It’s funny, or ironic considering the amount of hype surrounding the 2014 NBA Draft, that if, and when, this Sixers squad returns to relevancy under Brett Brown, the 2013 draft will be credited as the catalyst for the future success of the team.
The 2014 draft may further the future, but June 27, 2013 is the evening that put the wheels in motion for the franchise’s first full recent rebuild.
At that time the Sixers didn’t have a coach. They were slotted to pay Jrue Holiday around $11 million a year until 2016, and Kwame Brown was on the active roster. A lot has changed in eight months.
Sure, the Sixers are struggling - OK, they stink - but their spot(s) in the looming lottery and the prospect of ample cap space for the first time in several seasons serve as a silver lining.
The Sixers will be well under the salary cap this summer, and while there is no guarantee that free agents will want to sign in Philadelphia, at least they have the financial flexibility. The prospect of two lottery picks in the seemingly stacked 2014 draft is enticing also.
So while the Sixers are downright difficult to watch sometimes this season (they were down 52-15 to the Clippers early in the second quarter on Sunday night), the upcoming summer sees them with two potential picks and money to supplement two very promising prospects in Nerlens Noel and likely Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams.
This financial flexibility and likely lottery options are the direct result of daring decisions on draft day last summer. Trading an All-Star was bold, but it was the right move and set the tone for the franchise going forward. The Sixers, spearheaded by general manager Sam Hinkie, wanted to build an entirely new house, rather than work to improve the one that was already established, and the franchise started with the foundation. Noel and Carter-Williams represent the first few bricks with which to build upon.
The 2013 draft signified the start of a new era for the Sixers, one way or another. No longer was the organization going to overpay for players who look good on paper, but whose true value and production may not match their paycheck. Aging veterans with established salaries are eschewed for young players with potential. There is no room on the roster for the likes of a Kwame Brown. These are big differences from the days of Doug, or Eddie, or Tony, or Mo, or Jim, or Chris, or Randy. No, for once the Sixers aren’t trying to patch themselves into the playoffs.
It stings a bit as they struggle through this season, but once it mercifully ends, there won’t be any head-scratching contracts haunting the team this summer. Their draft picks will belong to them, rather than being traded to another team, and overall, the team will be young. The Sixers haven’t had a summer situation like that in quite some time, and it all stems from the 2013 draft.
The Sixers haven’t had a season quite this ugly in some time, but they haven’t had a future so bright in a very long time either. A couple years down the road, the team won’t look much like it does today, as the Sixers will have the assests (money and picks) to add tons of talent in the near future. The possibilities are exciting, especially considering that the East is two-team top-heavy. In a couple years who knows what the league’s landscape will look like, the East could be wide open for the Sixers' climb back into contention.
For anyone invested in the Sixers, the regular season has been rough, but the prospects of the summer are extremely exciting. The organization will have ample opportunity to add talent and continue to build upon the base laid on draft day last summer while cultivating a contender.