How the Philadelphia 76ers' fascination with centers backed them into a corner

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The Philadelphia 76ers are an organisation hoping they've finally turned a corner after three of the darkest years in the history of their franchise, and any other franchise, for that matter.

Philly have only won 47 games over the past three seasons. That's so bad that if they had combined those three years into just last season, they still only would have secured seventh place in the Eastern Conference.

199 losses have accompanied those victories and it's been hard to really appreciate 'The Process' that former general manager Sam Hinkie truly believed in.

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However, new GM Bryan Colangelo has insisted those days are over and he wants to win.

Before they can do that, the Sixers have plenty of work to do.

During the infamous rebuilding period, Philly drafted three centers, three years in a row.

Nerlens Noel arrived first in 2013 via a trade on draft night from the New Orleans Pelicans and he was followed by Joel Embiid in 2014, who was selected third overall.

They had the third pick once again in 2015 and opted to select offensive pivot Jahlil Okafor. The Lakers surprisingly took D'Amgelo Russell second off the board, which may have thrown Philly, but they still passed on talented guards like Devin Booker and Emmanuel Mudiay.

At a time when there was justifiable doubt that Embiid may never play for the team after two years on the shelf, the Okafor draft had a semblance of sense.

Now, there is absolutely no reason to have three start-worthy centers and a talent-starved backcourt. As Noel aptly put it, it's "silly."

"I think it's just silly ... this situation that we are in now with three starting centers," Noel said on Sunday. "With the departure of [former general manager and president] Sam Hinkie, I would have figured that management would be able to get something done this summer

"Don't get me wrong. We all get along great on the court and off the court," Noel continued. "But at the end of the day, it's like having three starting quarterbacks. It doesn't make any sense."

Drafting Ben Simmons first overall this summer has been viewed as the turning point for the franchise, but it also further crowds the frontcourt in the process. One would think Okafor could be deployed at the four spot with all his offensive talents, but certainly not at the expense of Simmons.

"I think at the end of the day, again, you have three starting-caliber centers. And it's just not going to work to anybody's advantage having that on the same team," Noel said. "That's how I'm looking at it. I'm not opposed to anything, but things need to be situated."

In other words, Noel is saying what everyone has known for months now: One of the big men has to go, and a guard has to come in.

On the surface, that shouldn't be the tallest task. However, Embiid has no value as he hasn't played. Okafor, for all of his attacking abilities, leaves a lot to be desired on the other end and the same can be said for Noel, but in reverse.

An asset is an asset at the end of the day, but the Sixers aren't likely to get what they believe their centers are worth in today's market, especially considering it's obvious to everyone - including the rest of the league - how desperate they are to make a deal.

Phill either have to lower their expectations on the open market or they will further diminish the value of their trio of pivots by splitting minutes between them in an unbalanced lineup. The choice is theirs.

Nerlens Noel
Philadelphia 76ers
Atlantic Division
Eastern Conference
Joel Embiid
Jahlil Okafor

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