The Philadelphia 76ers have been a lot of fun to point and laugh at for years now. But Celtics fans won't be laughing if the Sixers swoop in and out-bid us on the next star that becomes available via trade. I've been saying for a while now that whenever Philly decides to get back in the game, they'll be major players going forward.
There's a lot of uncertainty and gossip about how or why Jerry Colangelo was brought in and what role he'll play in the Sixers front office. I happen to believe that it is a fairly clear sign that the Sixers are going to start the next phase of "The Process" which was the end goal all along: to actually get good again.
That doesn't mean that they will go out and make panic moves designed to produce immediate results and to put wins on Brett Brown's resume. Colangelo is a smart guy and I'm sure he can see the potential value of letting the Sixers bottom out one last time in order to get the most ping pong balls in a draft that could net them Ben Simmons. Chances are very good that Philly will be very bad for the rest of this season, and that's part of what worries me from a Celtics perspective.
You see, if they do decide to start cashing in their chips this summer, that puts them in direct competition with the Celtics. We have lots of young players and draft picks that we could offer up in a trade to land a star (or two?). We don't need someone else getting into the mix to up the bidding or steal the star from us.
Think about it, the Sixers have their own pick (which barring a lottery miracle should be better than our Nets pick), the Lakers pick (if it falls out of the top 3, not a guarantee), the Heat pick (top 10 protected), and the Thunder pick (lottery protected). They can also swap picks with the Kings (it's complicated). Plus they've got more 2nd rounders than I can count. (Note: it is very possible that I've missed a protected pick or two somewhere in this list as well)
I like the overall haul of our picks better because the future Nets picks and pick swaps give us more future 1st rounders. However, that Lakers pick could be huge for Philly in terms of immediate impact. If they are sitting on 2 top 5 picks heading into draft night, that puts them in a prime position to be a player in the trade market.
We haven't even discussed the players that they've actually picked in past drafts. Okafor is a liability on defense and needs some anger management courses, but he's an absolute scoring machine that reminds me of a slightly more mobile Al Jefferson. Nerlens Noel is the polar opposite in that he's a major project on offense but he's a potential game changer on defense. Nobody really knows what Joel Embiid is at this point. He could be the best of the bunch or he could be the next Greg Oden. Dario Saric sounds like he wants to come to the NBA next year, and he was a lottery talent a lot of teams had their eyes on.
Any or all of those players could be packaged with picks to bring back real NBA talent. Once a few deals are made to prove that the Sixers mean business, they'll also have all the cash in the world to start offering up to free agents. Hinkie has no friends in the agent business, but Colangelo has the respect of everyone in the league. All it takes is one or two big breaks and the Sixers could be very good, very quickly.
Of course all of this is very, very much putting a cart full of trade assets before the horse. If there no major stars become available on the trade market, all this is a moot point. If the Celtics and Sixers aren't interested in the same players it is also a moot point. If the Sixers timeline ends up being different from the Celtics it becomes a moot point. I'm up to my ears in moot points but I've still got this nagging voice in my head saying "watch out for the Sixers."