the slightest semblance of a playoff team.

The Lakers core has yet to show signs of longevity, not to mention the horrendous contracts given out to Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov. The Lakers are a mess behind the scenes as well, with the Buss family tug-of-war. In one season Jeanine Buss; filed a restraining order against her own brother, broke up with Phil Jackson, and fired Mitch Kupchak. Jeanine Buss does not play games !

Hell, the Lakers can’t even tank right. The Lakers won five in a row before a loss to Golden State to conclude the season, if the wins were all losses they would be one game back from the Nets for the top lottery position.

And quite possibly the biggest dumpster-fire of them all is the New York Knicks. Not sure where to start between; Kristaps Porzingis being so pissed he went home to Latvia and skipped exit meetings, Owner James Dolan vilifying Charles Oakley and swearing at fans, Phil Jackson trying to force the triangle offense down throats of the organization like little kids who won’t take their medicine, or the public bashing of Carmelo Anthony. A trip up the Jersey turnpike leads to a crater full of head-scratching finger pointers who are toxifying the basketball capital of the world.

The Nuggets have something brewing in the mile-high city with a trio of Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, and Gary Harris Jr., but won’t be able to fully stretch their wings until Kenneth Faried and Wilson Chandler are dealt.

Joining the Sixers in the top tier of young teams on the mend is the Minnesota Timberwolves. Andrew Wiggins, Kris Dunn, and Zach LaVine are freak athletes with the chance to be two-way beasts. Karl-Anthony Towns is a basketball alien transplant from another galaxy, who may very well destroy us all. To top it off, Tom Thibodeau is at the coaching helm with his PhD. in defense.

And don’t even get me started on all the mediocre teams that desperately need to hit the reset button.

Bottom Line

Things aren’t all sunshine and rainbows with the Sixers considering the nauseating amount of injuries and setbacks, and questions surrounding Bryan Colangelo’s ability to put the finishing touches on a team built for playoff sustainability.

But for the first time of the entire process, the fruits of labor are concrete and apparent. There are still mountains to climb, but a group with sky-high potential being piloted by Brett Brown gives plenty of reason to have faith. If you still don’t, just don’t get too annoyed when you hear this song a few dozen times over the next couple years.

Trust. The. Process.

HIT IT !

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