May 16, 2017
The one nice thing about starting from the bottom is that there is nowhere to go but up. So, after what was generally viewed as a successful season for the Sixers in many aspects, they still managed to finish a worse record than a bunch of teams that were mostly viewed as trainwrecks.
Just look right below the Sixers:
• Orlando went all-in without any shooters, tweeted out their trade plans, and fired the GM.
• Minnesota was a trendy playoff pick, but even defensive guru Tom Thibodeau couldn’t get the young Wolves to play any defense.
• The Knicks are the Knicks, and Phil Jackson is somehow still talking about trading Carmelo Anthony.
• The Kings are the Kings, so much so that tonight, the Sixers are also the Kings.
The Sixers were somehow worse than all of those teams! Maybe the previous three seasons of Processing warped my sense of bad basketball, but looking back at the season, it just doesn’t feel like they should have more ping-pong balls than any of those teams. And yet, here we are.
As the Sixers sit in this position, with the fourth-best odds in the 2017 NBA Draft Lottery and a 14.7 percent chance at a second-straight No. 1 overall pick, I find myself thinking about all of the things that had to go wrong for them to get one last good crack at the lottery:
• It’s kind of fitting that Joel Embiid will be on stage tonight, because if he played even just 50 games as opposed to 31, the Sixers would’ve hit at least 35 wins and finished with no better than the 11th-best odds. He’s that good.
• Ben Simmons didn’t play the entire season and Jerryd Bayless managed just three games. When we’re talking about a margin of just four games between the Sixers and Sacramento, missing a 20-year-old rookie and rotation player can add up.
• Don’t forget Robert Covington’s late meniscus tear, which allowed the Sixers to lose their final eight games and sneak ahead of Orlando on the final day.
A few months ago, my colleague Matt Mullin wrote a piece called “40 Days and 40 Nights: A look back the worst stretch in recent Sixers history.” It was a fair title, as there was pretty much no good news coming from the Sixers in February.
With a couple years of perspective, it’s predictable how many of these issues tend to be brushed aside once the offseason starts. Nobody was sweating Jahlil Okafor’s Fast and the Furious routine last May, either. That is The Process in a nutshell: Just find a way to make it through the 82 games and we’ll have some fun in the offseason.
Well, next year the Sixers likely aren’t going to be just making it through the season. They have an exciting young core with two players that have star potential, and they’re about to add one or two Top-7 picks from a draft deep with guards and wings at the top. The worst-case scenarios tonight are really not all that bad, even if they’re not quite Markelle Fultz.
So, whatever happens, enjoy this one. The Sixers could be back at the top of the lottery in 2019 and maybe also next year, but it very likely won’t be because of their own record.
This should be the last time in a while that the Sixers offseason completely overshadows what’s actually happening on the court.
Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann
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