The Philadelphia 76ers Can Turn Around Their Franchise in the 2016 NBA Draft
Sam Hinkie, you evil genius.
We see you standing in the dark, wringing your hands and laughing maniacally.
Another domino has fallen in your master plan to take over the basketball universe. Finally, the Philadelphia 76ers can lay claim to the first pick in the draft after two years of failing to lose their way to winning the NBA Draft Lottery.
You destroyed an entire roster in leading your franchise into the depths of basketball infamy, but in this story, the villain is now the hero.
For you, Sam, vindication for "The Process" comes a few months too late, as you're no longer able to oversee what you started.
No, the Colangelos now will bear the fruit of your labor.
Contrary to popular opinion, "The Process" did not begin with Sam Hinkie. No, little did we know, the downtrend for the 76ers started in 2012 with the blockbuster trade for the best big man in the game.
Yes, at the time, that was the title some had bestowed upon Andrew Bynum. To acquire Bynum and an aging Jason Richardson, the Sixers gave away a former All-Star in Andre Iguodala, their past two first-round picks, Nikola Vucevic and Maurice Harkless, and a future first rounder.
The same Andrew Bynum who will forever be remembered for his bowling exploits.
Andrew Bynum, who never laced up a pair of sneakers for a single game for the 76ers, left for free agency after his lone season in the City of Brotherly Love. The Sixers' franchise was sent reeling, and after the 2012-13 season, Sam Hinkie was hired to make the Sixers a winner.
His plan: to be winners, they had to become losers.
The cupboard wasn't completely bare in Philadelphia when Hinkie arrived. They had All-Star Jrue Holiday, Evan Turner and Thaddeus Young as the core but little other quality talent after it was jettisoned for Bynum in his contract year.
Hired just before the 2013 NBA Draft, Sam Hinkie traded away Holiday (former first-round pick and their best player) for the rights to draft an injured Nerlens Noel and Dario Saric, the Croatian forward who still has yet to make his debut from oversees. And so, the demolition of the Sixers roster commenced, and the seeds of "The Process" had been planted.
In all, Hinkie executed 25 trades, acquiring 5 future first-round choices and 13 future second-rounders. He collected assets like a hedge fund manager.
Follow this handy flow chart if you dare to keep up with all of Hinkie's trades.
Now that Philadelphia has secured their prized first pick in this year's draft, who will it be? Ben Simmons or Brandon Ingram. Brandon Ingram or Ben Simmons.
Folks, we only have five more weeks to bludgeon the subject. Every draft analyst, writer, blogger, Sixers fan, and their mother will weigh as we approach the draft, but it's pretty clear the two aforementioned college freshman are the only two choices to be considered.
Ben Simmons, a 6'10" forward with the ball-handling skills and passing ability not unlike Magic Johnson or LeBron James, is thought by most pundits as having the highest ceiling. However, his jump shot is practically non-existent, and his defensive effort is less than inspiring. Still, those are some lofty comparisons.
Brandon Ingram, on the other hand, is considered a better fit for the 76ers because they are desperately in need of outside shooting, and Ingram can stroke it. Also 6'10", Ingram has a shooting touch and athleticism that allows him to defend multiple positions, invoking best-case-scenario visions of Kevin Durant .
Who do you choose: the better talent or the better fit? Luckily, we can do better than just guess if we try a little harder.
With stats like those, it's no wonder Philadelphia has a combined record of 47-199 over the past three years, the second-worst record in a three-year span of all-time.
Now let's look at the college stats of both Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram side-by-side to determine how their strengths and weaknesses align with the Sixers':
Who's the right choice?
The Case for Ben Simmons
In his only college season, Simmons finished with 19.2 points, 11.8 rebounds, and 4.8 assists per game. Clearly, he had a nose for the ball as it came off the glass, ranking seventh in the nation in rebounding. For a team in need of rebounding help, Simmons has elite ability to help right away.
His Effective Field Goal Percentage would have ranked 13th in the NBA, suggesting he could instantly improve the Sixers' scoring rate. And, he is great at making his teammates better, with a 27.4% Assist Rate.
However, he only attempted 3 three-point field goals all year, making only 1, so in that sense, he doesn't help in an area the Sixers struggled (one of many, I know) with a .339 three-point success rate.
Simmons can get to the basket at will, and his 9.0 free throw attempts per game ranked fourth in the nation.
The Case for Brandon Ingram
Also entering the NBA after his freshman year, Ingram became the primary scorer for Duke. He averaged 17.3 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 2.0 assists per game. Ingram's real calling card was his deep range, making 80 of 195 attempts from long distance for a .410 three-point percentage.
That's the type of shooting that Philadelphia needs to open up space for their slew of developing big men.
Because of his long-range marksmanship, it's thought that he is the best fit for the Sixers. Ingram does rebound well but could be better for his size.
He gets to the charity at a decent clip for an outside shooter, but his 4.7 free throw attempts per game tied for 274th nationally.
While the Philadelphia 76ers clearly need help shooting that Ingram can provide, they have many needs in all areas. But what of fit, you say? Simmons simply checks more boxes than shooting alone, which actually makes him a better fit for them.
As far as shooting goes, the Sixers still have two more first-round selections at 24 and 26. They can find their marksman later on. Plus, with the biggest salary cap (by far) entering next season, they should be able to convince a free agent shooter to take their money.
Trades are also an option to acquire a veteran sniper or guard. There have to be teams who could use a Jahlil Okafor or Nerlens Noel. A package with some draft picks allows the Sixers to take the best player in the draft, fit be damned. For my money, that's Ben Simmons.
It's my belief that the summer of 2016 was always intended to be the inflection point in "The Process." It's where the collection of assets would meet with opportunity, loaded with options galore.
With two more first-round picks in 2017 and 2018, the Philadelphia 76ers will soon be poised to become what Sam Hinkie always envisioned. It's too bad he won't be around to see it happen.