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How much longer can we ‘Trust the Process’?

| Thursday, September 30, 2021

“Trust the Process.” That is the only phrase that Philadelphia 76ers fans have heard since 2013 when then-76ers general manager Sam Hinkie emphasized the importance of being patient with the team. The fans believed, and they suffered through some brutal seasons, including an astoundingly bad 10-72 record during the 2015-2016 season.

But the outlook for the Sixers slowly improved, especially with the additions of Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid through the draft. At 6-feet-11, Simmons has unheard-of size for a point guard and ball-handler. His playmaking abilities on both ends of the floor are elite, given his career average of 7.7 assists per game along with his two-time First-Team All-Defense selections. Embiid has been a double-double machine for the Sixers, averaging 24.8 points and 11.3 rebounds per game while becoming a perennial MVP candidate.

With Simmons and Embiid paired up alongside Tobias Harris, Danny Green and Matisse Thybulle, the Sixers have the depth and talent to be one of the leading contenders for the NBA title. But since the 2017-18 season, the farthest that Philadelphia has gone in the playoffs is the conference semifinals. The Sixers haven’t been able to show that they are the best team in their conference, let alone the entire league.

After crashing out in the conference semifinals last season against the Atlanta Hawks, fans clamored for change. Now, it appears likely that Simmons is on his way out of Philadelphia. Despite attempts from teammates and the front office to repair the relationship, Simmons wants nothing to do with the Sixers anymore.

So, what’s next for the Sixers if Simmons does leave?

To start, the Sixers are going to take a significant step back once Simmons is gone. Yes, Simmons’ offensive struggles are a big issue. His three-point shooting and free-throw shooting are horrendous, especially for a point guard. However, his defensive prowess and passing abilities are key to raising the ceiling for the Sixers. The team’s net rating is significantly higher when Simmons is on the court, and there are going to be growing pains while the team adjusts to life without him.

Embiid’s lengthy injury history could also lead to complications for the Sixers. The most games that Embiid has played in a season are 64 during the 2018-2019 season, and if he gets hurt again, Philadelphia will not be able to keep pace with the leading contenders in the East. Tobias Harris has been an impressive scorer during his tenure with the Sixers, but he’s not a go-to scoring threat like Embiid. Harris is at his best when he is complimenting another star, and he won’t be able to carry the team during Embiid’s absence.

If Philadelphia’s front office decides to give in and trade Simmons, their main concern needs to be receiving another star-caliber player in return. To be successful in today’s NBA, teams need to have an elite duo or trio of stars to compete with the best in the league. 

The Los Angeles Lakers have LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook. The Brooklyn Nets have Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving. The reigning NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks have Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton. The list goes on and on.

Embiid can’t lead the Sixers to an NBA title by himself. Harris is a great No. 3 option, but Philadelphia needs to add someone like Bradley Beal, D’Angelo Russell or CJ McCollum to help them stay at the top of the East. Right now, the Sixers need to retool, not rebuild. Otherwise, the fans’ belief in the process will have been for nothing.

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