If NBA rebuilds were easy, everyone would execute them in the same manner and we wouldn’t have teams like the Kings (who have been bad for a decade) or the Clippers before Blake Griffin. Instead, it’s a tricky process, fraught with perils of sliding into long-term mediocrity and dependent on exceptional luck in not only landing a high pick, but landing it at a spot where a great player is available, then landing that player and then doing that in consecutive drafts.
A traditional “rebuild” is pretty formulaic. There are teams that attempt to go different routes, but in general, the flow is the same. Starting at 12 o’clock, the graphic below pretty much sums up the process.

Basically, you trade your best player, and proceed to be awful for a season. Then, with your fancy new draft pick courtesy of that miserable season, you draft, hopefully, a star player around which your franchise can be built. At this point you’re still awful, but at least you’re promising with young talent. From here, you draft supporting talent, develop that talent, add some veteran free agents, and if your lucky, you’re on your way to truly competing. Ideally, this provides a balance between being patient and not rushing steps, and also not languishing for too long in the dregs, risking damage to culture and wasted seasons for players, fans and everyone else.
The curve of that path, however, varies wildy from team to team, and is impacted by many factors. It does seem, however, that there’s a certain model based on the above progression that has to be followed. Try to skip steps and a team can wind up mortgaging future assets, namely draft picks, or signing subpar veteran free agents too early in the process (say hey, Joe Dumars!), costing them the minutes they need for the youngsters. It’s rare that a team can be “too” patient with a rebuild, but we’re definitely seeing some signs of that with the Philadelphia 76ers, who genuinely seem to have no intention, once again, to take any sort of step forward this season.
I’ve written at nauseum about the Sixers before, but here is the core of what’s important for this discussion: The Sixers aren’t continually terrible on purpose; they’re obnoxiously patient because they are determined, come hell or high water, to start the rebuild off right. …Read More