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The 76ers aren’t tanking, but they should be

AP Photo/Chris Szagola
AP Photo/Chris Szagola

If you were to ask Philadelphia 76ers president Bryan Colangelo if the franchise he’s now the commander of will be tanking again in 2016-17, he’ll respond with, “not a chance.”

Considering the lengthy list of circumstances, tanking once more–even if Colangelo would like to call it something else for the sake of ridding the Sixers of a “losing culture”–makes perfect sense.

Seventy 0-6ers

Six games have produced six losses for the Sixers thus far, and it’s becoming clear that Philadelphia is still a piece or three away from being a good team. Excluding a small major miracle, the Sixers aren’t playing more than 82 games this season, which means yet another trip to the NBA Draft Lottery is inevitable.

Given Philadelphia’s needs – primarily in the backcourt – is clawing to become a 30-win team simply to scrap the tanking label and securing the No. 8 or No. 9 pick worth risking the potential reward of a franchise-altering talent in the top three to pair with Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid?

That would seem less than ideal.

On average, each team selecting within the top three of in each of the previous three drafts have won 18.8 games per season, with no team winning more than 21 games besides the 33-win Cleveland Cavaliers in 2014 – the Cavs entered the lottery with a 1.4 percent chance at the top pick.

Considering Simmons – Philadelphia’s 2016 No. 1 pick – will be sidelined with a foot fracture for at least a third of the season, along with a handful other injuries and minutes restrictions, 18-to-21 wins seems to be quite close to the Sixers ceiling.

A changing of the guards

Mr. Colangelo, meet Markelle Fultz, Josh Jackson and Dennis Smith Jr. By losing enough games during a season that’s peak may be Embiid hoisting a Rookie of the Year trophy, at least one of the aforementioned potential No. 1 pick guards can help complete what could become a big three of the future in Philly.

You see; tanking can be a good thing.

For all the young potential the Sixers currently feature, the high-level scoring guard box remains unchecked, which, if you examine the NBA current landscape, seems to be an essential asset to a winning franchise. In what’s expected to be a draft that’s top heavy with elite perimeter talent, landing a pick outside of the top four or five could mean missing on the opportunity to add exactly what the Sixers are still missing.

Finding the fit

For the first time since Sam Hinkie drove his tank into Philadelphia three years ago, the Sixers may be in position to draft based on fit, considering what many expect Simmons to become and what Embiid looks well on his way to becoming. More so, bearing in mind Simmons’ ball handling tendency and his potential to ultimately evolve into a primary facilitator, finding a wing to pair perfectly with Simmons would be a reward that likely demands an early lottery selection – top five area.

Fultz, Jackson and even Jayson Tatum come to mind here, but it’s possible that they become the first three names called next summer. If Colangelo wants to eliminate the losing culture in Philadelphia, adding such a talent to continue constructing a complimentary roster would be the best way to do so.

Sure, Colangelo can say the Sixers aren’t tanking for a fourth consecutive season, but in reality, he doesn’t have much of a choice. Philadelphia is without its No. 1 pick until early next year and despite a handful of upgrades, the Sixers are still far from a roster headed for the postseason — one that includes playing basketball and not praying for ping pong balls.

Colangelo said there’s not a chance the Sixers will tank again, but would he be willing to bypass the potential rewards of such substantial losing, which Philly looks destined for, anyway? My guess is not a chance.

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