A Process Worth Trusting

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Yes, this is another article about “The Process.” Sorry, I really can’t help myself

Us Sixer fans just feel this inexplicable urge to talk about Hinkie as often as humanly possible.

Ever since Tony Wroten first uttered the infamous phrase all those years ago, the words “Trust the Process” have taken on a life of their own and Joel Embiid’s decision to take leadership of the Cult of Hinkie only made things worse. Or better. I’m really not sure.

Now, when we talk about The Process, we talk about trade pillaging, injuries, stars, and injuries. And that’s great! The Sixers haven’t been spoken of in such a neutral tone since Larry Brown skipped town.

But there’s a huge part of The Process that’s really been left to rot in the minds of loyal fans. When Hinkie first took the job, he embraced a strategy that’s gone underutilized for most of the history of basketball. He took the cliche “Throw a bunch of shit at the wall and see what sticks” and wired it up to a nuclear power plant.

In the three years of Hinkie’s reign, he used a ridiculous 72 roster spots. And that doesn’t even count the guys who never actually wore their Sixer uniforms. 72! And it actually worked, too.

I spent way too long compiling a list of all of those players and I think at least a few of you might be surprised to see just who donned the red, white, and blue during The Process. There’s not really any precedent for something like this, but it certainly feels like Hinkie’s hit rate was pretty freakin’ high. I’ve taken the liberty of sorting through the list for you, and, as you’ve probably never heard of a large chunk of these players, I’ve even gone through the trouble of giving you a little context on them, too.

Hinkie’s a polarizing executive, without a doubt, but the man was quite good at finding diamonds in the rough.


The “Gone and Definitely Forgottens”

Here are the guys who never saw another minute of NBA action after their time with the Sixers, and probably didn’t deserve to, either.

Darius Johnson-Odom – Lakers fans used to like him, but I don’t remember much of anything about the guy.

Eric Maynor – The Thunder chose to keep Cameron Payne instead of him.

Arnett Moultrie – Wanted to be Mo Buckets, be he lacked the requisite talent. And mole.

Byron Mullens – I actually kinda miss Byron “Don’t Call Me BJ” “BJ” Mullens. He had a workable skillset and had one of the craziest dunks I’ve ever seen. But it’s also not surprising that he never got another NBA look. The dude’s BBIQ made Thomas Robinson look like a savant.

James Nunnally – An alleged shooter.

Daniel Orton – Orton wasn’t about the whole “moving” thing. Otherwise, he probably could’ve been pretty good, if he could’ve ever gotten his health issues sorted out.

Adonis Thomas – I literally have no memory of this man.

Casper Ware – Stereotypical undersized D-League gunner. I only really remember him because his name was cool.

Furkan Aldemir – He made for some fantastic memes. Aldemir’s rebounding was amazing, and his arms were comically long, but otherwise, he was ass. Still, the memes were fun.

Larry Drew II – I almost kept Drew II off of this list. He consistently gets training camp and summer league invites and he might manage to stick around. But the Sixers manage to strike gold a couple times with scrappy point guards, and his name doesn’t really deserve mention with the other guys. Sorry, Larry.

Drew Gordon – This guy played because he’s Aaron Gordon’s brother. Too bad he’s terrible.

Malcolm Lee – I remember wondering why he was on the team. That’s about it.

Malcolm Thomas – Possibly the worst player to see playing time on any Process team. Genuinely a terrible professional basketball player.

Sonny Weems – We got him in a trade and didn’t really have a lot going on, so he saw time. Didn’t do anything with it though, and he wasn’t young enough to hold on to.

The “Professional Roster Fillers”

These guys stuck around in the NBA (mostly) but their minimum checks were earned with their asses firmly placed in folding chairs.

James Anderson – I was close to putting him on a later list, but I just don’t know enough about his time in the NBA before Philly to be sure. He had his moments, but his scoring was just too inconsistent to be worthwhile.

