We are in the age of the superteam.
The Celtics (Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett), Heat (LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade), Cavaliers (James, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love) and Warriors (Kevin Durant, Steph Curry Klay Thompson, Draymond Green) have redefined the landscape of the NBA and the way championships are won.
It’s not enough anymore to have a team built around depth and role players. It’s now seemingly a requirement for a team to have three or more superstars playing together in order to contend.
It may not have been explicitly discussed as the Sixers begain their painstaking four-season tank job under Sam Hinkie, but the main goal of the process was to somehow, some way create a superteam in Philadelphia.
Joel Embiid has only played 31 games in the NBA. He’s missed two entire seasons and another half due to injury. But his transcendence as a two-way center who can shoot, play in the post and defend made him a legitimate All-Star candidate and rookie of the year front-runner last season.
Ben Simmons has missed an entire season as well, also with a foot injury — but the 2016 first overall pick has the makings of a Magic Johnson-like point guard.
Markelle Fultz — the presumptive first overall pick in Thursday’s NBA Draft — has also been described as a sure All-Star, a franchise-changing player who can score, distribute, defend and become a long-time NBA Super Star.
Embiid, Simmons and Fultz. The trio, if they can stay healthy, could be the next true superteam in the NBA.
Since 1980, 77 percent of first overall picks have played in All-Star games. That is a pretty good track record. With two first overalls in tow — each set to debut in 2017-18 and Embiid, who if healthy could be one of the most dominant big men in the league — the potential is earth-shattering.
And in Robert Covington and Dario Saric, the Sixers appear to have some pretty solid role players on the roster already. Add to that the fact that the team has enough cap space for two max free agent contracts and that the NBA salary cap will allow the team to keep their core together for as long as they want to and it feels more like an NBA2K franchise than reality.
Thanks to the trade this past weekend, the Sixers will keep not only their own picks over the next three drafts, but they also have four second rounders to play with this draft and will have at least one potential lottery pick in 2018 (Lakers) or 2019 (Kings) depending on how the lottery and results play out.
The Sixers’ method of tanking was rewarded mightily as the assets accumulated awarded them the ability to jettison some top draft picks — like Michael Carter-Williams, Nerlens Noel and potentially Jahlil Okafor — and continue to collect young players and draft picks until they hit on three they liked.
If the Embiid-Simmons-Fultz core pans out, it could have enormous implications for the NBA as a whole, and could spur rule changes if too many other teams attempt to replicate their process.
But that’s putting the cart before the horse. The Sixers still have a ton of work to do, and it will fall on Brett Brown to push the right buttons and develop a team that can contend for a playoff spot next season, which is what Philly fans will be expecting after the fireworks this offseason.
The entire NBA is watching.