I don’t think you could find two approaches to team building that were more different than the ones taken by the 76ers and the Nets to arrive at their current rosters, especially after Sean Marks was hired 5 years ago.
In 2013, the Nets made the infamous Celtics trade, giving away control of almost all of their future draft picks. That same summer, the 76ers began #TheProcess of tearing down their squad for the most blatant tank job in league history.
Approach to team building:The Nets identified young talent and targeted them in the draft, trade, G-League and restricted free agency. They invested in their players on and off the floor. They offered big money contracts to restricted free agents, extended Levert, Prince, & Dinwiddie, and twice re-signed Harris to a large contract. Eventually, they became a free agent destination capable of attracting the best talent.
The 76ers went quantity over quality with regards to the draft. They prioritized draft assets as currency and were only interested in retaining players who had a chance to develop into top a 10 player. The players and agents were so upset with how the Sixers were taking advantage of the contracts they offered their second round picks that the NBPA investigated if it violated the CBA. Even when draft picks had potential (Christian Wood, Jerami Grant, Richauln Holmes), they were let go or traded early in the pursuit of more picks. The Sixers’ reputation was really bad. Funny enough, one league source in 2015 said
"Are you kidding me? There is no way," he said. "Whoever thinks Kevin Durant is coming to the Philadelphia 76ers is absolutely out of their mind. There’s no way . . . in any scenario. He’s not doing it. He wants to win."
Nets draft since 2016:
Between 2016 draft and now, the Nets ended up (officially) with 6 first round draft selections and 6 second round selections, the highest being the #17 pick in the 2019 draft (traded for Taurean Prince). Jarrett Allen and Caris Levert were traded for James Harden.
Year Rd Pk Player 2020 1 19 Saddiq Bey (DET) 2020 2 55 Jay Scrubb (LAC) 2019 1 17 Nickeil Alexander-Walker (ATL NOP) 2019 1 27 Mfiondu Kabengele (LAC) 2019 2 31 Nicolas Claxton 2018 1 29 Dzanan Musa 2018 2 40 Rodions Kurucs 2018 2 45 Hamidou Diallo (CHO OKC) 2017 1 22 Jarrett Allen 2017 1 27 Kyle Kuzma (LAL) 2017 2 57 Aleksandar Vezenkov 2016 2 55 Marcus Paige (UTA)
76ers draft since 2016:
For that same duration, the 76ers had 8 first round draft selections and 16 second round selections, including two #1 overall picks (Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz). Dario Saric was part of the trade for Jimmy Butler and the team included Landry Shamet in the Tobias Harris trade.
Year Rd Pk Player 2020 1 21 Tyrese Maxey 2020 2 34 Theo Maledon (OKC) 2020 2 36 Tyler Bey (DAL) 2020 2 49 Isaiah Joe 2020 2 58 Paul Reed 2019 1 24 Ty Jerome (BOS PHO) 2019 2 33 Carsen Edwards (BOS) 2019 2 34 Bruno Fernando (ATL) 2019 2 42 Admiral Schofield (WAS) 2019 2 54 Marial Shayok 2018 1 10 Mikal Bridges (PHO) 2018 1 26 Landry Shamet 2018 2 38 Khyri Thomas (DET) 2018 2 39 Isaac Bonga (LAL) 2018 2 56 Ray Spalding (DAL) 2018 2 60 Kostas Antetokounmpo (DAL) 2017 1 1 Markelle Fultz 2017 2 36 Jonah Bolden 2017 2 39 Jawun Evans (LAC) 2017 2 46 Sterling Brown (MIL) 2017 2 50 Mathias Lessort 2016 1 1 Ben Simmons 2016 1 24 Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot 2016 1 26 Furkan Korkmaz
In all but two years since the 2015/2016 season when Marks took over, the Nets and Sixers have been back-to-back in the conference standings:
2020/2021: 76ers 1st, Nets 2nd (so far)
2019/2020: 76ers 6th, Nets 7th
2018/2019: 76ers 3rd, Nets 6th (1st round matchup)
2017/2018: 76ers 3rd, Nets 12th
2016/2017: 76ers 14th, Nets 15th
2015/2016: Nets 14th, 76ers 15th
While there’s a lot more detail to look at to see how these two teams got here, it’s fascinating to me that the journey could not have been more different but the standings have been so close. It’s a testament to how good of a job Marks has done. It also proves that there is more than one way to build a team.
There’s a very high chance the two teams meet again in the playoffs this year and possibly many more times in the near future. I think they’ll continue to be connected for a while longer.