Why the Sixers would be wise to avoid pursuing LeBron James in free agency


I’m sure there are many things that immediately rushed through your mind as soon as you read the headline like ‘what are you talking about? You’d be stupid not to go after the best player on the planet or wow, what a moron!’ That’s fair.

I understand that adding a player of LeBron James’ caliber immediately makes any team a contender, or at the very minimum a secure lock to be in the playoffs. Everyone will watch intently as the LeBron James saga unravels in Cleveland. Will he leave “The Land” or go join another team, perhaps a team border-lining on title contention that just needs that extra push to take them to the next level?

James will be 33 years young by the time free agency hits. He does have a player option and everyone around the league expects him to opt out in order to sign another contract with the Cavaliers or ship out elsewhere. According to several different sources, the Sixers are expected to be a possible suitor for LeBron and plan to pursue him aggressively. Now, while adding LeBron James to a young and budding core of Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, Dario Saric and Markelle Fultz will certainly catapult the 76ers from playoff hopefuls to title contenders, it will also come with some possible issues and complications.

The Sixers are currently the fifth seed in the East with a record of 13-10. The team’s early success could and should largely be accredited to the play of Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. Alongside Simmons and Embiid, the 76ers have other young talent on the roster such as Markelle Fultz, who is still a bit of a mystery at this point, Dario Saric and Robert Covington.

These young players are still developing. Adding LeBron James to the mix would only take minutes away from them. Covington, who was recently extended through 4 years on a $62 million dollar deal, would have to take a step back and come off the bench. That move would result in Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, who has shown plenty of flashes of potential, receiving far less minutes. TLC could blossom into a great two-way rotational player but he won’t have the chance to do so if he doesn’t have the minutes to show what he can do. It’ll be similar to how Jahlil Okafor lost his place in the rotation when Joel Embiid started playing and Nerlens Noel was moved to the bench.

Bringing in James would also force Dario Saric into a bench role. Anyone who watched the Sixers play in their first few games saw how poorly Dario was performing coming off the bench. He plays much better starting for the team. Moving Saric to the bench could also mean less playing time for Richaun Holmes, and I think I speak for everyone when I say that Sixers fans love Richaun Holmes.

Yes, having LeBron on the team will make up for the production that Covington, TLC, Dario and Holmes produce. However, that’s not the point. The point is that these players will never get the chance to reach their potential because they’ll never have the opportunity with King James on the squad. Ever look at teams led by LeBron James? One word: veterans. That’s not the roster we have or will have in a year when James is a free agent. What was the point of tanking for all those years if our pups won’t get a chance to shine?

Another reason, perhaps the biggest reason the 76ers should avoid signing LeBron James, is Ben Simmons. Simmons is probably the closest thing to LeBron James in terms of physique and skills. Simmons is most effective with the ball in his hands. We’ve all seen what he can do when orchestrating the offense. He has posted historic numbers time and time again. LeBron James is all but sure to stunt Simmons’s development.

When Markelle Fultz returns from his puzzling shoulder injury, he and Simmons will share the backcourt duties. Adding LeBron to the mix would mean having THREE players who are most effective with the ball in their hands. Let’s face it, Fultz can work off the ball but he is best when it’s in his hands.

Can they make it work? Sure, why not? Even if it works, that still doesn’t mean it won’t stop Simmons’ development. LeBron is the most dominant player in the world and there’s no doubt the ball will be in his hands in crunch time. He will be the one running the offense, the one with the ball in his hands, the one taking the big shots and making the big plays. Simmons WILL have to take a backseat to LeBron. There’s no question about it.

Sam Hinkie started “The Process” from scratch and was clearly taking his time in order to fulfill his dreams of turning this team into a dynasty. We are finally seeing the fruits of that. LeBron joining the Sixers would speed up that process, but at a cost. LeBron just doesn’t fit the timeline that this team is on, and that’s fine. Let the young guys grow and build chemistry. In the end, taking the time to see “The Process” through will be much more fun and rewarding than skipping some steps in order to have some immediate short-term success.    


Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports