NBA tanking: Magic, 76ers a study in rebuilding contrasts

Andrew Nicholson, Michael Carter-Williams, and Kyle O'Quinn - John Geliebter-USA TODAY Sports

Orlando and Philadelphia square off Sunday for the final time in the 2013/14 season. Which of these teams' rebuilding approaches do you think will yield better results?

The Orlando Magic's matchup against the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday offers a glimpse at two rebuilding teams who've taken different paths to their respective endeavors to return to NBA prominence.

The Sixers have lost 13 straight games and, at 15-44, own the league's second-worst record. Apart from rookie point guard Michael Carter-Williams; rookie big man Nerlens Noel, who will likely miss the entire season in order to rehabilitate his left knee; six-year veteran gadget forward Thaddeus Young; and second-year big man Arnett Moultrie, Philly is light on bona-fide NBA talent. As I noted in my appearance on Magic Drive Time on Wednesday, several players in Philly's rotation are only in the NBA because the Sixers have elected to give them that opportunity. The 76ers' goal is to maximize their cap space and to rebuild via the NBA Draft with their bevy of first- and second-round picks in their proverbial war chest.

That approach, as one might expect, has yielded nearly unwatchable results: SB Nation NBA editor Tom Ziller wonders if Philly is "too awful," while former Magic coach Stan Van Gundy believes the Sixers "embarrassing," saying, "if you're putting that roster on the floor, you're doing everything you can possibly do to try to lose" in an appearance at the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference over the weekend.

Orlando is similar to Philadelphia in that it too wants to make smart use of its cap space and Draft picks, but under general manager Rob Hennigan's direction, it has taken a more measured approach than the Sixers have. As Tyler Lashbrook writes, Hennigan has almost completely cleaned house since taking over for Otis Smith in 2012, with veteran point guard Jameer Nelson the lone holdover from Smith's tenure. Hennigan has surrounded a young core which includes Nik Vučević, Tobias Harris, and Victor Oladipo with high-character veterans like Arron Afflalo, Nelson, and Ronnie Price, a move designed, it appears from here, to avoid creating a culture of losing.

It ought to go without saying that only time will tell which team has brought a sounder approach to its rebuild. However, I wanted to use the occasion of the Magic's final 2013/14 meeting with the Sixers to open a discussion on their particular rebuilds as well as the team-building process in general.

Which team's approach do you think will bear the most fruit over the next several seasons? If the Magic were to take the Sixers' approach, would you still support the team? Which club boasts the best pool of young talent? Which pool owns better Draft assets? Let's talk it out in the comments.

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