Brett Brown, then interim general manager, sat in front of a pack of reporters on draft night explaining his decision to trade Mikal Bridges, the 10th overall pick, to the Suns when he famously said the Sixers were "star hunting … that's how you win a championship."
Then, during his end-of-the-season news conference, Brown said he feels like "another high-level free agent is required." The summer came and went and the Sixers didn't land LeBron James or Kawhi Leonard.
The Sixers on Saturday afternoon finally landed that elusive third star by agreeing to acquire Jimmy Butler from Minnesota, league sources confirmed to NBC Sports Philadelphia.
Dario Saric and Robert Covington are fine NBA players. Saric is beloved by Sixers fans for his heart and goofiness. (Spoiler: He came overseas.) Covington is the poster child of The Process — a nobody acquired by Sam Hinkie who turned into one of the best perimeter defenders in the NBA.
Brand showed his hand Saturday — the Sixers GM wants to win now. This is a brand new regime and really, isn't this what The Process was all about?
Boiling The Process down to its simplest form, wasn't the motive always about acquiring assets and eventually turning them into superstars?
The Sixers drafted two with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Embiid is special and continues to do things that blow our mind. Ben Simmons is a 6-foot-10 magician.
The only thing missing was that third star. The Sixers went star hunting this past summer and didn't connect. Markelle Fultz could still someday turn into a star, but the Sixers are past that.
After a 52-win campaign and winning a round in the playoffs in 2017-18, the Sixers set their eyes on winning the Eastern Conference this season. That simply wasn't viable without a third star to complement Embiid and Simmons.
That's not to say the Sixers couldn't compete in the East without that third star. But the East looks tougher than expected. We knew about the Celtics. We knew about the Raptors, who, with Leonard, look like the early-season favorite to win the East.
We expected the Pacers and Bucks to be in the conversation but both look tougher than predicted. If anything, the East is looking stronger than we thought, which reiterates the need to acquire a third star.
What if Leonard decides to stay in Toronto? Not only would the Raptors continue to be among the best in the East, but it would also take away another potential option for the Sixers via free agency.
There was no guarantee the Sixers could hit on landing a star next summer in free agency, and realistically, there aren't many big-name options that we could really draw a path to Philly for.
Butler is a proven superstar and will immediately certify the Sixers as a contender in the East this season — worry about Butler's contract situation later, though ESPN reported the Sixers and Butler "fully expect to reach a deal on a long-term contract this summer."
Sure, stars break free all the time and the argument the Sixers could have waited for the perfect fit is valid. Embiid and Simmons are young and they have plenty of time.
But at the end of the day, this very well could have been the Sixers' final shot at bringing in a third star. Brand was rightfully aggressive in acquiring Butler even if he had to sacrifice two legitimate complementary pieces.
Losing Saric and Covington hurts. But the Sixers desperately needed a third star, and Butler is that. We can worry about how Butler gels with Embiid and Simmons tomorrow. For now, the Sixers are a significantly better team with Butler than they were without him.
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