By Evan Connelly

Two weeks ago tonight — June 23 — the NBA draft changed the Sixers’ world.

They drafted Ben Simmons of LSU first overall (above), and while it doesn’t appear that the Sixers will be playoff contenders next season or signing a superstar this offseason, for the first time in recent memory Sixers fans are excited about the future.

Whether or not you have agreed with the way the franchise has gone about its business over the last few seasons, the fact is that this draft has ushered in a new era of 76ers basketball.

I think that most would agree that the draft was a monumental success as well as Bryan Colangelo’s first real test as Big Boss. While some fans had hoped to acquire another top-10 selection, it looks as though staying pat was the right move as it allowed the Sixers to select Timothe Luwawu and Furkan Korkmaz at 24 and 26 respectively, who were by and large considered to be steals.

Prior to the draft I wrote about how Sam Hinkie, in spite of the fact that he is no longer with the Sixers, is ultimately responsible for putting the franchise in the position to make great strides over the coming seasons.

The author with Sixers legend Allen Iverson on 2016 draft night.

The author with Sixers legend Allen Iverson on 2016 draft night.

As I walked around the Sixers’ Eakins Oval draft party filled with anticipation and excitement, Sam was on my mind.

After all, this draft was supposed to be the shining moment of the Process; we had won the lottery and were minutes away from selecting a player that has been compared to LeBron James!

Yet, the man who was responsible for bringing us to this juncture had been swept aside in the name of “Progress”.

Sam thought differently than the rest of his contemporaries — he advocated that “a competitive league like the NBA necessitates a zig while our competitors comfortable zag” and that is exactly what he did.

By going against the grain and focusing on the future, he took advantage of the short sightedness exhibited by others and prepared for the framework of an evolving league. He traded Thaddeus Young, a serviceable and continually overvalued player, for the pick that led to the selection of Timothe Luwawu at No. 24 who was widely considered to be a lottery pick. Additionally, he was able to secure the No. 26 pick in this yea’rs draft, which turned out to be Furkan Kormaz who is a great guard prospect and teammate of Dario Saric in Turkey for simply giving Javale McGee a roster spot for a few months.

On draft night, the merit and legitimacy of his process was on full display to those who were well-versed in the preceding events that built the foundation on which the franchise will stand on years to come.

There will certainly be a time for the Sixers to be bullish in the market for top flight free agents, and that time may very well be next year when players like Russell Westbrook, Steph Curry, Blake Griffen and Gordon Hayward will all be free agents.

I am sure Hinkie would have been happy with the results of the draft, and we can only hope that Bryan Colangelo simply drinks, and hopefully doesn’t drown in, the water his predecessor lead him to.


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