Lorenzo Brown – He got a contract for being 6’5ish and only occasionally dribbling the ball off of his foot.

Brandon Davies – Fantastic hype man.

Darius Morris – See Lorenzo Brown.

Jarvis Varnado – Jarvis never saw another minute of NBA action, but he has a ring and was generally a fun player, so I bumped him up a list. Fair? Probably not. But this is my list. Go make your own.

Elliot Williams – Williams clearly had skill, but injuries derailed his career before it ever got started. Portland fans remember him fondly. I just remember him because he made Malik Rose stumble through “That was a hundred dollar move but a ten cent finish” incredibly often. And that was always funny, because Malik was awesome. So, uh, thanks Elliot.

Isaiah Canaan – Canaan had his 15 minutes of fame in Chicago, but he’s just too limited to ever be of much use. He was a tough fit on these lists, just like he is in a basketball lineup.

Chris Johnson – Alleged 3 and D player who neither 3ed nor Ded in Philly.

Henry Sims – I was always amazed that a guy like Henry Sims could survive a professional basketball game mostly-unscathed. The Sixers had Noel and Embiid, two of the most natural moving, fluid centers around, both bogged down with injuries, yet Sims, who made every movement look painful, just kept on keeping on.

His shot was nice, but otherwise, he was just a very clunky body. And that’s fine, really. He’ll probably be a popular 10-day guy for years to come. That just doesn’t change the fact that watching him play made my knees hurt, and that was before I had bad knees.

The “Hey Maybe it Runs in the Families”

Pretty self-explanatory here. There are other guys here with family legacies, but they’re better fits on different lists. These players were so particularly unremarkable that their last names are really their only noteworthy attributes.

Glenn Robinson – Won a dunk contest. Otherwise, he’s pretty much only around because of his Pops. I did like him though.

Phil Pressey – Like Glenn Robinson, but without the dunk contest.

The “Coulda/Shoulda/Woulda Beens”

These are the guys who, at one point, I watched and said, “Wow, this guy might actually have something here!” Unfortunately, unlike some of the players who I’ll touch on later, they never quite fulfilled that potential. As such, I’m probably going to wax poetic about red, white, and blue-tinted memories of terrible basketball. I apologize in advance.

Michael Carter-Williams – It feels cruel to put MCW in this group. It really does. That first month was, without a doubt, the most incredible stretch of basketball witnessed under Hinkie’s reign. The return Philly got for trading him means that, for the Sixers, he wasn’t really a disappointment at all.

But, when you have the debut that he had, the expectations skyrocket. This kid went out and outdueled LeBron in his first career game. He won RoTY. He took the basketball world by storm, even if only for a short while. That terrible Sixer team corrupted his pass-first mindset, injuries prevented him from working on his shot before the terrible habits took hold, and now, he’s barely holding onto bench spots.

MCW served Philly well, but man, what a depressing career he’s had since then.

Spencer Hawes – Hawes has his role in the NBA. His stint with the Clippers turned most fans against him and Sacramento has always rightfully hated him. With that said, he seems to enjoy life as a bench stretch 5. Because of that easy role, he’ll probably stick around for a few more years and his body won’t take the beating that many other aging bigs suffer.

But, especially in his pre-Process days, Hawes had some real potential.

Right up until he was traded to Cleveland, Spencer Hawes always came out the gate on fire. People laugh now, but he was in some All-Star conversations in the first months of a couple different seasons. Now, people always caught on to his new stuff, and he fell off plenty hard, but even still, he could contribute in a number of meaningful ways.

He used to actually enjoy posting up and he had a clumsy-but-decent set of moves down there. He was a fantastic passer, a competent ball handler, and he still sets some pretty solid screens. Hawes was pathetic on the boards against legitimately good bigs, but otherwise, he held his own. He was always soft on defense, but his ridiculous length was undeniable. Doug Collins put him in the center of some very elite defenses.

