From all of us Sixers fans to you, the Cleveland Cavaliers: it’s all your fault.
Oh, you don’t know? Understandable. You’re on Cloud Nine now thanks to a resurgent squad that’s made your early-season dumpster fire seem like a distant memory. Kevin Love is getting the rock. Kyrie Irving is doing pretty much whatever he wants still, only it’s working now. Timofy “Named By Penny Hardaway’s Parents” Mozgov has played well enough to make the price Cleveland paid to acquire him look slightly less ridiculous. And J.R. Smith has swayed firmly to the “Dr. Jekyl” side of his personality, at least for this season. (Be warned, though: if Johnny Football can find debaucherous activity in Cleveland, so can J.R.)
We haven’t even mentioned human steamroller LeBron James morphing back into “Oh My God” LeBron since returning from a midseason maintenance break disguised as an injury. He’s even treating coach David Blatt like an actual adult now. Cleveland is making a beeline for, at minimum, the second seed in the East, and all is hunky-dory.
So we’ll forgive you for ignoring the plight of the Philadelphia semi-professional basketball franchise whose general manager just dealt away their supposed franchise point guard Michael Carter-Williams and their gobsmacking second-round standout K.J. McDaniels. In return, the team acquired more draft picks; the Biblical city of Canaan; and JaVale McGee, a government experiment to see if a gazelle crossbred with a puppy could learn to play basketball (it can’t).
You should note, though, that a big reason those trades occurred was because of your damn Cavaliers, who snapped up the ping-pong ball that should have been ours in last summer’s NBA draft lottery.
Remember that night? Cleveland nabbed the first overall pick that the Sixers (or, really, the Bucks) deserved. After all, the Bucks were really, really bad last year! And the Sixers worked HARD to be as bad as they were. That’s the plan, after all.
But no, the Cavs got their third first-overall pick in the past four years, and fifth top-four pick in the past four as well. Kyrie Irving. Tristian Thompson. Dion Waiters. Anthony Bennett. Dan Gilbert treated it like a friggin’ title win, like usual. They had earned the rights to Andrew Wiggins, long considered the best prospect in the draft. The Cavs were buyers at last year’s trade deadline, too, and they still ended up with the best prospect in the draft. How does that happen?
Not that the Cavs kept Wiggins, of course – he was off to Minnesota for LeBron’s buddy Kevin Love as soon as The King returned to hold court off the shores of Lake Erie. But the fact that the Cavs bounded from the 9th projected pick to the first knocked off the whole trajectory of Sixers GM Sam Hinkie’s infamous “Process.”
See, if the Sixers got a top two pick, they likely would have landed either Wiggins or Jabari Parker, depending on who the Bucks took at No. 1. Finally, a legitimate backcourt mate or scoring option to pair Carter-Williams with to see if that would spread the floor a bit, taking the scoring load off the reigning Rookie of the Year and perhaps giving him better shots to help improve his atrocious shooting.
Instead, the Sixers took injured center/professional Tweeter Joel Embiid, who probably won’t play at all this season. Which meant the only reinforcement MCW and coach Brett Brown could expect were second round pick McDaniels and last year’s first-rounder Nerlens Noel, both known more for their defense than anything they could do with the ball in their hands.
Fast-forward seven months, and Carter-Williams is still haphazardly putting up contested jumpers and poor layups simply because there’s no one else on the team (except maybe Tony Wroten or Robert Covington) he can dump the ball off to. So away he goes, along with McDaniels, who would have become an unrestricted free agent this summer. The Cavs likely wouldn’t have had the assets to land Love from the stingy Timberwolves without Wiggins – it’s doubtful that certified crazy person Flip Saunders would’ve taken Noah Vonieh as a substitute for Maple Jordan.
This is not to say the Sixers made a bad trade in giving up Carter-Williams. The lanky Syracuse product would probably miss the Wells Fargo Center if you painted a bright orange rim around it, and his form is still awful. But Rajon Rondo was also a terrible shooter who somehow continued to be the centerpiece of an aging Boston Celtics roster for years. With some other offensively-minded players, it could have happened for MCW, as well.
Sure, Wiggins hasn’t shot particularly well, but he’s been good considering how much he’s been used for the awful Timberwolves. And Parker was playing very well offensively before his season-ending injury. Who knows if that even happens playing for the Sixers? Nobody gets hurt for this team, just traded or D-leagued?
Alas, in the absence of those guys, Hinkie’s elected to kick the can further down the road, hoping to land Jahlil Okafor or D’Angelo Russell in the upcoming draft to build his team around. It’s a foggy future with only two certainties – Michael Carter-Williams won’t be involved, and it’s all the Cavs’ fault. Completely. Of this, I am sure.
So the next time you’re about to bring up all the bad breaks Cleveland’s had in the past few decades, remember the four top 5 picks you had to craft your team. Remember how it wasn’t good enough to build a playoff team in that time, and remember how Lady Luck shined on you anyway in the form of LeBron and K-Love by way of Wiggins. Remember that as you watch the Sixers await their upcoming playoff berth in 2022 behind a bunch of guys that probably aren’t even in college yet.
Damn you all.