On the heels of the 76ers’ breakout season coming to an end in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, we’ll be spending a few days publishing short stories as part of our “More to Do” content series, which will focus on how the team, and its players, can build off the eye-opening success they enjoyed in 2017-2018.
Part II: A Destination With Increasing Appeal
From October through May, the 76ers underwent a dramatic change in fortunes.
As to what extent their rapid ascent into the top five of the NBA is capable of altering perceptions around the league, we should soon start to get some indications.
To move the Sixers closer towards contention for a championship, the franchise’s brain trust recognizes that the club will likely need to augment its already promising, dynamic young core with extra help.
And not just any kind of extra help, but a “high-level” addition, Brett Brown said last week, when he met with the media one last time before heading into the off-season.
Bryan Colangelo had a similar stance.
Whether it’s through free agency or a trade, the Sixers’ President of Basketball Operations plans to be both proactive, and prudent as the marketplace takes shape in the months ahead.
“If we feel there’s a deal to improve our team…and promote sustainable winning, we’ll move forward,” Colangelo said.
In the pursuit of established, elite blue-chip commodities, however, a team can only wield so much recruiting influence. Ultimately, in most situations, it’s the player himself who makes the final call.
But, in respect to controllable factors, the Sixers like where they stand, a lot.
An attention-grabbing run to the second-round of this year’s Playoffs has shed light on other important qualities of the team that have the potential to turn the Sixers into a highly desirable landing spot.
“There are so many things to point to that put us in that conversation,” said Colangelo during his May 10th end-of-year Q-and-A with the press.
To back up his statement, Colangelo proceeded to list a variety of selling points: a cutting edge, amenities-laden, one-stop-shop training complex; a medical staff that provides top-tier athlete care; a coaching staff that has a proven track record not only in player development, but successful roster management; a growing internal culture; and, certainly as relevant as anything else, the Sixers boast financial flexibility.
For Brown’s money, the Sixers are as viable as any of their 29 peers.
“Of course I’m biased,” Brown admitted, “[but] if I were to look at how do they play, it’s pretty clear the style of play. I think it’s exciting, I think it’s a modern day way to play. If I were to look at the cultural aspects, I think we treat people well here. I think it’s a great place to come in and be part of a culture and a family. When you look at the city of Philadelphia, and the sports mad people that we have, when you walk through this door and say, ‘I can come to work here every day,’ that’s a pretty good package.”
Another key reason why the Sixers seem to be so confident in their ability to pique the interest of premiere talent this off-season is that they recently received superlative feedback from a contingent of respected veterans who formed an important part of this year’s nucleus.
JJ Redick, for instance, a day after his 12th pro campaign ended, told reporters, “This was probably my favorite year of my career.”
13-year center Amir Johnson, who, like Redick, inked a free agent contract with the Sixers last July, said the 2017-2018 season “unbelievable,” and called the team a “first-class organization.”
Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova, winter acquisitions who chose to join the Sixers after being bought out, both expressed hopes of returning.
As far as Colangelo is concerned, this type of praise contains power.
“Everyone walking out the door [after exit interviews] said pretty much in unison the same thing, ‘Loved my experience here. It’s the best of my career,’” said Colangelo. “That permeates throughout the league. Word of mouth is big among players. Players know and hear and realize where we are. They look at us as an exciting destination, and they happen to know we have cap space that could potentially be available.”
What’s not to like?
“We didn’t have a story to tell two years ago. We had a better story to tell last year, and that story’s gotten a lot better as we look at this summer.”
One that coveted players around the NBA could very well now want to be part of.