The phrase “Trust the Process” has been synonymous with the Philadelphia 76ers ever since Joel Embiid was drafted out of college and became a star in the NBA. The phrase meant that the 76ers will take steps to build a contender, starting with tanking seasons away for first-round picks. Losing on purpose rubbed many fans and pundits the wrong way, but the 76ers management felt that this was the best way to get out of mediocrity.
Fast forward to just before the 2022 season, and it is time to evaluate how effective “The Process” has been. Philadelphia is under a ton of criticism at the moment because their second-best player and bonafide All-Star talent is surrounded by trade rumors and has not shown the willingness to cooperate with the team. More importantly, Philadelphia has not reached the level of success that they have hoped for and years of losing have killed a ton of optimism in the team. Here is the past decade of key moments during the entire 76ers “Process” that has led us to this stage right now.
2011: A Confusing Draft Decision
The Philadelphia 76ers drafted a big man, the first of many over the next few years, in Nikola Vucevic. The Montenegrin center was selected with the No. 16 pick in the draft but was only given 15.5 MPG in his first and only season with the team. The 76ers would trade him to the Orlando Magic, where the big man would play 33.2 MPG and kick start an ascension into becoming an All-Star. Clearly, Vucevic should have been given the opportunity to prove himself on an average 76ers team in 2011.
2013: Drafting The Rookie Of The Year, Then Trading Him At 23 Years Old
The 76ers made another great draft decision 2 years later when they selected Michael Carter-Williams with the No. 11 pick in the draft. The lengthy point guard would go on to win Rookie of the Year by posting averages of 16.7 PPG, 6.2 RPG, and 6.3 APG. Carter-Williams looked physically capable of being a starting point guard in the league, but Philadelphia would trade him 41 games into his second season. It could have been possible that Carter-Williams was the long-term answer at the point guard spot, but we will never know.
2013: Trading an All-Star For An Injury-Prone Center
The 76ers saw great growth from their point guard Jrue Holiday, as the natural combo guard played 78 games and averaged 17.7 PPG and 8.0 APG en route to his first All-Star Team. Holiday showed great two-way capabilities on the court, but Philadelphia felt he was not going to take the team to the next level. After the 2013 season, they traded Holiday for Nerlens Noel. Noel would miss the entire 2014 season with a knee injury and would only play 2.5 seasons with the 76ers before getting traded. Of course, Holiday ended up becoming the missing piece for the Milwaukee Bucks winning an NBA championship last season.
2014: A Great Move By Selecting The Franchise Superstar With The No. 3 Pick
The biggest move during the past 10 years by the Philadelphia 76ers was selecting Joel Embiid with the No. 3 pick in the draft. Embiid was the epitome of a star player entering a losing situation, and time was of the essence in making sure the big man developed into the superstar he was today. Embiid would miss the first 2 seasons of his career, before coming into his own as arguably the most dominant center in the game. With Embiid on the team, the 76ers have been in win-now mode.
2015: Acquiring Another Big Man That Failed To Make An Impact
Jahlil Okafor looked promising coming into the NBA, but there was no strategy in bringing in another big man when Joel Embiid and Nerlens Noel were still being developed. Okafor made the All-Rookie Team averaging 17.5 PPG and 7.0 RPG, but only lasted 2 seasons and 2 games in a third season before he was traded away. This was a complete waste of a No. 3 pick that could have set up Philadelphia with a stronger roster.
2016: Drafting Ben Simmons To Form A Dynamic Duo
The 76ers made the most acceptable move by taking Ben Simmons with the No. 1 pick in the draft. Simmons was already being compared to LeBron James because of his size and versatility, although he would have to miss his entire first season in the league. Simmons would return the following season and was legible for the Rookie of the Year Award, winning it by averaging 15.8 PPG and 8.2 APG. Whether drafting Simmons was the right move or not is up for debate, and much more on this later.
2017: More Tanking Resulting In Another Injury-Prone Draft Choice
The 76ers tanking for many seasons resulted in them acquiring yet another No. 1 pick in the draft. The Sixers opted for Markelle Fultz, an explosive point guard who could score and be a solid playmaker. But Fultz only played 33 games over his first 2 seasons, and Philadelphia gave up on him after the point guard could barely take a jump shot due to shoulder issues. Fultz was the perfect example of how losing on purpose for high draft choices does not always lead to superstars in the draft.
2018: Losing Out On Mikal Bridges For Zhaire Smith
Philadelphia had a chance to draft a two-way swingman in Bridges, a player who is not only a perfect small forward but a player who helped the Suns make the NBA Finals this year. If the 76ers had Bridges on the roster, their title chances would have greatly improved over the years. Instead, they opted for Zhaire Smith and traded Bridges. Smith has only appeared in 13 games for the 76ers and has not developed as fast as Bridges has.
2019: Losing Jimmy Butler In Free Agency, Killing Title Hopes
The best chance the 76ers had so far in making the Finals came in the acquisition of two-way All-Star Jimmy Butler. The team was stacked with Embiid, Simmons, Tobias Harris, and Butler; and were one game away from reaching the Eastern Conference Finals if not for a Kawhi Leonard game-winner. Once Butler left, the team was scrambling for “dogs” and leaders, a massive factor in why the 76ers have not achieved the success they truly should have.
2020: Failing To Make An NBA Finals Despite A Strong Roster
By 2020, the 76ers were left frustrated by their inability to make the Finals so far. They had star players, great coaches, and an advantage of playing in the East; but never looked like champions. Failing to make a single NBA Finals is considered a massive failure, despite Embiid playing like a superstar and Simmons dominating the defensive end of the floor. Years of tanking and making incorrect draft choices have left Philadelphia in an even worse position right now because “The Process” could be coming to an end.
2021: A Ben Simmons Fiasco That Is Just A Shame
Seeing how Ben Simmons is forcing his way out of Philadelphia is truly a shame. Simmons went from a Rookie of the Year to a 3-time All-Star, to becoming a runner-up for the Defensive Player of the Year Award. Simmons has been a great regular season player, but his putrid shooting performances in last year’s postseason rubbed everyone the wrong way. Whether it was head coach Doc Rivers calling Simmons out or Embiid essentially blaming the playoff exit on the Australian, seeing this ugly breakup is disappointing. Simmons and Embiid were supposed to be a duo that guided Philadelphia to the Finals, but they have fallen short every year and their time together might officially be over.
Credit for the idea: Buckets