Imagine being an aspiring artist with limited means, maybe just some sketching pencils and plenty of sketchbooks. Visions of beautiful work swirl in your head, but are narrowed due to lack of resources.
76ers coach Brett Brown has been that artist for the past four seasons. Asked to oversee an NBA team that was devoid of point guards and shooters and little veteran leadership, Brown craftily used what little supplies he had to field a team that would satisfy with effort, but lost close to 77 percent of the time they took the floor.
As supplies started to arrive, in the form of Joel Embiid and Dario Saric, Brown was able to exhibit his coaching abilities, never more so than last January when his club won two-thirds of their 15 games. They did it while prized rookie Ben Simmons watched with a fractured foot.
Now, another prized rookie joins the fray in Markelle Fultz, taken with the top pick a couple of weeks ago. Simmons appears to be healthy, Embiid monstrously intimidating with a body that seems to be getting bigger and bigger while and a shot that resembles a shooting guard.
And speaking of a shooting guard, the team addressed that need this weekend with the acquisition of free agent J.J. Redick. The Duke product is a tireless offensive worker, constantly moving to find openings beyond the arc. He is the perfect floor spreader needed for the talents of Simmons, who will use his size and magnificent ball-handling and quickness to hit seams in the defense, and Embiid, who most likely will draw double-teams any time he is within 15 feet of the basket. Redick also brings a wonderful work-ethic that will surely prove beneficial to the many youngsters on this team.
Add to that Amir Johnson, the rugged power forward who will be starting his 13th season in the league, another veteran voice who can be effective both on and off the court and Brown is finally getting close to be able to start sketching what he has been envisioning since arriving from San Antonio.
Simmons will be the "primary ball-handler," the new term used by the Sixers, replacing point guard. Fultz will provide the backcourt versatile offensive player Brown has never had since his arrival – a player who can break down a defender at the end of a shot clock, quarter or game.
Robert Covington, who should be in for a big payday from the club in the not-too-distant future, will provide tremendous perimeter defense and hopefully the shooting touch he exhibited early in his career.
Dario Saric had a terrific rookie season in which he improved each and every day, showing an all-around game and Philly toughness that most likely will grow and grow, and in Embiid the team has a budding superstar in which this is all being built around.
Perhaps that is the starting five Brown will throw out in the team's first game, barring injury, of course. That would leave a bench that would include combo guard Jerryd Bayless, whom Brown and president Bryan Colangelo brought in last summer specifically to fit in with Simmons, and Redick, could be instant offense off the bench as well as share many minutes with the starting unit. Johnson could provide tough, defensive minutes, with Richaun Holmes/Jahlil Okafor spelling Embiid. T.J. McConnell proved more than capable in running the team a season ago. If Nik Stauskas continues to get better and become a dependable deep threat, he is an added weapon to the arsenal and Justin Anderson is just a coach's dream with his hustle and physicality.
In Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and Furkan Korkmaz, the team has two wing assets that appear to have tremendous upside and now can grow them the way that's needed, whether it be with the big club or getting experience in the G-League.
It's almost as if, just in this offseason, Brown has gone from having a paper and pencil to adding an easel, watercolors, inks, brushes, oils and palettes.
His vision hasn't changed in the way he sees this organization growing. The way Brown wants to play is summed up in three words, his own words – "defend, pace and space." The culture that he so wanted to build with a likeness to the one he left in San Antonio is coming to fruition, with a gorgeous practice facility and a group of youngsters willing to learn.
While players will still need to learn each other, and in the cases of Simmons and Fultz, learn the ways of the NBA, the coach now finally does have the supplies with which to create a more in-depth picture of how he wants his team to be viewed.