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Q&A with 76ers blog Liberty Ballers

Kicking off a week of collaborating articles with Liberty Ballers.

Philadelphia 76ers v Boston Celtics - Game Five Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

There’s a good reason why the NBA decided to put the Celtics and Sixers on both opening night and Christmas day. They are two of the most exciting, talented, and promising teams in the league and it sure seems like they are going to be seeing a lot of each other in the next several years. The old rivalry is being renewed and we already got our first taste in last year’s playoffs.

In an effort to “know thy enemy” we thought it would be a great opportunity to learn more about the Sixers from our friends at Liberty Ballers. They are passionate, knowledgeable, and funny and I hope you’ll enjoy this week and consider checking them out in the future.

So we’re going to exchange ideas, co-write articles, and generally debate who’s better with all the class and mutual admiration you’d expect between Boston and Philly fans. (umm, ok, maybe more than that)

I thought it would be a good kickoff introduction to exchange questions and answers with the blog manager over there. His name is Kevin Love but no, he’s not the bearded outlet thrower in Cleveland. He’s a legit Philly Process truther through and through.

Below are the questions that I sent to him and the answers that he graciously provided.

Preamble: As an outside observer of The Process, I went from scratching my head to openly mocking and back to scratching my head. I think I finally settled on begrudging respect for Hinkie having a plan and going all in on it. I especially respect the fans for buying in and building what seems to be a really fun community culture.

1. With all that said, the implied plan was to (eventually) build a winning team and winning culture. Do you feel like Hinkie should have been given the opportunity to see it through? Putting aside Burnergate, did you think Colangelo was headed in the right direction?

I firmly believe that Hinkie should have been given the opportunity to see it through. With that said, I’m unsure of exactly how successful he could have been when rounding out a contender. Hinkie’s efforts to undergo a complete reset employed a courageous exploitation of the rules, which is part of the reason he’s so beloved in Process folklore. He was shrewd, crafty and opportunistic. However, Sam wasn’t any sort distinguished drafter. If Embiid doesn’t suffer a pre-draft injury setback, Hinkie’s draft day headlines could only include names like Michael Carter-Williams, Nerlens Noel, Andrew Wiggins and Jahlil Okafor. There were the rumblings that Hinkie had rubbed various groups of NBA personnel the wrong way, from player agents and veteran players to rival GMs and owners. If true, the Sixers may have had a hard time wooing free agents or executing trades under Sam’s theoretical extended tutelage. So yes, Sam deserved every opportunity to finish what he started. But that’s not to say he didn’t have areas in which he needed to improve.

As far as the Colangelo part of the question, let me preface my response by saying I was against the hire from the jump. The whole thing wreaked of nepotism and Adam Silver. Colangelo did a few good things, and I was completely in favor of the Markelle Fultz transactions. But in the end, I believe Colangelo was too concerned with the immediate, he had no patience or foresight. For example, Jerryd Bayless was brought in as a veteran presence to provide some stability when the team was still trying to be bad. He’s now using up a roster spot and $9 million worth of cap while being unplayable. Bryan Colangelo’s reign had always felt destined to a death by a thousand paper cuts.

2. I was a big believer in Markelle Fultz prior to the trade and I hope (for his sake) that he can put things together and get his career back on track. What are your expectations for him this season?

You know, it’s really tough to place expectations on Fultz at this stage of the summer. Without knowing where Fultz’ jump shot is, it’s nearly impossible to take a guess at what his production could look like. He was a #1 overall pick though and the Sixers gave up a valuable asset to obtain his services. I want to be patient with Markelle, but with him being the key to the franchise hitting its ceiling, he needs to show something soon. Sixers fans want to see at least two things from Fultz this upcoming season: a skill set that is the foundation for an All-Star level player and the ability to coexist with Ben Simmons. Without the two, the Sixers find themselves in a precarious position and the formerly visible path to true contention becomes murky. The extensions of Ben Simmons and Dario Saric are on the horizon, and that star free agent acquisition Sixers fans have been salivating over may never come. A lack of #1 overall pick type production from Fultz leaves the Sixers with just two stars. Traditional box scores and accolades aren’t of the highest concern regarding Markelle. What is expected of Fultz is to show the tantalizing skill and potential formerly exhibited at Washington, no more, no less.

3. Last year was a very positive step in the right direction for the Sixers. What is the next natural step? Incremental individual improvements or a move to consolidate assets to acquire a high end star player?

The Sixers appeared to have a pretty enticing package of assets heading into this summer, but the Kawhi trade many wanted never happened, nor the move into the top 5 of the draft. I think the moral of the story is that you can’t force anyone to do business with you in this league. The Sixers should continue to put themselves in the best position possible to strike if a star becomes available. But the highest priority right now needs to be developing the youthful talent already on the roster. Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons are special players and if Brett Brown and friends are able to maximize the potential of each, there’s a foundation for a champion there. The Sixers can only control the players on their roster. Until a marquee free agent puts his name on a contract or GM calls in a trade to the league office, in a sense the franchise must assume what they have is all they have.

Thanks Kevin! I look forward to seeing what the team comes up with for the rest of the week. If you want to check out my answers with Liberty Ballers, click here.

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