Philadelphia 76ers fans use the word “process” as a noun, verb, and sometimes even an adjective. The team has been in a process to return to a winning culture for nearly four years. Rookie Joel Embiid processed from an injured afterthought to a legitimate all-star candidate. And, when using the signature term of the franchise as a modifier, some guys are referred to as process players. You might even hear a friend, commentator, or your favorite sportswriter say something along the lines of Michael Carter-Williams being the prime example of a “process player.”
A “process player” is one that played for the Sixers during this renaissance period of rebuild from the beginning of the Sam Hinkie era to today. Such players either appeared to have much more worth in the NBA than they actually do due to the lack of true talent on the Sixers teams, or they had a place in the NBA solely because of how thin the teams were in depth and skill. Had it not been for the mediocre teams that won 47 games over a 3 season period, many of these players would have found themselves overseas or in the NBA’s D-League.
There are a variety of ways in which a “process player” can find himself parting ways with the organization. He could become a free agent and attract a team willing to offer a multi-year contract due to his adequate play on the struggling Sixers, as was the case in the departure of Isaiah Canaan and Ish Smith. The player could be released, not even performing well enough to keep a spot on the horrendous roster, as was the case in Alexey Shved’s and fan-favorite Furkan Aldemir’s separation from the squad. Perhaps the most popular way of dumping players throughout The Process was when legendary ex-General Manager Sam Hinkie (and, admittedly, even current-GM Bryan Colangelo) traded players for future draft picks and other assets that he would be able to use to build the future roster in the best possible way, see Michael Carter-Williams trade and the recent deal that sent Jeramy Grant to the Thunder in exchange for Ersan Ilyasova (who has arguably been the 2016 team’s second best player) and a 2020 protected first round pick that could become two second rounders in 2022 and 2023.
This week, our twitter administrators at Sixers Nation ran five polls that allowed fans to vote on who they thought the most process player was at each position. However, there were a couple of rules. The player could not currently be a member of the Sixers, thus eliminating Nerlens Noel, Joel Embiid, etc. He must have played at least one game in a Sixers uniform from the beginning of the Sam Hinkie era (start of process) until present day. Yes, we cheated by putting Chu Chu Maduabum in there, due to the fact that he was an overseas stash who never came over. But when you have a (NSFW) Christmas carol written and sung in honor of your process street cred? Well, that’s about as legendary as a process guy can get, so we let him into the vote. That just about sums up the rules, so let’s check out the results:
POLL #1: Who is the greatest Sixers Process ™ point guard? If you don't see your favorite let us know!
— Sixers Nation (@PHLSixersNation) December 25, 2016
During the 2014 NBA season, Ish Smith put Nerlens Noel on the radar with their signature alley oops. Noel, who had been fairly average in his first professional season after missing an entire year due to ACL surgery, exploded during the second half of the year and was eventually named to the 2014 All-Rookie First Team. In the offseason pre-2015, the Sixers failed to resign Smith, who found his way to New Orleans and played well while filling in for Jrue Holiday and Norris Cole, who were injured for the beginning of the year. After Holiday and Cole returned, and coach Alvin Gentry began giving Tyreke Evans time at the 1, Smith was reduced to a bench role. Meanwhile, the Sixers, who had the opposite problem of the Pelicans when it came to point guards, sought to re-acquire Ish.
Sam Hinkie traded two second-round picks to New Orleans in exchange for Smith, who immediately became the team’s starting point guard. He made his presence known in his first game back in a Philadelphia uniform, leading the 1-30 Sixers to their second win of the season. As we all know, the team finished the year a miserable 10-72, which was one of the worst records in NBA history. With Smith on the roster, they were 9-42, and had the Ish trade not happened on Christmas Eve of 2015, we might have witnessed the worst team in NBA history.
The Sixers once again let Smith walk in this past offseason, as he inked a 3 year, $18 million deal in the Motor City to play for the Pistons. This time, however, the team signed true NBA level guards to replace Ish in Sergio Rodriguez and Jerryd Bayless. The Ish-to-Nerlens oops will be gravely missed within the process-trusting community, but it was time to part ways. As a member of the Philadelphia 76ers, Ish Smith averaged 13.8 points and 6.7 assists per game, playing 75 games and starting 64.
Poll #2: Who is the greatest Process™ shooting guard? Don't see your favorite below? Let us know who it is!
— Sixers Nation (@PHLSixersNation) December 26, 2016
KJ McDaniels completely obliterated the competition in this poll, and rightfully so. Now, I don’t know whether or not the fact that McDaniels received a whopping 56% of the vote has more to say about his play as a Sixer or about the quality of shooting guard that the Sixers have had since 2013. However, I do know that after being drafted by the Sixers in the second round of the 2014 draft, KJ exceeded the expectations that the team had set for a 21 year-old second rounder.
As a wing player without a consistent outside jumpsuit, McDaniels’s athletic ability and defensive potential intrigued Sixers’ coaches, and he eventually earned a starting spot as a rookie in Philly, averaging over 9 points per game. On the day of the trade deadline in his rookie season, KJ was traded in exchange for Isaiah Canaan (see point guard poll for an idea of Canaan) and a 2015 second-round pick. This trade was one of the more head-scratching moves made during the Hinkie-era, and McDaniels might have had a role on the current Sixers team, which severely lacks swingmen.
