Yes, the Sixers are finally relevant. It has taken a long time for this season to arrive. We went through several single digit win seasons; we saw our general manager Sam Hinkie resign—the mastermind behind “the process”. Quite frankly, even true fans cannot believe that this day is possible: reasonably speculating that Lebron James—the best basketball player in the world and the most prominent sports figure of our generation—will sign with the Sixers this upcoming offseason.
Let that sync in. There are several reasons to believe.
First and foremost, the Sixers are one of a few teams who have significant salary cap space to use in the summer of 2018. With Amir Johnson’s 11 million coming off the Sixers’ books next season, and if they resign JJ Reddick for less than 23 million, the Sixers can offer a $34 million max salary to James.
We all know that James is best friends with Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, and Dwyane Wade. But, both Anthony and Paul are on teams with minimal cap space. Regardless, their ball dominant, isolation playing styles would not complement Lebron’s more passive, ball-sharing approach. And, Wade is clearly towards the end of his playing days; it appears that he will head back to Miami to finish off his illustrious career.
The Sixers are the the NBA’s second-youngest team and with loads of talent: Ben Simmons (21), Joel Embiid (23), Markelle Fultz (19), Dario Saric (23), and Robert Covington (26). Not only are the Sixers young and talented but they are also winning games. And that too, without Markelle Fultz, their first overall pick from the June draft. Embiid and Simmons are not just players with potential anymore; both are on course to be all-stars this season.
James has never played alongside a big man with the talent and physical nature of Joel Embiid. Both players would benefit from each other’s presence. More impactful would be the combo of James and Simmons. With similar physical attributes and playing styles, their combination would pose nightmares for opposing teams because it would be impossible to defend them.
James is a master at driving to the basket and kicking it out to a three point shooter. The Sixers have JJ Reddick, a 41.4 percent career three point shooter, who would be willing to take a discount next season to play alongside James and a chance to play in the Finals. Other players like Dario Saric and Robert Covington are above average three point shooters as well as exceptional defenders. Saric is shooting a respectable 33.7 percent and Covington a career high 42.5 percent from deep this season. The Sixer’s plethora of three point shooters would intrigue James.
Currently, the Cleveland Cavaliers are the oldest team in the NBA. As soon as James takes a break from action, the Cavaliers are dysfunctional. James is forced to play over 38 minutes a game, the most in the NBA. The Cavaliers are old, lack energy, and complacent. The same could not be said for the Sixers. They play with grit, passion, and toughness. Players like McConnell and Embiid go after every loose ball, steal, and rebound as if it is game seven of the NBA Finals. This is something James has to respect—their indifference to glamour and rather tenacious, scrappy play to get the win. With exceptional defense and a developing offense, James can come in and bolster the offense as he is accustomed to doing.
It makes most sense for James to remain in the weaker Eastern Conference rather than jump ship to the tougher Western Conference. Objectively, the Sixers are the best option for him if he wants to stay in the East.
James is superhuman, but it is just a matter of time. Father time catches up to every NBA player. So, in the future, James’ play will decline, but by then Embiid and Simmons will have blossomed into mature, bonafide superstars who can lead the team as James takes a back seat. Such opportunity gives James a chance, even as an older veteran towards the end of his career, to contend for championships. If winning is the the most important factor in James’ upcoming decision, as he claims, then signing with the Sixers is a no brainer.
Lastly, James and Simmons are great friends who work out in the offseason together and also share the same agent, Klutch Sports’ Rich Paul. According to ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith, Maverick Carter and Rich Paul—close friends of Lebron James and part of his inner circle— were spotted with the Sixers owner and executives.
All of this is to just say that James to the Sixers is a real possibility.