Of course, there’s his shot. And yes, it’s a shot, not a jumper. That thing is still wet, even if it doesn’t go in as often as it used to. I’m not sure how good Spencer could’ve become if things had been different, but it’s at least interesting to think about.

Evan Turner – Ah yes. The second worst second pick in Philadelphia 76er history. Most Philly fans hate him for it and it’s hard to blame them. But whenever Turner’s name pops up, I just feel sad.

Turner really could have been a special player.

If he’d never lost that half-step when he broke his back. If Doug Collins hadn’t tried to turn him into Iggy 2.0 when Iggy 1.0 was still on the team. If he had kept making progress on that corner three.

His story is a story of “ifs” and there’s no getting around that. But The Villain, even today, has that… spark. It’s beginning to show less often and at this point, fans just get frustrated by it. But, those flashes are still just so very tantalizing.

He’s found his place as an operator of bad benches on otherwise good teams. A role player, through and through. But I still can’t help but think about how he probably could have been so, so, so much more.

Role players don’t hit big shots like he always has. Role players don’t make plays like he sometimes does, both for himself and for others. Role players don’t get to their spots like he does, not when surrounded with the talent that surrounds Turner.

Maybe I’m just being nostalgic. Hell, I’m almost certainly guilty as charged. Just as soon as those little flashes flit away, you’re left with the other memories of Turner. The way he gets blocked every time he attempts a layup. The way he avoids contact like Chris Paul avoids Conference Finals. That’s the Evan Turner we all know right now. That’s the Evan Turner that Philly remembers. But, man, I still love seeing him go into Villain mode.

Tony Wroten – Injuries are a bitch.

Wroten was inefficient and probably never had much of a chance at starting on a good team. The guy just could not shoot. But holy balls was he fun to watch. He was flashy, lightning quick, energetic, and oh-so-athletic. His handles came straight out of the pro-am games he dominated. His passes, while usually wildly inaccurate, were almost White Chocolate-esque.

He first coined “Trust the Process,” so, if this Philly team takes off, he’ll be remembered. But people will just remember him as the guy that lucked into a quote. They won’t remember how he was the only player, for agonizingly long stretches, that made watching Philly basketball a tolerable activity.

I hope, one day, he gets another chance. He deserves it. Until then, I’ll leave you with this incredible highlight reel.

Thomas Robinson – There are way too many people who work for this site that love Thomas Robinson. I am one of them.

Robinson just exudes energy every moment that he’s on the floor. Unfortunately, that energy exudes itself as turnovers and bricked early-shot-clock jumpers far too often. He’s still young and he’s still got a chance to get things figured out. But, for now, he’s stuck on this list.

Alexey Shved – Shved always gave off these Ginobili vibes that made a bunch of people feel tingly inside. His stats, however, gave off less of a vibe and more of an odor, and thus, he’s out of the league.

He signed the biggest European basketball contract ever and he still has obvious talent, so he may or may not eventually make his way back here. I personally hope that he does. Shved is just really fun to watch.

Kendall Marshall – Los Angeles got to experience Marsh Madness. Philly got to experience what appeared to be an average stoned hipster briefly waddling around a basketball court while his dad picked fights in the bleachers. That injury killed whatever tiny bit of athleticism he had. He’s just not playable anymore. His ability as a passer is probably still top tier, but his lack of any other relevant ability will keep him off of NBA courts.

The dude was incredible to watch, especially when he was given the spotlight in college and in LA. But the end product was never up to expectations and eventually, people figured it out.

Christian Wood – Wood will float around because he’s a weird mix of raw talent and perpetual confusion. He’ll walk around confused, block a shot, splash a three, then accidentally elbow a coach or something. I say it a lot, but Wood really could figure it all out eventually and be a fantastic bench big. I’d just rather not be the team that takes that risk.

The “Wait, Are You Sure These Guys Weren’t Really Coaches?”

