Sam Hinkie died for our sins. The Process reached its culmination on Saturday night after four years of tanking and playing the long game on draft picks.
The 76ers acquired the top pick on Saturday night to take Markelle Fultz with the top selection in the 2017 NBA Draft on Thursday. In exchange, they gave the Celtics the No. 3 pick in the 2017 draft along with the Lakers 2018 pick with some protections. According to some reports, that pick will be conveyed if it falls between 2-5, but if not it’ll be the Kings pick in the 2019 pick.
Before we get to what Fultz does for this 76ers team, we have to pay our respects to Lord Hinkie. Basically, all of the Fultz moves are from the big pieces Hinkie acquired from the Lakers and Kings.
The Lakers pick was nearly conveyed this year as it was top-three protected in the 2017 draft. With the Lakers sitting in the No. 3 spot in the lottery last month, the 76ers actually had a 53 percent chance to acquire that pick this year, so the Lakers were lucky to land at No. 2 in more ways than one.
How do you get such an amazing pick? Well, on Feb. 19, 2015, the 76ers acquired that pick from the Suns, sending Michael Carter-Williams to Milwaukee in a three-team trade that also sent Brandon Knight to the Suns — some smaller pieces like Tyler Ennis, Miles Plumlee and Kendall Marshall were on the move here. The Suns were able to get this pick from the Lakers back when they traded away Steve Nash way back in 2012 in a sign-and-trade deal. Yep, you remember when the Lakers were title contenders in 2012? (via Sports Illustrated from October 2012)
Hinkie getting this pick was almost his Mona Lisa.
What was his Mona Lisa? That would be the trade with the Kings on July 10, 2015. Here’s a rundown:
Arturas Gudaitis and Luka Mitrovic
Carl Landry, Jason Thompson, Nik Stauskas, an unprotected 2019 first-round pick, and the right to swap picks in 2016 and 2017.
Why the heck would Kings general manager Vlade Divac do this? It’s all about cap space. Divac was just hired in March 2015 as VP of basketball operations before he was eventually promoted to GM later in 2015. Desperate to make a splash, the Kings wanted to shed the salaries of Thompson, Landry and Stauskas to allow them to add some free agents. Did they go after a max guy to form a super team? No. No, they didn’t.
The Kings used that cap space to sign Rajon Rondo, Kosta Koufos and Marco Belinelli. Not good. In fact, Hinkie even just throwing in those pick-swap factors just shows how much he believed that the Kings would fall apart.
The 2017-18 Sixers would not look like they do today if not for Sam Hinkie. Someone hire that man.
So what do the 76ers look like now? A team with playoff potential with loads of star power. Yeah, the 76ers did have the fourth-worst record in the NBA last year, but obviously the injuries to Joel Embiid derailed their chances.
Let's go back to January when the 76ers were playing their best ball of the year just before the season-ending Embiid injury. There was talk of playoffs and even Ben Simmons making his NBA debut to make the final push. As we all know, that didn't work out due to Embiid's knee injury, but they were arguably the NBA's hottest team at the time he went down.
In Embiid’s last 10 games, he posted an elite +15.2 net rating in those 27 minutes per outing. For reference, Stephen Curry led NBA qualifiers with a +17.2 and no non-Warrior qualifier would match that +15.2 from The Process. Not only was Embiid Rookie of the Month for January, he was arguably the NBA's best player if not for limited playing time. In that late span, the most-used lineup was Embiid, T.J. McConnell, Mr. Pick Swap Nik Stauskas, Robert Covington and Ersan Ilyasova. They’ll be a lot better this time around.
Just to remind you how good Embiid was as a scorer during the finish to his season, he had a 60.1 true shooting percentage (TS%) on a 37.1 usage rate in those final 10 games when he was really turning the corner. That usage rate and TS% shouldn’t go together, especially for a big man. Although, part of the reason why his usage rate was so high was Embiid turning the ball over. The Process led the NBA in lost-ball turnovers with 1.23 per game despite the relatively light playing time compared to other studs, so there certainly was a lot of pressure on him. That should be different now.
