Are the Sixers the new Thunder?
With reports that the Philadelphia 76ers are looking into trading for the #1 spot in the upcoming NBA draft, it got me thinking, could the 76ers potentially becoming the new Oklahoma City Thunder?
As many remember, in 2010 the OKC Thunder packed with a up-and-comers by the names of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Serge Ibaka took the basketball world by storm and snuck into the playoffs and took the number eight seed. Given the Thunder's less than stellar recent history and their match-up against the reigning champion Los Angeles Lakers, there was no reason to believe the Thunder couldn't do any more than maybe steal one game. Instead, the Thunder went to LA and nearly stole both games away and managed to win the next two games at home before ultimately losing in six games.
At the time, Kevin Durant was the most experienced of the bunch at only two years in on his NBA career, with Ibaka and Harden both being rookies. This team eventually grew on that success and made their way into the Finals just two years later, ultimately having to suffer the fate of facing an angry Heat team led by a then ringless LeBron James. Ultimately, James Harden was eventually shipped to Houston and the rest is history.
Imagine now those four managed to stay together? That will always be one of the biggest what-ifs of the modern era of the NBA.
Fast-forward to now, we have a Sixers team with two rookie of the year candidates, a all but surefire superstar waiting in the wings and now potentially could be landing the number one pick. For the sake of hypotheticals, the Sixers get the Celtics pick and draft Markelle Fultz. That would leave the Sixers with Fultz joing Dario Saric, Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid learning and growing together in Philadelphia.
I know it's hard to imagine but before Embiid was shut down for the year in January, the Sixers were 17-28 and quickly storming up the standings into playoff territory having only lost four games the entire month of June, two of them being while Embiid was resting and the other two being to the #1 seeded Celtics and the Rockets (Embiid's last game), who ended up with the third best record in the NBA.
Of course Embiid's injury was a blessing in disguise for Saric who upped his scoring, rebounding and passing with him taking over as the alpha for the second half. Saric spent the second half of the season going through his adjustment to the American style of play and learning to thrive in it.
If the Sixers can bring in Fultz, that would be a core that could sneak into playoffs in a weak Eastern conference. Usually, becoming an eight seed means you get trapped in mediocrity in the NBA, but not when you're core was as young as the 2010 Thunder and as young as the current 76ers.
With a little health, it may be time for The Process to pay off in a big way.