In the 2013-14 season, the Philadelphia 76ers started their so-called “Process,” a scheme designed to ultimately accumulate championship-level expertise. Though supporters of the “Process” typically described this as a genius-level manner to construct a group, it was actually nothing new.
The 76ers had been dangerous on goal for 4 straight seasons, collected as many first-round draft picks as they may and ended up with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons because the cornerstones of their franchise.
And now, will probably be remembered a failure.
The Philadelphia 76ers could not beat the Atlanta Hawks in a Game 7 at residence on Sunday evening. They couldn’t do it despite the fact that Hawks star Trae Young had one of many worst taking pictures video games of his profession, making simply 5-of-23 from the ground. In truth, they couldn’t do it in opposition to a jump-shooting group that didn’t really shoot notably nicely for your entire sequence.
They couldn’t do it in entrance of their very own followers, which that they had earned as a result of that they had the very best report within the Eastern Conference. They couldn’t do it with the jaws of alternative extensive open on this most uncommon NBA season the place not one of the remaining groups has a championship pedigree. They couldn’t do it despite the fact that a lot of the Hawks’ major gamers lacked any playoff expertise by any means coming into this season.
They couldn’t do it as a result of the tip results of all these years of dropping was a sequence of poor decisions that now places Simmons on the fulcrum of the place the 76ers go from right here.
How dangerous is that this for the 76ers? In the eight years it took them to get to the purpose of no return, the Atlanta Hawks have made the Eastern Conference finals with an overachieving roster, tore it down, briefly dipped to the underside of the league and returned with a fully new group that went into Philadelphia and received 3 times during the last two weeks, together with a 103-96 victory in Game 7 that few noticed coming.
The snapshot Sixers followers will bear in mind above all others from this evening occurred with three minutes, 30 seconds remaining. That’s when the Hawks, attempting to shield an 88-86 lead, made a defensive mistake that left Simmons beneath the basket extensive open for a dunk that may have tied the sport.
For some cause – in all probability as a result of his foul taking pictures woes in these playoffs have been firmly implanted in his mind – Simmons selected not to settle for the present from Atlanta. He as an alternative flicked a cross to Matisse Thybulle, who was fouled and made 1-of-2 from the road. From that time on, the 76ers by no means had a shot within the air the remainder of the sport that may have both tied or taken the lead.
“I’ll be honest,” Embiid stated. “I thought the turning point was when we – I don’t know how to say it – is when we had an open shot and we made one free throw.”
Embiid wasn’t the one one to passive-aggressively take a shot at Simmons. When requested after the sport if he may very well be the purpose guard on a championship group, 76ers coach Doc Rivers – who has been pumping up Simmons within the media all season – stated “I don’t know the answer to that right now.”
The pile-on isn’t unwarranted. Simmons was a zero on offense for the Sixers, and in seven video games in opposition to the Hawks he took three complete discipline objectives in fourth quarters and was typically on the bench in crunch time as a result of the 76ers could not threat him being fouled. For a former No. 1 total choose who will make about $146 million over the subsequent 4 seasons, that’s not adequate.
And but, as a lot because the 76ers would possibly need to pull the plug on this roster and reboot with a completely different level guard, there’s no apparent path to a commerce that takes the 76ers to one other stage given Simmons’ contract and the way badly his inventory tanked on this sequence.
If nothing else, the NBA has proven us again and again over the previous few years that playoff video games are received by guys who can create pictures in opposition to nice protection in tense moments. With Simmons opting out of the offense in crunch time, the 76ers have only one participant who can do it – and he is a 7-foot heart whose fourth quarter effectiveness goes to relaxation on his capacity to make fadeaway 18-foot jumpers whereas drained.
“Offensively we were just bad,” Rivers stated.
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Nobody anticipated the Hawks to be within the Eastern Conference finals, however the best way they received this sequence reveals that you do not have to be terrible for half a decade to construct a good group. In truth, one of many Hawks’ issues was that after they determined to rebuild following the Paul Millsap-Al Horford-Jeff Teague-Kyle Korver run, they by no means fairly acquired dangerous sufficient to get in nice place for the No. 1 total choose.
But what Atlanta normal supervisor Travis Schlenk did do, moreover getting Young, was selecting John Collins and Kevin Huerter in back-to-back years with the No. 19 draft choose. On a evening when Young struggled to make pictures, these two mixed for 41 factors and 23 rebounds and have appeared all through the Hawks’ run like guys you win with within the playoffs regardless of not being premium draft picks.
“It’s been a long couple years,” stated Huerter, who made 10-of-18 discipline objectives. “It’s only my third year, but it’s been a long two years of being at the bottom of the East and all you hear is development and guys getting better and preparing for the future. And this year trying to flip a switch, our whole mindset changed and the development process was over.”
Indeed, when Hawks majority proprietor Tony Ressler determined to spend free-agent cash this previous offseason, there have been loads of critics who stated Atlanta was dashing their very own course of and that an possession mandate to begin successful video games was irrational.
It may need appeared that manner in early March when the Hawks had been 14-20, however a teaching change from Lloyd Pierce to Nate McMillan and the subsequence toughness that grew inside this group in enjoying shut video games has validated all the things about how Atlanta selected to rebuild.
Nearly a decade into the “Process,” Philadelphia’s franchise has by no means felt extra aimless. Atlanta’s future has by no means appeared extra promising. And now within the Eastern Conference finals, the current isn’t half dangerous, both.
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Dan Wolken on Twitter @DanWolken.