Disgraced, disgusted and embarrassed are just a few of the words to describe the feelings of The Philadelphia 76ers organization post Collargate. At a time that was meant to be filled with happiness and joy, the exact opposite had occurred. After making it to the second round of the playoffs, the future was bright. The team had two young stars in Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. Two hopeful players in rookie of the year runner up in Dario Saric and First Team All-Defensive player in Robert Covington. Along with that, the Sixers had hoped for a breakout year for the player they traded up for the year prior in Markelle Fultz. There was also the hope of going after star free agents Lebron James and Paul George. Not to mention a possible trade for spurned San Antonio Spur Kawhi Leonard. What actually happened was filled with shock and disgust. A month before the draft we were graced with the insanity of Collargate. With the Sixers General Manager and his wife trashing the franchise and it’s players with fake twitter accounts. With lying Bryan ousted, the Sixers turned to head coach Brett Brown to try and save the offseason the best he could.
Heading into the draft it was anyone’s guess as to what they would attempt. Some were hopeful they could land one of the Bridges. Either Mikal Bridges from Villanova or Miles Bridges from Michigan (P. S. I wanted Miles). Many wanted to have the hometown kid, Mikal get the chance to play in Philly. Not to mention the fact that Mikal’s mother worked for the Sixers. There were also some that held out hope for the drafting of Michael Porter Jr. Porter Jr. was a former McDonald’s All American who ended up injuring his back and only played 3 games in college. What happened on draft night did not go how most Sixer fans predicted. Not only did the Sixers select the Philly native, but Porter actually fell to 14 as well. Ready for the other shoe to drop? The organization traded away Mikal +Bridges to the Suns in exchange for Texas Tech’s Zhaire Smith and a unprotected 2021 Miami Heat first round pick. Along with that they drafted Landry Shamet from Wichita State with the 26th pick. They Also traded the 38th pick (Khyri Thomas) in exchange for 2 future second round picks. They then traded away the 56th (Ray Spalding) and the 60th (Kostas Antetokounmpo) pick in exchange for the 54th pick (Shake Milton) from the Dallas Mavericks.
The reaction? Fans were livid. They wanted Bridges and were angry when they traded away a player for more picks. There was also the confusion as to why they settled on Zhaire Smith instead of taking a player like Porter. I think the injury history had something to do with that. The Sixers have had their fair share of players with injuries, and its most likely they wanted a healthy guy. That guy was most likely Bridges. Until they had the possibility to draft a guy they had worked out twice prior to the draft in Smith, to go along with a unprotected first rounder from Miami. It also didn’t hurt that Smith was someone who Spurs coach Gregg Popovich liked during the draft. How did these moves help the team? With Bridges and Porter we have yet to see the regret we’ve had in past seasons. With Bridges averaging only 8 a game and Porter Averaging about 7.5 points per game. In the last 3 years however, Porter has had 2 back surgeries and a ankle injury and has played 51 total games between 1 year of college and 2 in the NBA. Smith hasn’t exactly lit the world on fire.
In 2 seasons he’s only played 13 games and averaged only 3.7 points per game. He’s had a string of bad luck since entering the league. A fractured foot, an allergic reaction that almost killed him, and most recently injured his knee. With all that being said, the trade was still a good one. You had a chance to draft a guy you could develop or even flip in a trade for Leonard, along with that you got a valuable first round pick that could be used in a trade. How about the other Sixer draft picks? Landry Shamet averaged 8.3 points per game and shot 40 percent from 3 during 54 games with the sixers. A solid shooter and a good draft pick that helped us land a big fish of our own. Shake Milton has played 52 total games for the Sixers while averaging about 41 percent from 3. Not to mention that since coming back from an injury in 2019, he averaged 19.4 points per game and shot 56 percent from 3 during his last 7 games prior to the league stoppage. That’s quite a lot of production from a late first rounder and guy drafted in the second round.
