After tearing it all down, is there light at the end of the tunnel for the Philadelphia 76ers?
Before the 2012-13 NBA season, the Philadelphia 76ers made the playoffs four of the previous five years. Then, the decline started. The 2012-13 season resulted in 34 wins and 48 losses.
The 2013-14 season produced 19 wins and 63 losses. The 2014-15 season resulted in 18 wins and 64 losses. And the 2015-16 season produced 10 wins and 72 losses. What led to this change? What in the world happened to make the Philadelphia 76ers a laughing stock in the NBA for the past several years?
On August 10th, 2012, The Philadelphia 76ers made one of the worst trades in NBA history. The Sixers were one of the four teams involved in the blockbuster trade that sent Dwight Howard to the Los Angeles Lakers.
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In this trade, the Sixers acquired injury plagued Andrew Bynum, who had endless knee problems. They also received an elderly Jason Richardson, who was far past his prime. Although not a superstar by any means, the Sixers dealt their cornerstone player, Andre Iguodala, who was with the team since they drafted him in 2004, and a 2012 All-Star. They also dealt their 2011 first round pick in Nikola Vucevic, who was a young and very offensively skilled big man. As well as their 2012 first round pick in Maurice Harkless, who has shown that he can be a solid role player in the league.
So, the Sixers gave up these three players for a center with chronic knee issues, and for an old shooting guard, who no longer had his dunk-contest-winning athleticism anymore.
And if matters could not get any worse:
"[via For The Win]Bynum was traded to the Sixers in the summer of 2012 as part of a four-team deal that sent Dwight Howard to the Los Angeles Lakers. He didn’t play in a single game for Philadelphia as he battled repeated knee problems all year, and signed a two-year contract with the Cavaliers this summer. He was more well known in Philly for his hair than he was for anything basketball-related."
This Bynum trade was the starting point for the downfall of the 76ers. They gave away three pieces for basically nothing. On draft night in 2013, the 76ers parted ways with their star point guard Jrue Holiday, who was a first-time All-Star that NBA season. They received the draft rights to Nerlens Noel, along with a 2014 draft pick (which ultimately turned into Dario Saric).
So, they traded away their floor general in exchange for a player who tore his ACL during his freshman year at Kentucky. In a league revolved around star point guards, the Sixers should never have traded Holiday (even though Saric has been terrific). Point guards are extremely valuable. The best teams usually have the best point guards.
The Sixers drafted Joel Embiid in 2014, and as we know, he had his coming out party this season, until we found out that he was sidelined for the rest of the season due to a knee injury. Embiid missed the entirety of his first two NBA seasons.
The Sixers brought in yet another big in Jahlil Okafor in the 2015 draft due to the uncertainty with Embiid. Okafor is surprisingly still a 76er after being involved in endless trade rumors this season. And to cap it off, their number one overall selection in the 2016 NBA draft will not play a single game this year. Ben Simmons won’t be suiting up for one game, not one.
A combination of poor trades and unluckiness with injuries has made the 76ers a joke for the past several seasons. The positive is that they already have 23 wins this year, surpassing their three previous years. However, the Embiid and Simmons injuries still leave much uncertainty for the future of this franchise. Embiid brought some excitement and rejuvenation back to Philadelphia this season, and it seemed as though this franchise was heading in a good direction.
However, another injury for him was the worst news that 76ers fans could have received. Although many of their injury woes have been unlucky, the Andrew Bynum trade really sparked their downfall. The Jrue Holiday trade only made matters worse. And the injuries seemed to be the icing on the cake.
It seemed like the 76ers could see the light at the end of the tunnel this season with the emergence of Embiid, but that light has dwindled. If their players can indeed get healthy next season and they make a smart draft decision (don’t draft another big), then the light will definitely reappear. If not, the 76ers may still be stuck in the dark tunnel that has hounded them for these past several years.