These last three seasons with Doc Rivers have been very challenging, not only on the court but behind the scenes. There have been countless prospects and players.
Sixers fans have been demanding to get more minutes or just be given a chance to show their ability, but Doc would always defer to veteran minutes instead.
Year in and year out, young players would get lost in the rotation or be stuck down in the G-League so long that they eventually would leave the team. Doc never gave the young players a chance to develop unless his hand was forced by injuries, but that should all change now with Nick Nurse on as head coach.
The Toronto Raptors have been a tough team for the Sixers and the rest of the Eastern Conference to face over the past decade, and a large part of their success has been player development. There are very few players who would see Canada as a destination in free agency, which really forces the Raptors to lean into their player development staff and coaching to refine these young draft picks into valuable NBA players. Raptors have been successful with high draft picks such as Demar DeRozan, who developed into one of the best shooting guards in the NBA and began the most successful era in the Raptors’ history.
However, they have also been successful with later picks and undrafted players such as Pascal Siakam, who initially was developed into a high-energy bench player, but over the years, with more and more opportunity, has now become an all-star caliber player and leader of their team. Siakam is a longshot when it comes to how players develop, but if you look up and down that roster, you can see how the Raptors have developed their late picks and undrafted young guys into solid, well-rounded NBA players (Fred Van Vleet, Chris Boucher, and OG Anunoby).
Meanwhile, in that same span of time, the Sixers have been a prime example of how not to develop players and how to get stuck with guys like DeAndre Jordan playing big minutes in playoff games for you. There are prominent examples of high draft picks never panning out (outside of injuries), like Michael Carter-Williams, who never got any better after his rookie year, and there are countless examples in the Doc Rivers era.
Sixer fans for years were singing the praises of Isiah Joe and how his shooting would help the team so much, but he was never given a real opportunity on the Sixers. He was constantly relegated to the bench or the G-League, but when he came in, there was always a spark, and he seemed ready to contribute. Instead, Doc Rivers would ignore his ability, which eventually led to him being on the Oklahoma City Thunder this year, where he had one of the best three-point percentages in the league with 41% and also was one of the teams leaders in plus/minus this season. The Sixers have been dying for consistent shooters over the years, but let a high-level shooter walk out of the door for nothing because we never allowed him to develop.
This almost happened with Paul Reed as well. Still, because of injuries and players being traded, Doc was forced to play him in the Miami series two seasons ago, and it became apparent he needed to be getting opportunities on the court. Reed was the G-League MVP and was dominating the game in and game out in Delaware, but Doc Rivers would rather play DeAndre Jordan or Dwayne Dedmon because of their experience. Jordan and Dedmon were corpses at that point in their careers, but Doc would still defer to them over the young prospect. The team has been looking for good backup center minutes for years but consistently ignored the prospect doing everything in his power to get a chance on the court, but that will not be the case in the future.
Nick Nurse knows the value of player development. He has experience doing it successfully, both eyeing the talent as a coach and developing the talent as he has done in his G-League coaching experience. This will do wonders for players like Jaden Springer, Terquavion Smith, and Ricky Council IV, who will actually get opportunities to play and, if they perform, will take the minutes of veterans who don’t deserve those minutes.
Players like Paul Reed and Tyrese Maxey won’t stop developing after their first or second season like we have seen in the past with Thybulle, Noel, Carter-Williams, etc. but will actually continue to grow and become stars like Van Vleet and Siakam have.
This is an exciting time for Philadelphia basketball, both with the current roster and the one they will develop in the years to come.