Brett Brown seems to have an extra hop in his step lately.
The Sixers' head coach has always been cordial, but this offseason he's looked even more bubbly.
What seems to be the most logical reason for Brown's jovialness is the fact that the Sixers actually look like an NBA basketball team for the first time in his tenure.
There are those that knock The Process. That's hard for this reporter to do considering it landed you Nerlens Noel, Joel Embiid, Dario Saric, Jahlil Okafor, Ben Simmons, and the Lakers' top-three protected pick in 2017 (unprotected in 2018). And don't forget Sam Hinkie's fleecing of Vlade Divac and the Kings which netted the team Nik Stauskas (who struggled in 2015-16, but was a lottery pick), a 2019 unprotected first-round pick, and the right to swap first-round picks with a fledgling franchise.
With that said, The Process also brought with it many, many losses. A total of 199 in three seasons to be exact. That kind of perpetual failure can take a toll on people — most notably the fans, the players and the head coach. Brown still soldiered on, forcing a grin and preaching development and patience.
The first fruit of Brown's torment is the arrival of Simmons. After a 10-72 season, the Sixers finally obtained the No. 1 overall pick and the right to draft Simmons. With what we've seen from him at LSU and the highlight-reel passes he's doled out during summer league games, we know Simmons has the potential to be an elite facilitator. Do you know what an elite facilitator will attract in free agency? Elite scorers.
Then again, there could be elite scoring found from within the organization. Okafor — if he's still a Sixer come Oct. 21 — could be an intriguing complement to Simmons. If you've watched the summer league games, you've seen Richaun Holmes reap the benefits of Simmons' ability to penetrate and dish. Okafor has excellent hands, feet and an overall feel for the game offensively. It'll be intriguing to see if they develop chemistry before the season starts.
It would also be interesting to see Simmons and Noel in pick-and-roll situations, with Noel being on the receiving end of a perfectly placed lob or two. The tandem could make a tough defensive combo as well. We can't sleep on Embiid, either. His health is certainly a concern, but you can see flashes of what made people believe he should've been the No. 1 pick back in 2014.
Then there's Saric, the Sixers' second lottery pick in 2014. It's hard to know exactly what to expect from the 6-foot-10 Croatian, but if his international game is any indication, we're in for a treat. The two-time FIBA European Young Player of the Year recently won the MVP of the Olympic qualifying tournament last weekend. He has the skill to play minutes as a point forward but also has the grit to mix it up and hit the boards.
There's a logjam in the frontcourt. It's no secret. Brown will be able to use a lineup at times that features Saric and Simmons. It won't be ideal to do that for 40 minutes a game defensively, but it'll be a fun dynamic. You have to figure a trade is looming. If not before the season then sometime before the trade deadline. Bryan Colangelo won't make a deal just to unload a young, talented big man. He'll have to receive value in return.
With the Sixers using so many early draft picks on bigs, the backcourt became an afterthought. If there is a knock on Hinkie's tenure it's bringing in guys like Isaiah Canaan and Kendall Marshall and expecting them to produce. The lack of depth at guard certainly didn't help the development of the team's young big men.
Colangelo has already made sure such a thing won't happen this season. He's brought in three solid veterans to help the cause. Veteran combo guard Jerryd Bayless will bring winning experience and shooting. Spanish point guard Sergio Rodriguez's first NBA stint wasn't successful, but he became a star overseas, capturing a Euroleague MVP award in 2014 and a league championship in 2015. Gerald Henderson will provide solid defense on the wing and also has the ability to score.
For the last couple seasons, guys like Robert Covington, T.J. McConnell, Jerami Grant, Hollis Thompson and Stauskas have been forced to play big minutes. And at times, it was tough to watch. Now, they'll have competition and will able to assume more of a defined role in Brown's rotation.
So when you see Brown conducting interviews, talking glowingly about his young stars and new veterans, you'll see him smile. And in 2016-17, that smile won't be forced.