Why “The Process” Doesn’t Work

Joel Embiid

Mitchell Leff-Getty Images

There has been a movement in Philadelphia. Stemming from their best player, Joel Embiid, 76ers fans were told to “Trust the Process.” Like an elevator at a sketchy hotel, you probably shouldn’t trust it. Instead, take the stairs, or the less traveled route. Its guaranteed to get you to your floor every time.

For several years now, the Philadelphia 76ers have been tanking, or as the put it, rebuilding, at attempt to build a contending team in the Eastern Conference. However, that is not how successful sports franchises have been built. They’ve always been built through steady improvement, and plain luck. NOT, from constant losing. Tanking, like “The Process”, is like telling your Uber driver to drive off of a cliff.

“The Process” all starts on draft night. Let’s take a look at the Philadelphia 76ers’ first round selections over the past five years. Let’s keep in mind, the 76ers have made more trades with the players they’ve picked, than the amount of stars in the sky.

In 2012, the 76ers selected Maurice Harkless, and traded for Arnett Moultrie. Harkless has developed into a role player after being traded to Orlando, and Moultrie was just a plain bust.

In 2013, the 76ers traded Jrue Holiday, an all-star PG at the time, to New Orleans, for the sixth overall pick. With that selection, Philly took Nerlens Noel. Philly also received a 2014 first-round selection in this deal. With the 11th overall pick, the 76ers picked Michael Carter-Williams, arguably the most boring player in the NBA. Despite being nearly unwatchable, MCW surprised everyone in his rookie season, when he brought home the annual NBA Rookie of the Year award. After falling off a bit in the next season, he was traded to Milwaukee for one Lakers first round pick in 2018. The original deal included two top-three protected picks, which were sent back to the Lakers following the 2016 and 2017 draft lotteries. In the 2017 draft, the 76ers traded the pick they acquired from the MCW deal to move up to the number one selection. They also traded away Nerlens Noel before the trade deadline of the 2016 season for Justin Anderson, Andrew Bogut, and two second round picks. Essentially, they were robbed in the Nerlens Noel deal.

2014 was different, however.  The 76ers picked up Embiid with the third pick, and Saric with the 12th pick. Embiid, who sat out his first two seasons put on a strong bid for Rookie of the Year despite only playing 36 games. Saric also had a strong campaign.

In 2015, even after taking two bigs with their draft picks last season, the 76ers thought to themselves, “Hey, you know what will delay our rebuilding process even more? Another Center.” And so 76ers thought it would be a good idea to select Jahlil Okafor with the third overall pick. Despite numerous rumors during the 2017 draft, Okafor still remains on the 76ers to this day.

In the 2016 draft, Philly managed to luck out with the first overall pick. They obviously took the best prospect available in Ben Simmons. Unfortunately, Simmons did not play his first season due to a injury sustained in Summer League play.

As mentioned earlier, in the 2017 draft lottery, Philadelphia was dealt the third pick, but used a draft pick acquired in the Michael Carter-Williams trade to move up to first overall. They selected Washington Huskies guard Markelle Fultz. Yet, somehow, Markelle isn’t even the second most media-covered NBA rookie in this years draft, due to an overly-annoying father that cannot seem to handle anything that does not go his way. Yes. I’m pointing at you, LaVar Ball.

That is the first round draft history of the 76ers in the past five years. Now, let’s spice it up a bit and see who they could’ve had if they picked perfectly. In other words, the 76ers made a larger mess than a unsupervised three-year old in a toy store.

In 2012, if the 76ers picked perfectly, they could have had Draymond Green with the fifteenth overall pick and Jae Crowder instead of Arnett Moultrie. In the 2013 draft, they could’ve had CJ McCollum and Giannis Antetokounmpo instead of Nerlens Noel and Michael Carter-Williams. In 2014, I wouldn’t actually change anything about the 76ers draft, they were on the money with Embiid and Saric. In 2015, Philly could have had any of the following players, but instead, choose Jahlil Okafor: Kristaps Porzingis, Justise Winslow, Myles Turner, or Devin Booker. Ouch.

While the 76ers have not had the best draft history, they still have managed to collect some talent. Every draft night, while the Spurs often rack up draft night steals, the 76ers continually miss on their picks, and show why they are a bottom-feeder in this league. I guess it is safe to say that Philly is more inaccurate than a drunk storm trooper. While they get a hit every once in a while, they’ll miss 99% of the time. They are not the only franchise that do this, however. The Sacramento Kings have been one of the bottom-feeders of the NBA for some time now. They have also drafted bust after bust and cannot seem to win a trade. Especially after dealing Demarcus Cousins to the Pelicans for Buddy Hield, Tyreke Evans, Langston Galloway, a first round pick (which was then traded away for the draft rights to Justin Jackson and Harry Giles), and a second round pick.

The 76ers caused a problem, but not just for basketball. As seen recently, the NFL has seen its fair share of tanking. As of late, the New York Jets have been accused by many fans of attempted-tanking. They didn’t resign many key players, cut multiple above-average players, all for what seems to be an attempt at the number one NFL draft pick in 2018.

Okay, all of this talk about “The Process” and tanking is probably making you wonder, what makes a successful franchise? It’s all about sustained success, attitude, and plain luck. Luck is the most prominent factor in the NBA. Some injuries pretain to bad-luck, while draft day steals are often good luck. In  fact, many teams like the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers have built their team around draft night. Let’s say, if the Cavs don’t land the number one pick in 2014, they might not have been as attractive to Lebron James.

One very successful team is the Spurs. They have been able to get draft night steals such as Kawhi Leonard and Manu Ginobili. They have been an amazing team for a very long time, they’ve gotten lucky when they selected players such as Kawhi Leonard and Manu Ginobili. The most important thing the Spurs have always had, is a winning mentality and attitude. You aren’t going to help your team if your goal is always to lose.

The process does not work if you want to build your franchise up from the ground. It only works if you want a very long journey to mediocracy. And when I say long, I mean long. Even though the 76ers look like a solid team now, it is no match their fans have endured over the past few seasons. They threw away a decent team to start all over.

We live the process each and every day, it happens naturally, not through downgrading your team through trades. That’s why teams like Charlotte and Washington are on the rise. It’s why teams like San Antonio have always flourished. The process has been with you all along, it is just that it has been misconstrued into what some people also call tanking. It does not work, nor will it ever. No matter where you pick in the draft, there will always be one player with star potential. You just have to find him.


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