We, as Philly sports fans, are loyal and cannot stand performances below expectations.
Unfortunately, however, some have already begun to conclude that the 76ers’ 2017-2018 season has gone south. I’ve read countless Facebook posts by disgruntled fans on how we should have drafted Lonzo Ball, how Markelle Fultz is a bust, how Head Coach Brett Brown should be fired.
I’ve received countless taunts from my friends on how “the process is a failure” or how we should “go back to square one.”
Nevertheless, these early assertions about the 76ers’ season are mostly baseless. They are impatient conclusions by fans who should wait at least a couple (or maybe closer to 60) games before rioting against the coaching staff or a particular injured player. This is the second leg of the process: allowing the team to develop its chemistry and find its groove.
The Miami Heat, with LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade — three hall-of-fame-caliber players — needed time to develop chemistry, and by that time all three became veterans.
The 76ers’ young core may eventually evolve into hall-of-fame talent, and it’s too early to write them off: Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz have not even played a collective 40 games.
Many of these assertions are impatient, badly researched and hasty. Although Lonzo Ball had a remarkable game against the Phoenix Suns, he was utterly dominated by Patrick Beverley and the Los Angeles Clippers.
There is no evidence yet that Ball is a franchise-altering talent. And no matter how well Ball performed in college, Fultz was the consensus number one overall pick.
This means that most experts, including the 76ers’ General Manager Bryan Colangelo, felt that Fultz had more potential and was a better fit for the 76ers than Ball and all the other highly touted point guard prospects in the 2017 draft class.
Fans seem to ignore our more athletic, bigger and overall better pass-first point guard Ben Simmons, who has earned comparisons to Magic Johnson with his size and playmaking ability. Furthermore, the assertion that Markelle Fultz is a bust is asinine and groundless.
Kobe Bryant, one of the greatest players of all time, came off the bench, barely scored and did not evolve into the assassin that won five championships within his first couple games. Fultz may not be Kobe, but he still has potential to be an elite Harden-esque scorer.
Although it’s too early to conclude his career trajectory, Fultz should be benched until he fully recovers from his injured right shoulder.
He has been hesitant to take long- and mid-range jumpers, which he shot with ease throughout his college career and during the summer league. If you watch closely, he often uses his left arm to go for rebounds. There is something wrong with Fultz’s shoulder, and it is frightening to allow him to exacerbate it.
Speaking of poor player management, current head coach Brett Brown has done a rather poor job with the rotations and an especially poor job with positioning Embiid.
Against the Boston Celtics, Embiid practically looked like a second-round shooting guard, bricking five wide-open threes.
Touted as the next Hakeem Olajuwon, Embiid should be given the ball in the low post and draw defenders, allowing for the more high percentage shooters like J. J. Reddick, Robert Covington and Fultz (when healthy) to knock down the three-ball.
Furthermore, insisting on allowing process-era point guard T. J. McConnell to run the offense when you have Fultz on the floor seems utterly foolish. Refusing to give Jahlil Okafor minutes is another mistake.
Although previously a lazy defender, Okafor put in serious work this offseason and is still a talented scorer. At the very least, let him build his trade value, because he is too talented to sit on a bench. Okafor should be getting the minutes that Amir Johnson eats up when Embiid sits.
Regardless, it has been only three games. It is foolish to think that our core of players, who have not even had half a season’s worth of experience, can collectively become a Warriors-esque juggernaut in one day.
The 76ers played the one, three and four seed in the Eastern Conference last year, so it is definitely too early to be drawing conclusions on how successful the process is or is not.
Despite all the negatives, 76ers fans have lots to be excited about: Robert Covington put up 29 points against the Wizards; Fultz is a hustle defender; Embiid, as per usual, dominates the defensive end of the floor; and Simmons is as good as advertised.
Simmons, in his first three games, has recorded 10 or more points and rebounds as well as five or more assists, a feat last accomplished in 1960.
Just keep calm and keep trusting the process. Success will come.