Yes, these guys actually played for the Sixers during The Process. One of them was actually pretty good, too.

Jason Richardson – Yeah, I’m talking about that Jason Richardson. Dunker extraordinaire. Legitimate NBA scorer. The Sixers got him in the Bynum clusterfuck and he spent most of his tenure hurt. He came back for a little while though, and that gets him on this list.

I always loved J-Rich, but the guy was just done. He showed some flashes before The Process, before the injury, but once he returned, he was just counting the days. It was really just sad to watch.

Elton Brand – The Sixers needed a vet for their young guys and Brand was quite literally the only guy who fit the bill. He had a history with the team, had been legitimately good, had always been a great locker room guy, and could relate to a number of players on the roster.

He filled that role admirably and even gave the Sixers some solid minutes when multiple centers went down, which was a depressingly regular event. I think he even started once or twice. He was pretty much an assistant coach who checked himself in for some minutes. He was brought in to help mentor Jah, which clearly hasn’t work all that well. He reportedly did work with Holmes a lot though, so thanks, Mr. Brand.

Carl Landry – Landry is still a good player!

I’m serious. The guy balled out in Philly, once he got his legs underneath him. He wasn’t amazing or anything, but he absolutely deserves a spot on a decent bench. He’s just another victim of the death of the power forward position. One day, I’ll get around to writing about that.

Hopefully.

The “Maybe We Shouldn’t Have Just Let Them Go Like That”

Some of these guys brought back solid returns. Others walked for nothing. Some were pathetic in Philly, others were actually very good. One way or another, however, they’ve all made a name for themselves.

Lavoy Allen – Lavoy Allen has always been a decent bench big. That’s what he was his rookie year, that’s what he is now. But, thanks to one playoff series, Philly fans expected him to be much more than that.

It’s not like the guy got run out of town or anything. Either way, Hinkie was gonna move him. He didn’t fit the team’s timeline and he’s generally a very replaceable player. But the Philly fans certainly didn’t help matters.

Allen played out of his mind during that Celtics series. He did an absolutely fantastic job guarding Kevin freaking Garnett, hit clutch shots, and played with an energy level we haven’t seen since. It got people excited, understandably, and he got paid accordingly.

But we all know what happened. Turned out, yeah, he’s a bench big. Oh well.

Dewayne Dedmon – After watching him in Philly, it absolutely did not surprise me to see Dedmon perform well in San Antonio. He’s a very limited player, but he excels when he’s allowed to stay in his role. Gregg Popovich is extremely good at allowing players to do just that.

He didn’t really fit in Philly, both in age and system, but he was fun to watch. Even though I’m perfectly OK with not having him here anymore, I do kinda miss him.

Hollis Thompson – Hollis was the consummate professional in his time in Philly. At one point, he was the longest tenured Sixer and he was always proud to wear his jersey.

It’s not like he was bad, either. He shot 40% from three in both of his first two seasons, was a versatile defender, and he was always Coach Brown’s favorite.

Fans either loved him or hated him, but I think we all kinda miss him now. Yeah, we’ve moved on to all around better players and prospects, but Thompson starred in some pretty big moments. He had a rough time last year, and he might not stick around much longer, but he deserves another chance. Philly did him dirty.

Thaddeus Young – Thad was, is, and always will be, one hell of a weird player.

He’s a bad defender, yet he racks up steals in a way that few power forwards manage. He can’t dribble, but his first step is his most deadly asset. He only shoots if his coach wants him to and he fills whatever role is asked of him, time and time again.

Thad is a 4 stuck in the body of a 3. His whole career has been built on attacking that problem in a variety of ways. To some, he’s a good sixth man, almost like a forward version of Lou Williams. To others, he’s a perfect pairing next to an immobile shot-blocking big. Others still just shrugged and made him play the 3 anyway.