KJ still plays in Houston, where he is in the second year of a 3 year, $10 million contract. He is averaging about 3 points per game in 9 minutes per game in 2016. On a Rockets team that is considered a legitimate threat to the Warriors in the Western Conference, McDaniels (barring a trade at the deadline) could provide some depth during a playoff run for Mike D’Antoni’s club.
Poll #3: Who is the greatest Process™ small forward? Don't see your guy? Tell us who it is!
— Sixers Nation (@PHLSixersNation) December 27, 2016
The award for most recent departure amongst players involved in the voting goes to Jeremi Grant, who played for the Sixers at the beginning of the season before being traded to the Westbrooks (oops, Thunder, sorry) for Ersan Ilyasova and a conditional future pick. Grant was known for his monster blocks and tough defensive play, but simply did not progress enough offensively to be a necessary piece on a franchise still rebuilding.
Grant also might have won the toughest race to make it onto the All-Process Team. On a ballot that included previously mentioned Maduabum and another fan favorite in Jakarr Sampson, 40% of the vote speaks volumes about how much fans loved watching Jeramy’s highlight reel plays that could fire up an entire arena. Additionally, there is no explanation as to how Evan Turner received 1/4 of this vote; he was more of a player whose poor play caused The Process than one who was around as a process player.
Bryan Colangelo’s signature deal as general manager of the Sixers to this point was the Grant trade. He flipped a 22 year-old with no true position or role on the team into Ilyasova, who dropped 23 points and 13 rebounds in last night’s win in Denver and has been a solid 4 next to Embiid, and what may become a 1st round pick in 2020, unless the Thunder find themselves with a top-20 pick.
Grant’s 2-plus year tenure in Philadelphia was ended simply because the team could, not afford to have another young player who did not have a true position in the NBA. There is enough uncertainty and imbalance on the roster, and Jerami was the odd man out. He averaged about 8 points and 4 boards per game in Philly. but swatting shots into the seats and throwing it down over rim protectors is what he will be most remembered for when discussing his role in The Process.
Poll #4: Final Poll! Who is the greatest Process™ power forward? Got beef with our picks? Let us know who your guy is!
— Sixers Nation (@PHLSixersNation) December 28, 2016
Joel Embiid is not the first Cameroonian Sixer to make his presence known in the Wells Fargo Center. Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, aka The Cameroonian Prince, is actually a prince in his native village of Bia Messe. He was actually acquired by the Sixers in a 3-team trade with the Minnesota Timberwolves and Cleveland Cavaliers that involved Kevin Love, Andrew Wiggins, and Thaddeus Young. Mbah a Moute, being the prize of the deal, won the starting power forward job in Philadelphia and started 61 games throughout the course of the 2014-15 season.
He made his mark on the Sixers as a defensive rock, but Luc also managed to do a bit of scoring during his exile to the bottom of the Eastern Conference and averaged 10 points per game. He was not resigned by the Sixers in the 2015 offseason, and unlike Ish Smith, was never reacquired by the team. Currently, Mbah a Moute is the starting small forward for the Los Angeles Clippers, who own the 4th best record in the Western Conference.
It is important to keep in mind that Mbah a Moute deserves some credit for the rise of Joel Embiid to stardom. When Embiid was drafted and arrived in Philadelphia, he relied on his fellow Cameroonian for direction and mentoring. So when we are watching Embiid’s live stories or even postgame interviews, where he is joking (at least, I think he’s joking) about how making the all-star game will get him a date with a girl, we can keep Mbah a Moute in mind, and how he might’ve helped a 20 year-old with a broken foot find comfort in an unfamiliar country.
Poll #5: Final Poll! Who is the greatest Process™ center? Got beef with our picks? Let us know who your pick is!
— Sixers Nation (@PHLSixersNation) December 29, 2016
The upset of the entire vote just may have been Henry Sims taking the center spot from the hands of Elton Brand and Shaqtin’ a Fool MVP Javale Mcgee. Remember when I said some of the process players were not actually talented enough to be in the NBA, but were rather only in the league due to the lack of talent on the Sixers? This would be Sims. When he arrived in 2013 as the team’s starting center (at this point, the Sixers had only drafted one of their “big 3,” which was Nerlens Noel, who missed all of 2013), he was solid, averaging about 12 points and 7 rebounds. A 23 year-old who averagers those kinds of numbers would be considered to have potential and may have even been a player to watch for the future.
However, Sims’s second season, as the backup, did not go as well as the first. Per 100 possessions, he was a -11.7 while on the court, which was 2.6 points lower than his 2013 total. He also shot about 18% when 3-16 feet from the basket. According to basketball reference’s similarity scores, Sims is most similar to Hasheem Thabeet as an NBA player. I guess that explains why Sims now plays in China.
I personally voted for Elton “Old Chevy” Brand for this poll, but the people spoke, and they wanted Sims. Henry finished his Sixers career averaging 9 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. He was a center on the Sixers before it was cool, and thus he has become the center for the “All-Process” team.
So that is the Sixers’ “All-Process” Team, and it would not win 10 games in the NBA. As the Sixers continue to progress, it is aways fun to reminisce (and cringe a bit) on the players who suffered along with us through what has been (and continues to be) The Process. We have already seen a real improvement from the team this season, and with last night’s victory in Denver, we are on 8 wins for the season, two shy of last season’s total. There is finally some life to Sixers basketball, and we only have the founding fathers of The Process to thank.
Photo by TastyPoutine (via Wikimedia Commons)