Did all these moves help land the big fish they wanted? Nope. Lebron took his talent to LA, Paul George resigned with the Thunder and the Spurs traded Leonard to the Toronto Raptors. The Sixers were in play for Leonard but refused to give up Ben Simmons or Joel Embiid. Did the team get anyone stellar in Free Agency? Not really. The guys Brown brought in were a step above of the usual lying Bryan free agents if that helps. They brought back sharp Shooter J.J. Redick and Amir Johnson. Along with that they signed second round pick Jonah Bolden to a 4 year deal. They also let playoff contributors such as Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova sign elsewhere. The team also traded Richaun Holmes to the Suns for a million dollars in cash. In a 4 team trade they sent TLC to the Thunder, Justin Anderson to the Hawks and in return received Mike Mascula from the Hawks. The Sixers then acquired Wilson Chandler, a 2021 second round pick, and a 2022 second round pick swap from the Denver Nuggets in exchange for Cash Considerations. So while they didn’t make any blockbuster moves, the team got slightly better while still making forward thinking moves and getting rid of some unwanted garbage.
Enter Elton Brand. The Sixers brought back a old friend. The former number one overall pick, The Old school Chevy himself, Elton Brand was selected to be the Sixers new general manager after a successful stint as the 87ers GM. You ever hear the saying speak softly but carry a big stick? That’s exactly how he started off his tenure as GM. Because just when you weren’t expecting much,you felt the loud tapping of the stick. In his first move, he traded away process favorites Dario Saric, Robert Covington, along with a 2022 second round pick in exchange for Jimmy Butler and Justin Patton. To say the mood had changed would be an understatement. They had just acquired a star caliber player in Butler for next to nothing and without having to give up any major assets. The wheeling and dealing of the season wasn’t done not by a long shot. He later traded away Wilson Chandler, Mike Mascula, Landry Shamet, a 2020 first round pick, a 2021 unprotected first round pick, a 2021 second round pick and a 2023 second round to the Clippers in exchange for Tobias Harris, Boban Marjanovic, and Mike Scott. He then traded cash to the Raptors in exchange for Emir Preldžić, Malachi Richardson and a 2022 2nd round draft pick. Brand also acquired James Ennis from the Houston Rockets in exchange for a 2021 second round pick swap.
So after all the wheeling and dealing did the season result in a trip to the finals? Sadly no. The team took care of the Brooklyn Nets after some antics before ending up facing the Toronto Raptors. At one point having a 2-1 lead and a chance to take control of the series. However, a Joel Embiid illness put the kibosh on that. Game 7 with a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals on the line. One shot. The shot of all shots. A shot that will live in infamy in the city of Philadelphia forever. A corner three shot by Kawhi Leonard and guarded by Joel Embiid bounced on the rim for what seemed like forever. Until It didn’t. It went in slowly and painfully until reality sunk in. The hopes of a final birth were dead and buried. The image of Joel Embiid crying tears of sadness ingrained in our minds.
So after all the wheeling and dealing did they end up running it back? Did Markelle Fultz magically turn it around? Did they resign Butler and Harris? Not exactly. Fultz while having his up and down moments never became what we wanted him to be. Not to mention the issues with his agent. In 33 games he averaged 7.7 points per game, 3.5 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game. Along with that he also shot 28.6 percent from 3 and 41.2 percent from the field. To make matters worse he only shot 52 percent from the free throw line. They traded multiple first rounders to get him and ended up with less than stellar performance from the number one overall pick. So the organization cut bait, trading away Fultz and his $9 million salary in exchange for Jonathon Simmons and a protected first round pick. Simmons played a limited role in his time in Philly but the move helped you shed necessary cash in anticipation for free agency.
In a shocking move we ended up letting Redick walk, did a sign and trade with Butler, and signed Al Horford. The only obvious move we did during free agency was signing Tobias Harris. So did these moves help us prepare for the upcoming season and set us up for a championship run? I’ll dive into that more in the third and final piece of “A new Process”. There’s one thing I will say. In the midst of a total meltdown due to previous management, Brett Brown and Elton Brand did the very best they could. They made the most of a bad situation and tried all they could to acquire good assets and players to make up for the lack thereof during the previous 3 years. Is it a better Process? We’ll find out. This new regime could possibly set us up for a different and dare I say it under the radar type type of contending team. Let’s find out if it’s sustainable!