It must deliver an exquisite joy to anti-Processors to see Sam Hinkie’s biggest mistakes win an NBA title before “The Process” bears any fruit.
It must deliver equally an exquisite pain to the diminishing Cult of Hinkie to see their eight-year embarrassment not only continue but be proven worthless, to be discounted completely and without any possible argument.
That’s because the pillars of the Milwaukee Bucks’ NBA title, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jrue Holiday, could have been in South Philadelphia for the last eight seasons. Playing together. Growing together.
Instead, the Sixers chose a path of shame -- one that will leave a stain on the team and the city that never will come clean. They lost on purpose for four years. They have three playoff series wins to show for it. The Bucks have the Larry O’Brien Trophy.
Thursday will mark the ninth draft of The Process. The Process hinged entirely on wise drafting. If The Process has failed, it has failed because its six different general managers drafted horridly.
Given the developments of the last week, the first draft of The Process -- Hinkie’s formal introduction as an NBA power broker -- was, arguably, the worst.
Day of Infamy
On June 27, 2013, Hinkie agreed to trade Holiday for Nerlens Noel and a future first-round pick. He then drafted Michael Carter-Williams with the 11th overall pick, four slots ahead of Antetokounmpo.
On Tuesday, Giannis and Jrue became NBA champions. Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons -- the two crown jewels of this interminable, abominable plan -- had been idle for nearly a month after a third second-round exit, and they watched in envy, while legions of Processors gnashed their teeth.
Giannis and Jrue led the Bucks back from a 2-0 deficit to the Suns and won four straight. Giannis won the Finals MVP, and he has also won two regular-season MVPs. He is, inarguably, a better player than Embiid, who has missed more than half of the games he’s been paid to play (51.4%).
While it’s true that 14 other teams passed on Giannis, it is more true that the Sixers made the biggest mistake. Giannis was a project; Noel was out for the season, and MCW couldn’t shoot. Anthony Bennett was the consensus No. 1 pick, while Victor Oladipo, Otto Porter, C.J. McCollum, Steven Adams, and even Kelly Olynyk have enjoyed far more fruitful careers than both Noel or MCW.
Besides, only Hinkie passed on Giannis twice.
The question has been asked over and over: Would you rather have kept Holiday and been fated to perpetual mediocrity? The question never had merit, because Holiday was never mediocre -- and certainly not in 2013.
He made that year’s All-Star team and was a complete 22-year-old point guard, able to shoot and command the floor and defend the perimeter at an elite level. He did these things for seven years in New Orleans, the NBA’s most luscious purgatory city, before being freed to Milwaukee. (Freed to Milwaukee?)
These not only are things MCW never will be able to do, they’re things Ben Simmons doesn’t do as well, either. Heck, he’s even afraid to dunk.
There has not been a day on the earth’s green surface that Jrue Holiday wasn’t better than Ben Simmons.
And Giannis? It’s as if an anti-Processor borrowed Frankenstein’s laboratory to create a nightmare monster to torment the Hinkie-ites. Antetokounmpo is everything Ben and Joel are not.
Embiid hasn’t been in basketball shape since he left college. Antetokounmpo hasn’t been out of basketball shape a day in his life.
Simmons is a poor, unwilling perimeter shooter who fears shooting free throws because he’s a poor free-throw shooter. Antetokounmpo is a poor but willing perimeter shooter -- willing, because he knows he must take outside shots to help his team win, vanity be damned.
Antetokounmpo also is a poor free-throw shooter, but he is a courageous free-throw shooter, because he knows that drawing fouls depletes the availability of his opponent’s better defenders. Giannis gladly withstands the disappointment of missing and the humiliation of mockery -- opposing fans count the seconds during his elaborate pre-shot routine -- but still, he goes to the line.
He shot 206 free throws in 21 playoff games. That’s more than Simmons shot in either of the last two seasons.
Eight years of rebuilding. Eight years of disappointment. Needless. All of it.
Imagine: no seasons of empty arenas and awful basketball. No empty winter nights spent watching Tony Wroten or Jakarr Sampson try to play point guard. No reason to draft Markelle Fultz or Jahlil Okafor, and no reason to trade Philly native, Villanova champion, and Suns star Mikal Bridges.
There would have been no reason to suffer back then, and no reason to suffer now, or later.
Because the two best players on the 2021 NBA championship winner would have been in Philly the whole time.