Andrew Unterberger is a famous writer who invented the nickname 'Sauce Castillo' and is now writing for The Rights To Ricky Sanchez, as part of the 'If Not, Pick Will Convey As Two Second-Rounders' section of the site. You can follow Andrew on Twitter @AUGetoffmygold and can also read him at Billboard.
The good thing about going down 3-0 in a playoff series is that you get your mourning out of the way early. I sat down to contemplate the Sixers' series loss after their decisive Game Five defeat and realized there were no self-deliberations left to be had, no questions about What Went Wrong left to ponder. It was done, it was time to move on. It was time to get excited about what comes next.
This summer will be unlike anything that Sixers fans have experienced in a generation, if not even longer. The Sixers are a team on the grow, with a good recent past and an even better future to look forward to, and with no imminently looming tragedies to snap us back to "Oh, right, that" reality. We have players. We have a coach. We have draft picks. We have cap space. And for once, time is on our side, yes it is.
So whip out those Class of '18 yearbooks, because it's time for us to HAGS it all over the place. It's gonna be a great summer, and here's why.
Still a thing, and one now guaranteed to be Process-blessed with the presence of Robert Covington, no longer socially obligated to appear in the conference finals. (We all would've preferred him having reason to flake on us at the last minute, of course, but considering that barely even seemed a possibility until a month ago, we'll probably live with him keeping the date.) There'll be mirth and merriment, there'll be cheering of Vlade Divac and booing of the new Hornets coach James Borrego (he seems like a Sixers villain for some reason?), there'll be remembering our roots and getting in touch with what Trusting the Process was originally, back when it used to be about the losses, maaaaaan.
And maybe the No. 1 pick? Only time and and Mark Tatum will tell, but yeah, let's throw another one on the pile.
Draft Big Boards
If this was still a year (or two years or three years or four years or five years) ago, we all would've been deep into our Mo Bamba vs. Marvin Bagley debates, talking ourselves into Luka Doncic falling to us and then turning out to be a combination of the best parts of Paul Pierce and Pete Maravich, and/or declaring Trae Young the next Steph Curry or the next Jimmer Fredette, depending on whether or not we're in range to take him.
This year, we've mostly been too busy with playoff basketball (lol) to concern ourselves with such things. But there's plenty of time still to learn about the upside of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, to wonder if Robert Williams III is actually related to Meek Mill or just spiritually connected, to definitively learn whether Mikal Bridges' name is pronounced Michael or Muh-cal. (Actually, it's pronounced "Miles.") Remember, this is the pick we've waited for since we traded MCW in the middle of the Clinton administration, so whether it comes in at No. 1 or No. 10, let's not forget to enjoy it as it actually, finally conveys (unless of course, it winds up at No. 2 or No. 3, and doesn’t convey at all). And then we get to make another first-round pick after it! And we can boo Dave Silver as he announces it!
Don't forget: we might be in the playoffs now, but the Sixers' real second season still starts in June. Always June.
Remember Summer League?? It might not be life or death for the Sixers anymore, especially since it sounds like Markelle Fultz isn't too likely to play this summer, but we'll have two first-rounders, maybe a couple seconds, and who know what old friends are coming over for the occasion (Jonah Bolden? Vasilije Micic? The ghost of Artüras Guaditis?) Plus, we'll have endless opportunity to discover the next T.J. McConnell, the next Maalik Wayns, maybe even the next Khalif Wyatt. What new Sixers will continue the legacy of Team WHOP on their five-year anniversary? Will Nik Stauskas randomly show up on the team, like the 20-something that's officially getting a little too old to still be going to the classic high-school hangout spots? All will be revealed this summer in Vegas. (RIP Orlando -- our 2014 championship banner will hang proudly in the Wells Fargo Center rafters for all time.)
Who even remembers the last 76ers summer where we weren't waiting for one of our best players to be medically cleared to resume basketball activities? How many people in the Sixers organization are going to be jobless because there's no catastrophic setback to send out disquieting email updates and provide unconvincing PR spin about? What will Joel Embiid do with all the spare time he has not having to rehab his latest operated-upon limb back to full health? As far as we know, this summer will be nothing but Joel working on his conditioning while Ben Simmons works on his jump shot, Robert Covington works on his finishing through contact around the rim, and Dario Saric works on his facial hair. (Just kidding, Saric's facial hair is already perfect.)
