Put LeBron James in the “trust the process” camp.
The Philadelphia 76ers are entering their third year of being bad to get good — they have hoarded draft picks, played younger guys heavily (and some men not destined for the NBA), in part to improve their draft standing so they can get better players. This is an institutional decision and it has landed them Jahlil Okafor (and Joel Embiid, although he has yet to play). They have a lot of picks the next couple of years.
But it’s meant a lot of losing and the process divided NBA fans — is going this deep into being bad to get good smart for an organization? GM Sam Hinkie’s backers — which includes the majority owner, and his is the only voice that ultimately matters — say trust the process. When LeBron was asked about it before his Cavaliers were to face the Sixers Monday, he said the same thing, reports Dave McMenamin of ESPN.
The reality is we’re a couple of years away from knowing if Hinkie’s master plan works. It in part depends on his drafting skills — how will Okafor pan out, will Embiid ever contribute, and who do they get the next few years to be other cornerstones? Sure Oklahoma City ran from this playbook and are now contenders, but look at how well Sam Presti drafted. Can Hinkie mimic that?
The other question is how long the ownership group stays patient. So far Joshua Harris is saying he’s on board and is happy with Hinkie and coach Brett Brown, but I’m not the only person around the league who has heard some of the minority owners are less thrilled with the losing ways. Right now the ship isn’t changing course, but owners aren’t patient forever.
LeBron and Hinkie supporters are right about this — if the Sixers try to change course now it’s likely a setback that requires more rebuilding years. The Sixers are committed to this through at least another summer, if not longer. Whether Hinkie and Brown get to see this through to the end remains to be seen, another coach/GM may try to win with their players, but he is the guy that set the rebuilding up.