Continuing debate about whether 76ers president/general manager Sam Hinkie made the right decision to nuke the team's core and start building from scratch is a moot exercise.
The only question now is how patient a notoriously impatient fan base is going to be, waiting to see if the fruits of Hinkie's labors will result in that oh-so-elusive NBA championship.
I think the acceptable standard in rebuilding is that it is a four- to five-season process. The trickier issue is determining what is acceptable after that time.
Let's make the assumption that everything Hinkie has done in his first two offseasons works to perfection.
Make it a given that being rookie of the year was just the starting point of an upward trajectory for 2013 first-round pick Michael Carter-Williams, and that redshirt rookie big man Nerlens Noel will be worth the price of All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday.
Further, assume that Kansas freshman center Joel Embiid, the third overall pick in the 2014 draft, recovers fine from his foot injury and next season begins fulfilling his high potential.
And we'll go with the further assumption that Dario Saric, the Sixers' other lottery pick, was worth passing on players who could be with the Sixers now because two more years in Europe will season him better for the NBA.
For the purpose of this column, even though we know the odds are against it, let's assume everything Hinkie has planned works.
What will the Sixers be in three to five years? Are we talking about being a champion or simply a legitimate championship contender?
If the history of NBA superstars is an indicator, the latter is possible for that time frame but probably not the former.
Since it would be ridiculous to go back to the start of the NBA, we need a frame of reference that keeps things relevant to the current state of the NBA. So we'll start with the 1984 draft, the one that set the table for the present NBA when Hall of Famers Michael Jordan, Hakeem Olajuwon, John Stockton and Charles Barkley were selected.
Over the last three decades, Joe Dumars (Pistons), Dennis Rodman (Pistons) and Scottie Pippen (Bulls) were the only Hall of Fame players who won NBA titles within the first five years of playing their rookie season with that franchise. Also doing it were future Hall of Famers Kobe Bryant (Lakers), Tim Duncan (Spurs), Tony Parker (Spurs) and Dwyane Wade (Heat).
And even they have caveats that suggest that what the Sixers are attempting to do will not likely result in a title before the end of the 2017-18, which would be Hinkie's fifth season.
Drafted in 1985, Dumars joined a team that already had Isiah Thomas as its established leader and key cogs in Bill Laimbeer and Vinnie Johnson. Rodman came in the second round in 1986.
Dumars was MVP of the 1989 Finals but neither he nor Rodman was ever the key player on the Pistons' two title teams.
The same can be said for Pippen, who was drafted by Seattle in 1987 but immediately traded to Chicago. Pippen got the first of his six rings in his fourth season playing wingman for Jordan.
Bryant was acquired by the Lakers in a draft-night trade with Charlotte in 1996. But the Lakers were being built around free-agent acquisition Shaquille O'Neal.
Bryant helped the Lakers to the first of three consecutive titles in 2000, but O'Neal was the MVP of all three of those Finals.
Duncan joined a Spurs team that had Hall of Fame center David Robinson in 1997, but San Antonio had come up short for nearly a decade with Robinson. Duncan pushed San Antonio over the top in his second season and was MVP of the 1999 Finals. Parker had a significant role when the Spurs won their next title during his second season, but it was still MVP Duncan leading the way.
Wade was MVP of the 2006 Finals in just his third season, but he also had an established superstar in O'Neal alongside.
None of this is to say that Hinkie's ambitious plan cannot win a championship within five years, because at some point the young talent is going to be augmented by veterans via free agency or trades.
Still, there are a couple of other reasons to put a countdown clock on the 2017-18 season. Right now, under their current contracts, that is the final season before Carter-Williams and Noel hit unrestricted free agency. If those two players develop into the superstars that fans hope but the franchise isn't at championship level, Philadelphia could end up like Cleveland did when LeBron James took his talents elsewhere in pursuit of a title.
History says that five years may not be enough for a player to go from rookie to champion for his original franchise.
The problem for Hinkie is that he may not get more time than that.
2014 Philadelphia Daily News
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