Assumed progress for Markelle Fultz
When was the last time you checked Twitter for a video of Markelle Fultz lifting jumpers from across the arena floor? Been a while, huh? Fultz' jump shot hasn't improved all that much from when he was a national punchline, but the intrigue around it has unquestionably dissipated, which means he's now free to productively clank in peace. And since we're not watching him, we can just assume that every day he's out of sight, he's doing nothing but working religiously on improving that mid-range, that catch-and-shoot corner three, that above-the-break raise-up, improving all through Ray Allen-like compulsion. Then when he comes back, boom, shot fixed, free Damian Lillard. No reason to think otherwise until we have reason to think otherwise.
Former Future Sixer LeBron James
Many of us are still talking ourselves into the possibility of Philadelphia being the presumed favorite to land LeBron James in free agency this summer. He'd be one of the greatest 76ers ever immediately upon signing, but he already has the distinction of undoubtedly being the greatest future former Sixer of all time, easily besting such former candidates as Monta Ellis, Amar'e Stoudemire, Elton Brand When He Could Still Jump, and of course, Gerald Wallace. Whether he signs or not, he's already a part of Process Lore, and that should make free agency extra-fun this offseason.
Actual Free Agency
If not LeBron, the Sixers figure to be the most involved they've been in free agency since that fateful summer a decade ago when they put all their chips in on Elton Brand, then turned out to have totally misread their hand. Brand's massive contract was a relative disaster -- though he still turned out to be a pretty great Sixer after his Old School Chevy reincarnation -- but the Sixers should hopefully be safe from making such an investment in an injured, aging player this time around -- unless they ignore all their most pressing needs and decide what this team really requires to make the next step is a post-Achilles tear DeMarcus Cousins. (Not impossible, but admittedly unlikely.)
Regardless, the Sixers are a young, competitive team with cap space, solid team culture, a decently big market and a couple big roster holes still to occupy. Paul George would be a get, Aaron Gordon and Jabari Parker could be fun to flirt with as RFAs -- Class of 2014 dreams last so long, even after they're gone -- and hey, did you realize Trevor Ariza was a free agent? Point is, no matter who's out there, the Sixers will probably be in the mix, and not totally just in our heads.
And then, of course, there's trades: Kawhi Leonard if he's disgruntled past the point of re-gruntling, one of the Wizards core guys if they're looking to break up the band, maybe Tobias Harris if the Clippers aren't planning on being particularly good (and Tobias Harris still is)? We'll take 'em all, and we can only assume the Sixers are attempting to land every one of these guys, until they don't. And hey, we don't want to have to give up Justin Anderson, TLC and a future first-rounder (protected 1-30) in one or more of these deals, but gotta spend money to make money, right?
Unreasonable leaps in preseason expectations
Before this season, most of us were still pretty guarded in our predictions for the Sixers' 2017-'18 campaign: If Joel Embiid could play 60 games and if Ben Simmons managed to overachieve as a rookie and if we somehow got to play the Charlotte Hornets 12 times in the space of a month at the end of the season, then maybe we could win 40-something games and threaten for a postseason spot in the East. It was a period of emotional hedging and gut-checking, with no one wanting to be the asshole who confidently predicted playoffs and ended up looking stupid when a team led by a bunch of injury-plagued first- and second-year players limped their way to 30-something Ws and a 30-somethingth consecutive trip to the lottery.
But this summer, well, fuck that. Go big or go home: Process Trusters should basically be tripping over ourselves to make the most outlandish predictions possible for these post-good Sixers. 62 wins and the one seed? Sounds reasonable. 41-0 at home? As long as they don't schedule us for another London game, sure. Joel Embiid for MVP, Brett Brown for Coach of the Year, Dario Saric for First Team All-KlumpyFlump? Book it. The confidence of having a good team is like having a whole lot of money in a quality savings account; it just kinda continues to grow without anyone actually doing anything. And if you're not giving the Celtics' version of @HamSinkie the chance to collect and weaponize all your overly pro-Sixers tweets this summer, you're not doing it right.