The Miami Heat have dominated the eastern conference of the NBA since Lebron James and Chris Bosh joined Dwyane Wade in 2010. Some teams strive to battle Goliath, collecting contributors in free agency, like the Chicago Bulls. Other Davids, like the Indiana Pacers, are peaking at the same time as the Heat and try to make trades to counter the Heat’s roster.
Another team has taken the opposite approach. If you can’t beat’em, hoard and develop talent until you can. That team is the Philadelphia 76ers. During the 2013 NBA draft, 76er GM Sam Hinkie, decided to rebuild the team, by trading away top asset point guard Jrue Holiday for the draft rights to Nerlens Noel. In the 2013 NBA draft Philadelphia also drafted point guard Michael Carter-Williams with their eleventh overall draft pick.
After being considered one of the top talents in the 2013 NBA draft, Noel dropped in the draft the because of an ACL tear. Little did the league know, drafting extremely talented players who are not able to contribute immediately, was and is the 76ers’ strategy. Nerlens’ injury kept him off the court for the entire 2013-2014 and helped Philadelphia earn another lottery pick in the 2014 NBA draft. Even though the 76ers were extremely talent deficient, Michael Carter-Williams performed like the best player of the 2013 NBA draft and earned rookie of the year honors in the 2013-2014 season.
By all outlooks it seems the Miami Heat will re-sign their big three and are poised to win the eastern conference for at least a few more seasons. So when the 2014 NBA draft came around Hinkie made similar decisions he made in 2013; draft players who won’t contribute next year, but will likely dominate once they heal or develop.
In the 2014 draft Hinkie gained a pair of extremely talent players, but neither are going to play a minute in the 2014-2015 NBA season. The first player the 76ers drafted was center Joel Embiid. Embiid was selected third overall, but was considered the likely first selection until he fractured his navicular bone in his foot. Emiid will miss the entire 2014-2015 NBA season rehabbing his injury. The second player Philadelphia gained came in a draft day trade.
The 76ers selected point guard Elfrid Payton with the tenth overall pick. A few minutes later Philadelphia traded Payton for the draft rights of Croatian power forward Dario Saric and the Orlando Magic’s conditional first round pick in 2017. The downside of the Dario trade is he is contractually obligated to playing two years in Europe. But to the 76ers that may not be such a bad thing.
The trade that landed Saric in Philadelphia, perfectly articulates the difference between the Magic and the 76ers’ approach to team development. The Magic are chasing immediate contributions, the 76ers are chasing talent for the 2017-2018 season.
Next season Philadelphia is in position to have another lottery draft pick. The 2014-2015 NBA season will be Nerlens first on the court and the talent around him and Michael Carter-Williams will be largely nonexistent. That is an ideal situation for the 76ers according to their general manager’s strategy. A return to the lottery means a significantly higher chance of gaining star talent.
By the 2017-2018 season Philadelphia will have four or five potential stars and a handful of role players. I for one am extremely excited to see what Philadelphia puts together. If things pan out as advertised we are looking at the making of the next great NBA dynasty.
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