It’s May 1st, 2008. Only one day after the Detroit Pistons embarrassed the Philadelphia 76ers at the Wachovia Center to clinch a first round series that everyone thought they would. Although the Sixers stole a couple of games in the series, the Pistons made it obvious who the better team was winning the first round of the playoffs in six games.
It is now exactly a year later. May 1st, 2009 and the scene in Philadelphia is much too similar. Just like a year ago, the Sixers found themselves humiliated and eliminated in six games of the first round of the NBA playoffs; stop me if you have heard this before. This time, it was Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic who rolled into Philadelphia and rolled over the Sixers in the sixth game to move on to the next round. A sight that reminisced the Detroit Pistons doing the same thing only 365 days previous.
After a 2009-2010 season that was nothing less than disappointing, the Sixers found themselves back in postseason play. A 41-41 record was good enough for a seventh seed in the Eastern Conference, but put the Sixers up against the big three of Lebron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. Not many people gave the Sixers a fighting chance and for good reason as the Sixers were booted out in only five games. The only highlight for the Sixers in the entire series, was somehow stealing a game four to avoid a series sweep.
Then, it happened. After just barely making the playoffs as an eighth seed in 2011-2012, the Sixers beat the top-seeded Chicago Bulls in six games. Yes you read that correctly, the Sixers WON in six games. Although it came against a bulls team who lost Derrick Rose in game one and Joakim Noah in game four, not to mention a team playing without Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson, the Sixers still won in the first round of the playoffs. A goal that had not been met I almost a decade. In the following round, the Sixers lost in a gritty seven game series against the rival Boston Celtics.
After just missing the playoffs in the 2012-2013 season, Sam Hinkie took over as the teams general manager and it did not take long for Hinkie to shake things up. “With the sixth pick in the 2013 NBA draft, the New Orleans Pelicans, yes the New Orleans Pelicans select Nerlens Noel from the University of Kentucky.” Soon after the sixth pick was made, word came out that the Sixers have traded Jrue Holiday for Noel and a protected first-round pick in 2014. A move that surprised many as Holiday seemed like a budding star in Philadelphia. Soon after trade rumors were all but confirmed, the Sixers selected a 6’5″ point guard from Syracuse University; Michael Carter-Williams. It was obvious the Hinkie was thinking toward the future and showed he was going for it all.
It was tough for all Sixers fan to really get on board with Hinkie at first and for good reason. The first big move Hinkie made was trading an all-star point guard for a kid from Kentucky who just had knee surgery and wouldn’t even be able to play in his first year. What an ugly year it was for the 2013-2014 Sixers. Although Carter-Williams exploded in his rookie year averaging 16.7 points, 6.3 assists and 6.2 boards a game, the Sixers managed a to put up a 19-63 record including tying the 2010 Cleveland Cavilers consecutive losing streak with 26 straight losses. However, the future looked bright.
Going into the 2014 NBA draft the future of the Sixers looked very bright. Not only did they have the rookie of the year, but they knew going into the draft, they had two top-12 picks and a healthy Nerlens Noel for next year. Then, the draft happened. With the third overall pick, the Philadelphia 76ers selected Joel Embiid, a big man from Kansas with tons of upside and tons of risk. Embiid was coming off a season riddled with injury and was uncertain on if he would play in the upcoming season. The sixers later drafted Elfrid Payton, but traded his rights to the magic in return for the rights of Dario Saric. A forward from Turkey who wouldn’t enter the league until at least two-three years later. A draft that had so much potential, ended up that we would not see either of our top-12 picks in action.
However, we were able to see Nerlens Noel and Michael Carter-Williams, the future, in action in the upcoming season; well for a bit. Carter-Williams was eventually traded to the Milwaukee Bucks. A move that yet again, set confusion in peoples minds. After another year of “tanking” the Sixers were able to select Jahlil Okafur, a dominant, HEALTHY big man from Duke. With that pick it all started to make sense. The future of big men for the Sixers would carry them to a championship. Then, the Sixers were hit with the news that former first-round pick and future face of the franchise Joel Embiid, re-broke his right foot and will be side-lined for the entire upcoming season…again.
So, where does this leave our beloved Philadelphia 76ers? That question can be answered with one word…hope. The future looks brighter than ever with Noel and Okafur in the back court, and Hinkie adding a sharp-shooting guard Nik Stauskis and a solid point guard in Kendall Marshall, the future is very bright. Hinkie is building big. He is building to bring a championship back to the great city of Philadelphia where it belongs. If Noel and Okafur stay healthy, if Marshall helps the development of both of those young big men, if Stauskis can grow as an all-around guard, and if somehow Embiid can come back in the future, ad if Hinkie can add some key free agents in the upcoming offseason, the Sixers look like a team that can sit atop the Eastern Conference and truly contend for a title. A ton of questions but a ton of hope surrounds this team, but if things work out how they are supposed to, Sixers basketball will be back to relevancy. “This Starts Now.”