When speaking of the NBA today, it’s like putting the pieces of a puzzle together that doesn’t always fit. Gone are the days when a team built through entirely through the NBA Draft. Nowadays, it’s all about free agency, trades, and buyouts; which brings us to the Philadelphia 76ers.
What the Sixers were able to do during their “Trust the Process” phase was outstanding. It took some time for the fans to get behind it but the finished product may see the team in-line for an Eastern Conference Finals berth or more this season. But how good can the 76ers be? Are we talking Oklahoma City Thunder good or Golden State Warriors good?
I wanted to touch on this subject due to what the Warriors have been able to do with their core of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green. How can you deny the success that has led them to three championships in four years? The media may view them as a “super team” but they became super the right way. Adding Kevin Durant was a bonus, a prize for not turning into the Miami Heat.
The other team we can look into are the Thunder. Not the Russell Westbrook-numbers-driven version but the one that had general manager Sam Presti loaded with untapped potential. How does one GM manage to draft Westbrook, Durant, Serge Ibaka, Jeff Green (at his best), and James Harden? Not at different points in their careers but all on the same team at the same time at that.
This is the history the Philadelphia 76ers are facing.
One one hand, they have the legacy the core of the Warriors and San Antonio Spurs built over the years and won titles with. Then they have the Thunder who didn’t win anything with all their talent.
If the Philadelphia 76ers had to choose a foundation to follow, I’m pretty sure it would be the Warriors and the Spurs as they have fared better on the team aspect. The Thunder just couldn’t get it together as a unit but did have the personal success part. The 76ers, much like the Spurs, Thunder and Warriors, have home-grown talent at their disposal but this is where the Sixers may have a slight advantage.
The Spurs were a Big Three with Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili. The Warriors are the same with Curry, Thompson, and Green. However, the Thunder were slightly more dangerous with four players whom would’ve been All-Stars had it not been for a few highly known players above Ibaka. But this 76ers team is truly living the “sky’s the limit” motto.
Joel Embiid is being labeled the best center in the NBA this season. Simmons, despite his lack of perimeter shooting, resembles Magic Johnson more than anyone in NBA history. Now, they did lose two young players in Dario Saric and Robert Covington but may have pulled a Warriors’ Durant-type move with the addition of Jimmy Butler. The jury is still out on Markelle Fultz, who has the tools to score with the best of them off the dribble, though.
Despite their talent, the 76ers are young. Before they can make any noise they will have to go through the growing pains that each team had to endure. The Warriors had to constantly deal with Curry’s ankle issues, which were even worse before, as Jon Becker of the Mercury News detailed in a last year. As Patrick Redford of Deadspin demonstrated a few years ago, Duncan was all set to walk away from the Spurs and join the Orlando Magic in 2000, and the Thunder were just too young to deal with the pressure back around 2012.
The 76ers, much like the three teams ahead of them, had a plan while the rest of the teams in the NBA are working on the fly. As we’ve seen with the Spurs’ dynasty, it was about loyalty as none of their core parted ways. The Thunder showed signs of the Spurs and Warriors, but only better. However, money and egos destroyed their chances and the Warriors, well, they’re proving what great drafting and smart offseason decisions will get you.
The Philadelphia 76ers have no such worries, now. They are the Spurs, Warriors, and Thunder in the beginning stages, as a group of young guys having fun and playing to win. The question for the young guys in Philly is, what core do they wish to emulate?
The success and longevity of the Spurs? The promise of the Thunder who went on to have great personal success, or the present dominance of the Warriors?