NEW YORK - One of the biggest questions surrounding the 76ers is, when will the team's turnaround begin.
The truth is, no one knows. Sixers general manager Sam Hinkie doesn't know. Nor does managing partner Josh Harris, CEO Scott O'Neil, or coach Brett Brown.
Not even Nostradamus would be able to predict the franchise's fate.
So it's not wise for anyone to estimate how many seasons this rebuilding process will take, or whether it will even work.
This time a year ago, we fooled ourselves into believing the Sixers would draft Andrew Wiggins out of Kansas. They did everything but serenade him during his trip to Philadelphia for a predraft workout in June.
But the potential franchise-altering swingman was selected first overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA draft and traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves in August.
Instead, the Sixers selected Joel Embiid with the third pick and traded for Dario Saric, who was taken 12th overall by the Orlando Magic, in the first round.
Those picks definitely set the rebuilding process back, considering that neither is expected to play any time soon.
Embiid could miss the entire season after having surgery to repair a stress fracture in his right foot. Saric, meanwhile, signed a three-year contract to play in the Turkish Basketball League in the days leading up to the draft. The Croatian forward is expected to spend at least two years overseas.
As rookie power forward/center Nerlens Noel is showing us, Embiid and Saric could go through some NBA growing pains when they actually start playing for the Sixers.
So that could further delay the process.
But give the Sixers credit for sticking with their plan, based on the Oklahoma City Thunder's model to rebuild through the draft.
Back in 2007, that franchise, then the Seattle SuperSonics, was in an all-out tank mode, just like the Sixers are presently.
The Sonics selected Kevin Durant out of Texas with the second overall pick in 2007 before reshuffling their roster heading into their final season in Seattle.
A month after drafting Durant, the franchise traded future Hall of Famer Ray Allen and Glen Davis to the Boston Celtics for Jeff Green, Wally Szczerbiak, and Delonte West. Then the Sonics sent Rashard Lewis to the Orlando Magic for a future second-round pick and a $9.5 million trade exception in a sign-and-trade deal. They used the pick, another second-rounder, and the exception to acquire Kurt Thomas and two first-round picks from the Phoenix Suns.
The Sonics lost their first eight games and went 3-14 through the first month of the 2007 season. They finished with the second-worst record (20-62) behind the Miami Heat (15-67).
But after relocating to Oklahoma City, the franchise selected Russell Westbrook (fourth overall) and Serge Ibaka (24th) in the first round of the 2008 draft. At the time, Westbrook and Ibaka were considered reaches, and general manager Sam Presti was criticized for drafting them.
However, he stuck to his plan and selected James Harden (third) in the first round of 2009 draft, and the Thunder reached the playoffs in 2010. Two seasons after that, Oklahoma City was in the NBA Finals.
The Sixers started their process by acquiring Noel in a 2013 draft-day trade, and drafting Michael Carter-Williams, last season's rookie of year. The franchise added Saric and Embiid as yet-to-play assets in June and will have two more first-round picks in the coming draft.
That may be where the similarities with the Thunder end. But we won't know for certain for several seasons. By that time, Saric and Embiid should both be playing, Noel will be further developed, and the guys selected with the coming first-round picks should have defined roles.
But it will be hard for any team to duplicate what Oklahoma City did. Players like Durant don't come along too often. The reigning MVP is a future Hall of Famer. The Thunder also got lucky with Westbrook and Ibaka and Harden (who was traded to Houston before the 2012-13 season).
The Sixers don't have a player the caliber of Durant. So they are basically gambling on their luck.
How long until that gamble pays off? No one knows.