The Sixers pulled off a surprise when they opened the season on a three-game winning streak, including a victory in the season opener over the defending world champion Miami Heat.
They continued to shock when they ran off 26 consecutive losses, tying an NBA record.
Owner Josh Harris is a very successful businessman who does not like losing, nor does he encounter it often. That was until that two-month stretch from the end of January until the end of March.
Through it all, Harris views the 19-63 season as a success.
"I think the season has been a huge success," Harris said during a press conference at the team's practice facility. "Obviously, I don't like to lose. In terms of a losing season, it's tough. It was incredibly fun to take down the Bulls in my first year when we were seeded eighth and they were seeded one. We want to get back to the playoffs and compete for the championship. That's what we're trying to do. To get to that point to be an elite team, there is no shortcuts. We came in knowing it would be a long season and we would be putting building blocks in place."
Needless to say, it wasn't easy for Harris during the season. That was especially true during the 26-game losing streak.
“I threw things, I turned off the TV, I tried to ignore it but it was hard to ignore it,” Harris said. "Emotionally, it was very difficult. I don’t like to lose. I don’t like to live through a season like this, it is not fun. It is not why I bought the team. So it was very hard emotionally.”
And yet Harris permitted his front office to put together a roster that, talent-wise, was not good enough, nor had the experience to win on most occasions. That was especially the case after the trade deadline.
“Sam Hinkie ran a very in-depth and thoughtful process,” Harris said. “We evaluated every single option. We had multiple conversations and we were satisfied with the results of what happened at the trade deadline. It was all part of the bigger plan. I am very happy with the job our front office did.”
The bigger plan is to rebuild and have a perennial winner. But the Sixers' strategy, while operating under the rules of the NBA, took rebuilding to a new level. The organization will never use the word “tanking,” but it has been a conversation around the NBA this season because so many teams, including the Sixers, appeared more interested in losing games to better their chances at winning ping-pong balls for the draft lottery.
“We are not out to lose. We are out to win every game,” Harris insisted. “I want to correct that. Our goal is to be an elite team. In order to get from here to there, sometimes you need to develop players. There are decisions that we make. I think the league is in great shape right now. Attendance is high and there is a lot of parity in the league, so I don’t think that there is a negative perception.”
There are many who disagree with Harris’ last premise and maybe that will lead to discussions this summer about changing the draft lottery rules yet again.
“We are certainly working in the context of those rules. They have changed those rules four times since 1996,” Harris said. “It has evolved. It is never going to be perfect. Last time it changed it did so that teams with losing records would have more of a chance. There are arguments all over and there will be continual evolution.”
In the meantime, the rules say the Sixers will have the second-highest percentage of landing the No. 1 overall pick when the draft lottery takes place on May 20.