I can easily recall the time I got excited for DC and Warner Bros. announcing the release of Batman vs. Superman to hit the big screen. Two of my favorite superheros were coming together in epic movie that would eventually announce the addition of WonderWoman. The movie was a let down. I felt betrayed and lied to and I had gotten my hopes up for something that was mediocre. That same feeling has translated over to how Bryan Colangelo has handled the Philadelphia 76ers.
I was one of the biggest supporters of all things dubbed “The Process”. Tanking for picks, the clearing of salary cap space, and getting rid of mediocre players. For a while, it was working beautifully. More beautifully, I would argue, than Michelangelo’s work at the Sistine Chapel. While it took longer than hoped for, the 2016 season kicked off with the introduction of both Joel Embiid and Dario Saric finally joining the Sixers roster. While rookie Ben Simmons was rehabbing his broken foot, there was still a sense of excitement and eagerness to see Embiid and Saric hit the floor together. The season started out slow, but by December and January the Sixers were the talk of the NBA. Joel Embiid had become one of the most polarizing figures in all of sports and his teammate Dario Saric was quietly having an impressive campaign as a rookie.
The whole point of the Process was for the Sixers to accumulate as many draft picks as possible while clearing up as much dead money and cap space as possible. The Sixers had an unfortunate situation with too many big men on the roster; Embiid, Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor. There was no way the Sixers were trading Embiid with how well he debuted in his first few months, so naturally, it came down to Noel and/or Okafor. General manager Bryan Colangelo stated “I’m not going to make a bad deal and hurt this team, just for the sake of making a deal”. Okay, fair enough. You at least want to get something in return for either of the two young big men. But when the trade deadline approached, the rumor mill began swirling with Okafor’s name and several teams having interest. The Sixers went as far as sitting Okafor, in what appeared to be an attempt to keep Okafor healthy for an impending deal. When the deadline approached, on Thursday February 23rd, 2017, Bryan Colangelo elected to trade Nerlens Noel to the Dallas Mavericks for Center Andrew Bogut, Forward Justin Anderson and 2 draft picks that were top 18 protected and would presumably turn into two 2nd rounders since the Mavericks are guaranteed to finish in the top 18.
There are two ways of looking at that deal. The first being Noel was a restricted free agent and the chances of him walking in the future were almost certain. He wanted to start and with the logjam at the big-man position, the Sixers were probably not going to pay him big money, so trading him for something was better than letting him go for nothing. The second way of looking at it, and how I look at it is, the Sixers gave up on a promising, young defensive minded big-man for just Justin Anderson (seeing as Bogut was bought out and the two 2nd round picks are worthless in the NBA) Giving up a guy like Noel for Anderson seemed like a slap in the face. It’s no disrespect to Anderson, but Noel was a fantastic player for this team. Sure, you gave up the offensive numbers, but his defense was unmatched. It opens the door for Dario Saric to step into the Power Forward position as it does for Richaun Holmes, but Noel could have been valuable off the bench as well as an insurance policy to Embiid. Paying Noel a lot of money to just be an insurance policy might seem absurd, but if you have the slightest doubt on Embiid’s health, keeping a defensive minded big like Noel makes more sense than giving it over to Jahlil Okafor who’s defense is just putrid and painful to watch. Now, there is the idea that while Embiid and Simmons are done for the season, that Okafor could play well and be dealt in the summer. I’m not holding my breath on that, but apparently Colangelo is and that’s where he’s wrong.
Bryan Colangelo has repeatedly lied to the fans and been dishonest in handling Embiid’s injury as well as Ben Simmons’ injury. He has also completely botched the big-man situation in trading the wrong guy in Noel. Right now, they’re 3rd in the running for the top pick in the lottery come the summer for the draft. The problem here is, is that there is no clear answer on what Colangelo is trying to accomplish. Granted, I don’t expect him to announce to the media and fans exactly what they want to do, but the fanbase has nothing and have no clear idea on where the organization is going. Colangelo has treated this fanbase miserably and for being a “basketball guy”, he has shown very little knowledge in handling the Sixers current situation. It’s not the fact that he traded the wrong big-man in my opinion, it’s the fact he went through all of the trouble of benching Okafor and making it known he would likely be the guy being dealt, while turning around and taking nothing for Noel. Colangelo seems to be insulting the intelligence of the fanbase and the media alike and quite frankly its tiresome. Philadelphia is a huge basketball city and would no doubt embrace the Sixers and a winning culture. Bryan Colangelo replaced a man who had a dream and a vision because the NBA felt he wasn’t enough of a basketball guy and was intentionally trying to tank for picks. The irony in that is that Colangelo is ripping a part the four years this franchise has suffered through, just to make it look like he knows what he’s doing. It’s sad and it is unfortunate. The only thing left to do is wish the best for Simmons and Embiid with their recovery and hope the Sixers can cash in on some of these picks that they have accumulated (thanks to Hinkie, not Colangelo) Just remember, when the Sixers Process finally comes to fruition, be sure to thank Samuel Blake Hinkie for what he orchestrated and not Bryan Colangelo who will undoubtedly take all of the credit.
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