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Masin-Moyer: Learning to ‘Trust the Process’

| Wednesday, February 8, 2017

One hundred ninety-nine.

That’s the number of games the Philadelphia 76ers lost in the three seasons spanning 2013-2016.

That’s 33 more losses than the Cavaliers in their first three seasons after LeBron James left, a team whose idea of a star was a 34-year-old Antwan Jamison, and 30 more losses than the then-Charlotte Bobcats — now Charlotte Hornets — in their first three years in the league.

To put it bluntly, the Sixers were horrific; so bad, in fact, the NBA tried to intervene to make them better.

The best part of this whole scenario was this losing was intentional — all part of a convoluted scheme concocted by full-time analytics wizard, part-time general manager Sam Hinkie. Hinkie’s “process” involved trading away any players with value around the league and comprising a roster of D-League players and washed up veterans in order to lose the most games and get the highest draft picks. Crazy right? Well, even crazier, this year it’s started to work.

Believe me, I was amongst the doubters. The never-ending loses seemed to be going nowhere. Hinkie had traded away Michael Carter-Williams, the reigning Rookie of the Year, and it seemed as if other top-tier draftees would never see a game in South Philly. It all seemed a far cry from my best Sixers memories — watching from the nosebleeds of the Wells Fargo Center as a team of non-superstars, Jrue Holiday and Lavoy Allen amongst them, take the Big 3-era Celtics to seven games in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

I was first to herald the decision to fire Hinkie. He, in my mind, was a noble fool who had tried to emulate moneyball and failed dramatically. Little did I know that in time I — and the city of Philadelphia — would soon be heralding him as a martyr fighting for a cause only he knew could succeed.

The 2016-17 season started like each of the three previous seasons, save a win before December. But around Christmas, things started to change. The irreverent Joel “The Process” Embiid, a center known as much for his social media presence — complete with interactions with Hinkie himself — as his incredible scoring ability, took center stage, racking up 20 points a game on any given night. This, paired with Dario Saric’s emergence in his first year since coming over from Croatia and the improving play of a ragtag supporting cast, led the Sixers to a 10-5 record in January, better than the reigning champs from Cleveland.

Hinkle’s process has legitimized two major strategies for creating a successful NBA team. First, and possibly most concerning, is the Sixers have essentially legitimized tanking in the NBA to get superstars. Tanking is far from a new strategy — it’s the very reason the NBA created the lottery — but it has rarely been as blatantly public as with the Sixers these past few years. Second, it has further proved the merit of using analytics to project players abilities and craft a better NBA team — and proven Hinkie is indeed a basketball genius.

Though the Sixers have not seen large scale success yet, the future is bright. Though they may not win an NBA title — who am I kidding? Of course they will — the resurgence of the Sixers in the “Process Era” has reignited a passion for basketball in Philadelphia unseen since the days when Allen Iverson stepped over Tyronn Lue in the 2001 NBA Finals and made scores of NBA fans learn that in order to succeed, sometimes you’ve just got to “Trust the Process.”

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Lucas Masin-Moyer

Lucas Masin-Moyer is a senior at Notre Dame majoring in Political Science and American Studies. He serves as Assistant Managing Editor, lived in Morrissey Manor and hails from Telford, Pennsylvania.

Contact Lucas