Updated Long-Term Plan for Philadelphia 76ers

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Updated Long-Term Plan for Philadelphia 76ers
Matt Rourke/Associated Press
The 76ers' brain trust: GM Sam Hinkie and head coach Brett Brown.

Just a month removed from the 2014 NBA draft, the Philadelphia 76ers and general manager Sam Hinkie are staying the course during their rebuild. No matter what. 

With a plethora of options on draft night, Hinkie adhered to his plan and acquired whom he thought were the most talented players on the board, regardless of their short-term playing prospects. As teams threw money at free agents in July, the 76ers glanced from a distance, not content with simply signing players because they felt left out. 

While the 76ers were one of the most talked-about teams of the last few months—Joel Embiid's recovery, Nerlens Noel's emphatic return and Pierre Jackson's ruptured Achilles were just a few headlines generated over the summer—the team taking the court next fall looks almost identical to the one which limped to a 19-63 record last season. 

The roster is notable in its absences. Big names like Embiid and Dario Saric are still at least a year away from suiting up. There is still basketball to be played, regardless of all the variables—health, time and continued development—clouding the team's immediate prospects. There are still moves to make which will affect both the short- and long-term future of this franchise.

Jack Arent/Getty Images
Nerlens Noel showed flashes of his potential this summer.

What can this patient fanbase expect from its team in the coming months and beyond? 

 

Rounding out the Roster

The roster, as currently constituted, is incomplete and the 76ers are swimming in cap room. Even though the league has gone through the first, second and maybe even third laps through the free-agency pool, there are still talented guys available who could fit into the 76ers' long-term plans. 

The two biggest names on the market are Detroit center Greg Monroe and Phoenix guard Eric Bledsoe. Both appear to be out of the 76ers' plans for various reasons—there's a logjam in the frontcourt for Monroe, and I can't see them throwing max money at Bledsoe, no matter how explosive he is—so Sam Hinkie needs to reassess the talent at the end of his own bench first, then scour the available free agents for potential fits. 

Rocky Widner/Getty Images
Eric Bledsoe's future is uncertain.

Pierre Jackson, who was acquired in a draft night trade, ruptured his Achilles in summer league and will miss the entire season. Casper Ware, who played sporadically for the team last season, filled in admirably in his place. During summer league, he averaged 19 points and five assists during the 76ers' run to the OPSL championship. Expect him to make the team in a reserve role. 

Same goes for Hollis Thompson who shot over 40 percent from three-point range in 77 games last season. Second-round picks K.J. McDaniels, Jerami Grant and even Jordan McRae look like locks to make the roster. McRae was selected No. 58 in last month's draft but shined in Las Vegas, averaging 21 points a game.

Ronald Roberts, the explosive local product from nearby Saint Joseph's University who stood out in Orlando should get a long look as well. 

John Raoux/Associated Press
Ronald Roberts impressed in Orlando this summer.

According to ESPN's Marc Stein, the 76ers were reportedly in on Jeremy Lin before he was dealt to Los Angeles, primarily because of the first-round pick that would have been attached to him for taking on his contract. Marc Spears of Yahoo! Sports reported at the onset of free agency they expressed interest in Boston guard Avery Bradley. 

Depth at the guard position is an obvious need, and there are some options out there that could be had for a relatively cheap price tag. 

Veteran guards like Jordan Crawford and Jerryd Bayless should be in play. Both can score off the bench and provide a spark. A second unit consisting of Crawford and Tony Wroten in the backcourt could be equal parts exciting and perplexing. 

Andray Blatche is a talented big man who could be had for a little more than the $1.43 million player option that's on the table with Brooklyn. He averaged 11 points a game and shot over 47 percent from the field last season. 

Digging a little deeper, restricted free agent Mike Scott from the Atlanta Hawks might be worth a flier. He's another long defender who would seem to fit in well with what the 76ers are currently building. He was an efficient scorer in limited time last season and is improving. 

 

Tank 2.0

Brace yourselves, Philadelphia. 

Assuming Nerlens Noel remains healthy for 82 games, or close to it, he's the only notable addition to a team that had the second-worst record in the NBA last season. I'm as high on Noel as anyone, but his presence alone isn't going to translate to wins overnight. 

Fernando Medina/Getty Images
Carter-Williams and Noel are the foundation for the 76ers' rebuild.

If the Jrue Holiday trade for Noel was the wrecking ball in a demolition project—the official sign that we are knocking things down and starting from scratch—then last year was just clearing the construction space of the wreckage. 

This year, the team is putting shovels to the ground and laying the foundation. It's setting up support beams. Sam Hinkie and Brett Brown have hard hats on, going over the meticulous blueprint details of their long, laborious project. This is the season we start to see growth. 

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Growth won't necessarily come in the form of wins but in the form of Noel becoming acclimated to the pro game and learning how to match up against guys like Al Jefferson, Joakim Noah and Chris Bosh in the East. We get to see if Michael Carter-Williams can improve his jumper or if K.J. McDaniels can develop a reliable three-point shot to go with his stout perimeter defense. 

For the pieces that are already in place, this season is an opportunity to build on top of last year's demolition. There won't be many wins, but come next May, there will certainly be progress. 

 

Waiting Game

This is the hardest part of the process. 76ers fans have, by and large, embraced this rebuild and pledged their full support behind Sam Hinkie

They got behind the Noel pick. They cheered on Michael Carter-Williams during his Rookie of the Year campaign when he was putting up hollow numbers in lopsided losses. They read every mock draft and checked every Twitter update leading into the 2014 draft because they were ready to take that next step.

They had earned it. 

Then they found themselves in the middle of the NBA's version of "Groundhog Day." With two top-10 picks, the 76ers selected Embiid at No. 3 and acquired Saric after trading Elfrid Payton (No. 10 overall) to Orlando.

Mike Stobe/Getty Images
Joel Embiid, the No. 3 overall pick, is recovering from foot surgery.

Embiid, in all likelihood, will not see any time this season as he is spending the next five to eight months recovering from surgery on the navicular bone in his foot. Saric just signed a new deal to play with Anadolu Efes in Turkey and he won't be wearing a 76ers jersey for at least two seasons, per ESPN's Chad Ford

While the casual fan may question Hinkie's plan and scoff at the idea of a long rebuild, ignoring the fact Embiid was the most talented guy on the board and trading Elfrid Payton for Saric netted them an additional future first-round pick, those fans who bought in understand the long-term goal, no matter the short-term sacrifices.

Each year the 76ers will be one step closer to Hinkie's dream of becoming a championship organization. This season, Noel gets to play with his former AAU teammate Carter-Williams and start the process. Next year, Embiid and whichever lottery pick the 76ers draft will join that nucleus. The following year, Saric comes into the fold. 

I know patience is a virtue, but it's also a necessary tenet of Sam Hinkie's rebuilding plan. Just take a deep breath and enjoy the growth, no matter how insignificant it may seem. Every brick is a sign of progress. 

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