For most of 2017, we’ve heard a lot about how the 76ers are looking to make Ben Simmons more of a ball-handler. It's no joke and coach Brett Brown has been talking about Simmons as "a traditional point guard" since September, and Brown has been persistent about the PG position since at least December. "Here, you got the ball, you’re the point guard," Brown had been saying to Simmons since at least 2016. Plus, he was also expected to be groomed at PG once he's healthy.
If these are true, we are in for a treat. Simmons has the potential to threaten Nikola Jokic as the most creative passer in the game. In case you forgot what happened in Summer League last year, check these out:
Simmons got more dimes than that Sprint lady and that's ill https://t.co/tM8qpOc5ep
— Michael Gallagher (@MikeSGallagher) July 10, 2016
Already falling in love with Simmons. Gonna be a lot of fun. https://t.co/AKrAsLrnO1
— Michael Gallagher (@MikeSGallagher) July 5, 2016
Wow. Simmons had 5.5 assists per game in Summer League last year, but he did struggle with his shot and did have some careless turnovers. When you’re showing off like those dimes above, you’re going to turn the ball over.
Simmons as an offensive weapon is still a project and you could compare him to Giannis Antetokounmpo. At LSU, Simmons had 54.4 percent of his shots come from within three feet, making a very impressive 75.2 percent of those. He barely shot the trey with those shots only accounting for 0.8 percent of his total while also converting just 32.9 percent of his two-point jumpers. Again, not much range or diversity to his scoring just yet.
Simmons also lived at the line with 9.0 attempts per game at LSU, but he did make just 67.0 percent of them. If he can up that to 73 percent while still getting close to 50 percent of his shots at the rim, he should wind up being an efficient scorer.
One enormous key for the 76ers will be spacing, and that’s where Fultz hopefully comes in. He shot 41.3 percent on his 3-pointers as a Husky last year with only 55.8 percent of them coming off an assist. That means he should be able to use more NBA plays like off-screen and handoff to knock treys down on the move. Plus, he should get a ton of space with the interior attention Embiid and Simmons will get. Perhaps most importantly, Fultz could be a great defender. In his workout on Saturday, he said he thinks he can be one of the better shot-blocking guards. Plus, it helps he has such quick feet to go with his 6'9" wingspan and 40-inch max vert.
Even with Simmons getting those point-forward headlines, Fultz is no slouch as a passer himself. Per Synergy, he scored or assisted for 38.1 points per game, which led all players in power conferences. Synergy also has him at 89th percentile in pick-and-roll offense last year despite such little help. Fultz was actually terrible in isolation last year, coming in at just 23rd percentile in iso.
He gets the “not a winner” talk and that’s probably not fair. The Huskies ranked just 221st in offensive efficiency last year, so he clearly had very little help. Fultz had to count on his jumper a pretty good amount and yet he still finished with a solid 55.8 TS% on a very high 31.4 usage rate. Going into detail, he only had 25.5 percent of his shots come at the rim with a solid 61.6 percent made on those, he made 43.8 percent of his two-point jumpers, and he was assisted on just 12.5 percent of his two-point Js. These are Westbrook-like numbers regarding the lack of help.
Now that he has a superstar in Embiid and potentially another in Ben Simmons, the days of Fultz having to carry an offense are likely over. Fultz in Summer League should be must-see action, and he should make a nice impact on Philly.
There are a lot of other parts to the 76ers, but these three should handle most of the work. That means 2016-17 darlings Robert Covington and Dario Saric will be losing shots. The 76ers would also be wise to use some of their massive cap space on shooting and they could also get some help overseas, too.
The time to trust is over. It’s time for results and this team should be one of the most entertaining teams this season.
Quick Fantasy Spin
We’re still a ways off from fantasy draft season, but we’ll be talking a lot about what this means over the year. In a nutshell, Embiid could be an absolutely monster as long as he’s healthy — obvious, I know. Simmons could be a four-category stud in fantasy, so his upside is going to be a little tricky, especially coming off an injury. I’m probably not targeting him. Fultz is probably going to start slow, but he should be a plus defensive stats guy with plenty of treys, dimes and decent boards for a guard, too. Basically every other 76er will lose some value, so it’ll be tough to buy RoCo and The Homie Dario after their post-break runs. We’ll see what happens with Jahlil Okafor, but Richaun Holmes could have value even with just a 20-22 minute allotment.
We have two pods on the way to break this stuff down, so check back soon!
TTP for life.