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What Does 'Trust the Process' Mean?

Philadelphia 76ers fans love to talk about the trust they have in The Process, but what exactly are they talking about?

When 76ers fans chant "Trust the Process," they are referring to the strategy used by former general manager Sam Hinkie that was implemented when he took control of the team before the 2013-14 season.

The phrase's origin is credited to former 76ers guard Tony Wroten, who said it in an interview with ESPN's Pablo Torre.

The Process itself is Hinkie's plan to find the best way to acquire top talent for the team by getting as many assets—draft picks, young players, players with trade- and team-friendly contracts—as possible, and using them in a way to bring in a superstar player.

When Philadelphia began The Process, it was coming off a 34-48 season in which it finished ninth in the East after trading away Andre Iguodala in a four-team deal for Andrew Bynum, who never played a game during his one year on the roster. The two years prior the team made the playoffs as a seven-seed and as an eight-seed.

Hinkie put a lot of effort into trading away players who could bring back the most return in terms of either more draft picks for the 76ers, or helping to increase Philadelphia's chances at the top pick in the draft because they were now a worse team. Hinkie acquired a lot of players in the second round of the draft, undrafted free agents and G-League players who could be signed for cheap, could potentially turn into key pieces, were easy to trade and could help the short term plan of trying to increase the team's chances at a top draft pick by losing.

Although the tanking became the most talked about aspect of The Process, the team also aggressively focused on getting as many draft picks as possible through trades, and used those picks in deals for higher draft picks, or players that could potentially be traded again.

Joel Embiid eventually became the face of The Process, which has also become his own personal nickname among 76ers fans. In 2014, Embiid was selected with the third pick in Hinkie's second draft with the team, but had to miss two full seasons because of injuries. Philadelphia's plan to rest Embiid for as long as possible to make sure he was completely healthy, as well as improving the team's chances at another top pick because the best player was not playing helped make the tanking even more obvious, allowing that to become a bigger focal point of The Process.

The same can be said with the team's treatment of 2016 No. 1 pick Ben Simmons. Simmons missed all of what would have been his first season in the league because of a foot injury. That same season Philadelphia shut down Embiid after 31 games because of injury.

Other notable players who are connected to The Process include Nerlens Noel (2013 No. 6 pick who was acquired from New Orleans along with a 2014 first-round pick for Jrue Holiday and a 2013 second-round pick, and then traded to the Mavericks for Justin Anderson, Andrew Bogut, a 2017 second-round pick and a 2020 second-round pick), Michael Carter-Williams (2013 No. 11 pick who was traded to the Bucks in a three-team deal for a first-round pick from the Lakers), Dario Saric (2014 No. 12 pick who stayed overseas and played two seasons in Turkey after being drafted before coming over for the 2016-17 season), Jahlil Okafor (2015 No. 3 pick who was traded to the Nets for a second-round pick and Trevor Booker), Nik Stauskas (2014 No. 8 pick who was acquired from the Kings along with a 2017 first-round pick, a 2019-first round pick, Carl Landry and Jason Thompson for a 2017 first-round pick, Arturas Gudaitis and Luka Mitrovic and then traded to the Nets in the Jahlil Okafor deal) and Markelle Fultz (2017 No. 1 pick who was acquired by swapping 2017 first-round picks with the Celtics along with trading away either the Lakers' 2018 first-round pick acquired in the Michael Carter-Williams deal if it lands between picks 2-5 or the higher of Philadelphia's 2019 first-round picks since it has two because of the Nik Stauskas trade—unless one of those picks is No. 1, in which case the Celtics would get the other pick). 

Hinkie resigned from the team in April of 2016 and Wroten was waived earlier that same season in December of 2015, but The Process and their contributions to it will live on in Philadelphia for a long time.