The Philadelphia 76ers are a punchline. Most of that is intentional, of course, but the fact remains that the Sixers are terrible in a truly profound way.* This season has been one long slog of fast-paced, brick-heavy action. But in that action, there is hope. Hope for something better, and maybe for a championship.
*Somehow, the Milwaukee Bucks still finished with the worst record in the NBA. Even though they came into the season trying to win. The NBA is a weird place.
The best thing you can say about the Sixers is that they have virtually limitless options. They have very little salary committed to next season and even less the year after that. They have Thaddeus Young, Michael Carter-Williams, Nerlens Noel and Tony Wroten in place as their core, plus two lottery picks in this year’s draft, assuming the New Orleans Pelicans don’t manage to snag a top-three spot. Beyond that, everything is up in the air.
This season has essentially been one long audition process. The Sixers have cycled through 28 different players this season. Some of them, like Henry Sims, Jarvis Varnado and Hollis Thompson, have played well enough to have a shot at a spot on the team next year. Others haven’t.
Either way, the Sixers did a great job in-season. They knew they weren’t going to win — not after they strip-mined the roster last summer — so they spent the year experimenting. Now they know what they have and what they need.
The biggest immediate need is shooting. The Sixers finished dead last in three point percentage this year, surprising precisely no one. Of the 12 players to log more than 300 minutes for the Sixers this year, only two shot better than 33 percent from deep: Hollis Thompson and Spencer Hawes. And Hawes, you may notice, is no longer on the team.
So, where to now? Nobody knows, and that’s the beauty of it. Sam Hinkie can do whatever he wants with this team because they won’t be winning anything next year anyway so who cares? That, ultimately, is the legacy of the 2013-14 Philadelphia 76ers: Going out and trying things because who cares if they lose?
But we’ll always have that 3-0 start to the season and the blowout win over the Pistons in March to finally break their 26-game losing streak. The Sixers are dead.
Long live the Sixers.