If Thad came into the league today and developed in today’s sport, man, he’d be special. But he came into his own just a couple years too soon, got stuck in his ways just a little too much, and it capped his value. Still, he hustled, and Philly loved him for it.

Nerlens Noel – Nerlens deserves his own article. 

Noel is gonna be really good. Like really, really good. But, even with the market like it is, Philly could have never kept him. It sucks to still have Okafor twaddling about instead of him, but Nerlens was just too talented to keep as a bench big.

Once his contract gets sorted out, I think fans of that locale will agree with me. He has his frustrating moments, but he can absolutely still become a special player.

Tim Frazier – This one was frustrating, at least for a little while.

The Sixers were desperate for a point guard and this guy comes and goes. He was alright, but he didn’t seem much different than the other D Leaguers who had their cups of coffee here.

Then Portland signed him and he did well. Sixers fans started to get a little pissed. Had Hinkie really shit the bed on this guy?

Then he started balling out in New Orleans and people were kinda angry, at least until McConnell turned the corner. In the end, I think most fans are glad that we ended up with McConnell over Frazier, but it goes to show that Hinkie’s skills as a talent evaluator were far from perfect.

Even if he did find this guy in the first place.

Jerami Grant – Grant was a terrific Hinkie find that the Sixers just didn’t really have room for. It sucked to see him traded away right as he was figuring out his jumper, but Ilyasova was worth it, at least in my eyes.

Grant is still a bit of a risky project, but his upside is worth that risk. The combination of length and elite athleticism make him a potential terror on defense. His offensive game is growing (slowly) as well.

Luc Richard Mbah a Moute – LRMAM isn’t exactly taking the world by storm, but he made the transition from raw young talent to Wiley-ish vet in Philly, and his value has gone up since his departure. He was brought in mostly due to his connection with Embiid and he most likely wouldn’t have a spot on the current roster. His defensive impact, though, is tragically underrated and I think most teams would be happy to have him, albeit in a limited role.

KJ McDaniels – Hinkie screwed up with KJ.

He started off hot and his value was actually pretty high around the league. Then he hit a wall and instead of waiting out the slump, Hinkie sold low, netting himself Isaiah Canaan and a second rounder.

We still don’t know if McDaniels is good, but he’s certainly worth more than that.

JaVale McGee – Yup, McGee was a Sixer! It was only for about a week, but it was a pretty entertaining week. Hinkie brought him in as a way to meet the salary floor, and he stuck around for a little while before hitting the waiver wire.

He was terrible in Philly, but his recent resurgence still isn’t surprising. Like Dedmon, he’s a situational guy. Define a strict role for him, lock him into that role, and you’ll be happy with McGee’s production.

Ish Smith – Smith isn’t anything special, but he had a huge impact on the Sixers during his two stints with the team. He’s been solid since his final departure as well. He’s never gonna be a star and that’s perfectly fine. He’s a solid role player and it’s guys like him that make the difference between good teams and great ones.

JaKarr Sampson – Last and probably least, we have one of my favorite players to ever don a Sixers uniform.

Initially, I hated him. He just wasn’t good at basketball and he represented everything that I hated about the dog days of The Process. But, then, something magical happened: Brett Brown started him at point guard.

Sampson is a 6’9 out-of-control athletic freak whose three biggest skills are jumping, running, and dribbling out of bounds. He just had to play point guard. How did it go? Well, honestly, it was pretty terrible. But, thanks to the way Brett Brown threw him into the fire, the Sixers now had a 6’9 athletic freak who could somewhat dribble. And that, my friends, was fun.

He still couldn’t do anything in a half court offense, but he was now a terrorizing presence in any fast break. Well, maybe not terrorizing. Semi-legitimate threat is probably a more accurate descriptor. But it was fun to watch and a genuine sight to behold.

Denver fans seem to love him too. I miss that not-so-toothy grin.

The Gems

Here’s the part you’ve all been waiting for. Here are the keepers that The Process churned out.

