Trusting the Process: A Look into the rebuild of the Philadelphia 76ers

BOSTON, MA - MAY 9: Joel Embiid #21 of the Philadelphia 76ers looks on during Game Five of the Eastern Conference Second Round of the 2018 NBA Playoffs at TD Garden on May 9, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - MAY 9: Joel Embiid #21 of the Philadelphia 76ers looks on during Game Five of the Eastern Conference Second Round of the 2018 NBA Playoffs at TD Garden on May 9, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) /

A deep dive into the rebuild of the Philadelphia 76ers and how ‘Trusting The Process’ became more than just a cool slogan

The 2018 NBA playoffs have reached the conference finals and the Philadelphia 76ers were defeated by the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference semifinals, thus ending a surprising run by the 76ers.

The motto, “Trust the Process” has been used by the team during the last few seasons as a way to rally themselves and their fans.

Sam Hinkie, former General Manager of 76ers, first used the word “process” when he began tanking in order to attempt to get high picks and build the team up through the NBA draft. Hinkie constantly talked about the “process” of making the team into contenders.

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The phrase really took off when the 76ers young star, Joel Embiid, began tweeting “Trust the Process.” The team and fans embraced the saying. Unfortunately, Sam Hinkie stepped down from his position in March, 2016 so he will not be able to be a part of the final part of the “Process.”

What exactly does it mean to “trust the process?” What do teams have to go through during the “process?” When does the “process” end?

There are two key words when dealing with “Trusting the Process”:

  • PROGRESS defines patience as an ability or willingness to suppress restlessness or annoyance when confronted with delay.

Hinkie’s first move as GM in 2013 was to trade away All-Star Jrue Holiday to the Pelicans in order to acquire Nerlens Noel (later traded to the Mavericks) the following year. He also drafted Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams in 2013. The 76ers only won 19 games in Hinkie’s first year as GM.

Hinkie’s second season involved stacking the team with younger talent. The 76ers would acquire Dario Saric and Robert Covington in 2014 to go play with Joel Embiid.

The 76ers were one of the youngest teams in the NBA and their inexperience showed through. Between 2013-2016 (3 season span) the team only produced 47 wins and a 28 game losing streak. Arguably, the three worst consecutive seasons for any NBA franchise.

Losing games can be very annoying to both ownership and fans. If the team loses a large amount of games then fans will be less likely to attend games. When attendance goes down then ownership becomes restless because lack of attendance translates to less money being made. The team only averaged 14,230 and ranked near the bottom in home attendance between 2013-16.

The main thing Sam Hinkie was asking his ownership and fan base to have, when he talked about the “Process” was patience. Hinkie never said he there was a quick fix to turning around the 76ers. When Hinkie was hired, he was quoted as saying, “We are a long way away from winning big.” Patience is a very important word when trying to bottom out and rebuild a team into a title contender.

Success is often measured in winning. People outside the team do not have much access to what is taking place to ensure the “Process” is moving along. The only thing fans can see are game time improvements.

In order for the “Trust the Process” to be believable, there needs to be progress that is noticeable to the naked eye. Progress is a movement toward a goal ( For three long seasons, the process was in question because there was so little winning. Hinkie even fell victim to the lack of progress when he resigned his position with Philadelphia in 2016.

The team would continue to reap the benefits of Hinkie’s plan when they won the overall top pick in the 2016 NBA Draft. This pick would allow the 76ers to pick Ben Simmons. Simmons sat out his entire rookie season due to injury. It would not be until this season that the Philadelphia 76ers would show progress and put together one of their best seasons since 2000-01 season.

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  • The young core, many acquired by Sam Hinkie, won 52 games this year and reached the playoffs. The team won 24 more games than the previous season while getting to the Eastern Conference semi-finals. Finally, the progress the ownership and fan base needed to see in order to make sense of the previous four seasons.

    This season by the 76ers leads to an important question. Is the “Process” complete? Everything in sports seems to go in cycles. The Golden State Warriors franchise is the team on top of the NBA as the defending champion. The Warriors went through many years of being just another team before they begin to win title after title.

    The 76ers should continue to show progress to becoming a team that competes and win titles, like the Warriors. Being knocked out in the second round of the playoffs was a great feat for a team that was awful a few seasons ago. If the players, coaches, and management are content with this season’s success then not much success will follow.

    Each member of the organization have important jobs to do in order to continue to progress through the “Process.” Every player must learn from this season and learn from it. The ability to learn will help the players come back next season with the desire to take the team even further than the previous season.

    Brett Brown has done a great job as head coach during the tough times. He gets to share with everyone else the progress he has seen since taking over the team in 2013. For a coach to see progress after such terrible seasons has to be one of the best feelings to have. Brown and his staff must learn from the team’s playoff loss. Going through defeats are often part of the “Process” and will hopefully ensure the 76ers will be successful next time.

    The 76ers Front Office have the task of adding players through free agency and the draft. Any players added must compliment the present team and help build on the winning started this season.

    The 76ers have two picks in round one (#10 and #26) and four picks in round two (#38, #39, #56 and #60). They are in good position to pick up some talent in what is considered a deep draft.  The #10 pick should be used to get a shooter who will be able to space the floor more. With Ben Simmons and TJ McConnell not being outside threats there needs to be another player who can complement Robert Covington, J.J. Reddick (Unrestricted Free Agent)  and Dario Saric.

    The 76ers also need one more playmaker who can create his own shot. If there is a player still left at #26 that fits that mold then he should be picked. The second round picks should be used to find potential two-way players or used to trade for a veteran role player.

    The big names for free agency for this summer will be Paul George, DeMarcus Cousins, and LeBron James. Adding a player of this caliber is a long shot but one of these players needs to be approached just to show that the 76ers are serious about winning. Having about $26 million in cap space for signing a veteran free agent could be the difference in making a title run.

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    The “Process” has not ended just because the 76ers have made a playoff run. This is a very important year coming up for the organization. A good draft and free agency signings could set the team up for multiple championships.

    Perhaps the Philadelphia 76ers could update their motto to “Continue the Process!”