The Finale of The Process
Trust the process. There may never have been or ever will be a phrase as synonymous with an organization as this is with the Philadelphia 76ers. This saying once made the 76ers the laughing stock of the NBA, as it was synonymous with them tanking, also known as intentionally losing, so that they could get a high draft pick. Now, however, people are beginning to see the fruits of the process, as Philadelphia now has three young stars who have the potential to be all time greats. These three young players, Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and Markelle Fultz, have become one of the most polarizing topics of conversation for many NBA fans. Many think that these three players will not live up to the hype surrounding them; however, Embiid, Simmons, and Fultz will eventually lead the 76ers to glory after becoming stars.
The most polarizing of these three players is Joel Embiid, likely because he is the only one to play out of the young big three in Phili. Due to injury Embiid only played the first 31 games of the 2016 NBA season, but he made a tremendous impact. According to basketballreference.com Embiid played just 25.4 minutes per game yet still managed 20.2 points per game and 7.8 rebounds per game. Those numbers are outstanding for a player playing over thirty minutes per game, and are remarkable given that he was only a rookie. Nobody argues against Embiid’s talent, but many people write him off due to his injuries. Author Rich Hoffman recently wrote an article about Dan LeBatard’s comment that “if he stays healthy, he’s going to be an overwhelming force who is among the greatest to ever do it. If he’s healthy” (Hoffman). Hoffman said that this assessment is “perfectly reasonable”, and agrees that Embiid has this potential (Hoffman). This primary point in both of their arguments was that Embiid can reach this potential provided that he stays healthy, and that his health is a massive concern. Despite the injury concerns, Embiid and the 76ers recently agreed to a 5 year $148 million contract. According to Si.com the contract protects the 76ers cap situation in the event that Embiid gets injured again. This shows how the 76ers are still very wary about Embiid’s health concerns, yet are still invested in him enough to give him a max contract. Even with the injury concerns, I’m confident that Embiid’s immense work ethic and sheer talent will allow him to become the superstar that he has the ability to become.
The second piece to the young 76er core is Ben Simmons. The Australian was the number 1 pick in 2016 NBA draft but missed all of last season with an injury. Ben Simmons has once in a generation type talent and most NBA fans and analyst can see that. Tim Daniels of bleacherreport.com wrote about how all-time great Shaquille O’Neal compared Simmons to the best player in the NBA today, Lebron James. O’Neal essentially stated that the skills Lebron has which make everyone around him better are also in Simmons’ possession (Daniels). The two players both are tall, athletic forwards who can not only score at will but have passing abilities rarely seen by even elite point guards. Many people around the NBA find issues with Simmons not because of his talent, but because of his intangibles. Rick O’Donnell of sbnation.com wrote about how Ben Simmons did not win the college player of the year award “because of bad grades” (O’Donnell). It’s no secret that Simmons had bad grades at LSU, and many people use that to say that it reflects poorly on Simmons’ character and mental toughness, but I think it had more to do with the system put into play by the NBA and NCAA. The NBA has a rule where players have to wait a year after high school before being eligible to be drafted, essentially forcing players to go to college for a year so they can stay relevant. If the NBA didn’t have this rule Simmons would have immediately gone into the NBA out of high school, but it’s creation forced him to go to school, where he found no value in his education. Simmons showed his mental toughness during the rehab process he had to go through last year, and it looks like he has fully recovered because of this. Simmons will join Embiid in helping the 76ers become an NBA powerhouse.
The last of this ultra-young big three is Markelle Fultz, who was the first overall pick in the 2017 NBA draft. Fultz was picked first in a stacked draft, which included the likes of Lonzo Ball, Jayson Tatum, and Josh Jackson, all of whom are considered to be future stars.The skeptics of Fultz simply believe that his talent won’t transfer to the NBA and that he will end up being a draft bust. Josh Jablonski of pattisonave.com believes that Fultz’s summer league performance is evidence as to why he will be a bust. Jablonski states that “ rather than averaging 30 ppg, he’s averaging 5 turnovers a game” (Jablonski). These summer league stats are underwhelming, especially compared to the second overall pick Lonzo Ball’s summer league stats. This can be easily rebuted because the Summer league is almost never a good indicator for NBA success, especially when considering that Tyus Jones and Josh Selby have won it in recent years, and never went on to accomplish anything. Eliot Shorr-Parks of nj.com recently wrote an article about the historical likelihood of Fultz being a bust. He looked at the eight players drafted number one overall in the past forty seasons and how their careers ended up. All of them were great or are on a path towards greatness; some of the names included were legends Lebron James and Magic Johnson (Shorr-Parks). From a historical perspective, everything is pointing in the direction that Fultz can become a superstar in the NBA.
When the 76ers began their “process” the skeptics were rampant. Many people wanted their then gm Sam Hinkie fired, as the 76ers had become more of a joke than an organization. These fans got their wish, but as the process nears it’s conclusion, many of them regret their treatment of Hinkie. The Philadelphia brand of tanking allowed them to end up with three of the game’s brightest young stars. Each of them has their flaws and reasons for concern, but the talent and upside of Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and Markelle Fultz has made them one of the most exciting young teams in sports. This core of young players will end up leading the tortured franchise to glory within the next few years, and the process will be complete.