Robert Covington – I could go on all day talking about RoCo. I’m still amazed that a guy like this was just sitting there in the D League.

He can legitimately play three positions and he can guard all five. In a tight game against the Grizzlies this past season, he stopped a Zbo hot streak, played prevent on Marc Gasol, and locked up Mike Conley for a few possessions in the fourth quarter. His defensive versatility is absolutely absurd.

His offensive game isn’t as spectacular, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad, by any means. His shot has been streaky, but when he’s hot, there’s just no way to keep him from getting that shot off. His release is just too quick and too high. He still can’t dribble and I don’t trust his statistical progress finishing at the rim. But if he can stabilize his jumper, that’d be more than enough.

Joel Embiid – There’s not much that hasn’t been said about the man who adopted The Process name. When he’s on the court, he’s a bonafide superstar. When he’s not on the court, which happens quite often, he’s the most entertaining media presence since Shaq.

His health makes him a strange asset, but Sixer fans are sold on him either way.

Dario Saric – He came over, folks.

After a not-that-long wait, Dario Saric jumped in and immediately made an impact in Philly. His game is very inconsistent, but he’s apparently the leader of this team. His antics (which include a love of free porn) fit right in with the locker room’s… unique culture.

His game will take time to settle in. His shot comes and goes, and he only went into flashy mode a handful of times all season, but his effort never slows down, and Philly will always love a guy like that.

Richaun Holmes – He’s an energy big who can jump and shoot. That’s really all you need to know. Oh, and he balled out with Ben Simmons during last year’s summer league.

TJ McConnell – Where do I even start?

TJ can’t shoot threes. At all. But he’s just so solid at everything else that it really doesn’t matter.

He’s never gonna be a star or anything, but his aptitude towards hitting ridiculous game winners and clutch shots, along with his pesky defense and frat boy looks, make him the obvious fan hero that every good team needs. With any luck, he’ll be running Sixer bench units for years to come.

The “Ummmmms”

Nobody really knows what to think about these two.

Jahlil Okafor – For a decent portion of last season, Okafor was the fourth best center on the Sixers’ roster. For a player selected with the third pick in his second year, that’s definitely not a good thing.

Okafor might very well become a very good player with the right change in scenery. But he definitely won’t amount to anything in a Philly jersey. The only possible reason why he might remain on the roster this year is his contract. He’s cheap injury insurance for Embiid, while Holmes works better off the bench.

If the Sixers could get something worthwhile for him, he’d be gone already. Colangelo is hopefully just waiting for a team to make a desperation move.

Nik Stauskas – Sauce really is something of a project player, which is weird for a two guard. His shot is improving, but it still hasn’t lived up to its old college hype. It’s his athleticism and off-the-bounce potential that really make him worthwhile to the Sixers.

His ability as a shooter is his defining characteristic and he’s a better shooter than he is shot creator. But it’s his ability to potentially do both at a decent level that makes him appealing as a future role player. Redick should be a great tutor for him, should Sauce stick around, but I’m a bit worried that he won’t make the roster at all. Maybe I’ll pour out one of my bottles of Sauce Castillo for good luck.


So, there it is. An oddly in depth list of every player that played Sixer basketball under Sam Hinkie. I tried to talk about every player just from memory, to try and give an accurate look at how each person was perceived by a pretty typical Sixer fan. Of course, I don’t think a typical Sixer fan would be willing to churn out nearly 5,000 words on guys like Malcolm Thomas and Kendall Marshall, but all’s well that ends well, I guess.

With the D-League, errr, G-League growing in prominence, we could see a sharp rise in strategies like this one, where bad teams hand out 30 contracts a year and hope for the best. Honestly, I kinda hope that we do. Watching bad basketball sucks, but, when it’s a bunch of young guys out there, at least you can watch them improve and grow. With any luck, the days of Kevin Martin and Antoine Walker chucking up threes on 25 win teams are long gone.

 

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