As the NBA season hits the homes stretch and teams are all fighting for playoff spots, one of the bigger issues that keeps coming up is where Lebron James will go when the season is over. The Lakers and Rockets are two teams that are mentioned a lot, but the Sixers have been creeping in to the discussion. So, what would it benefit James from playing for the Sixers next year and for the next few years?
- Salary space:
The Sixers figure to have around $30-$40 Million in cap space at the end of the regular season. By letting go of J.J Redick and Amir Johson, that gives them the needed space to inquire about James. Getting rid of someone like Jerryd Bayles would be a major help, but with his injuries the past two seasons, that seems highly unlikely. Still, with the cap space they have, making James a good offer isn’t completely out of sight and the Sixers could make it work with some maneuvering.
- Quality of team:
The Sixers are currently one of the better teams in the NBA, defensively. They’re 4th in defensive efficiency and that number could go up if Markell Fultz gets any sort of playing time this year. Players like Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid and Robert Covington are all good to very good defenders and that would take some pressure of Lebron as he’ll be 33 years old and having played 15 seasons. The ability to have a team with a very good defense should be appealing to James, so that he’s not the only one trying to defend the best players each night.
The Sixers are currently the 4th youngest team in the league. The core players like Embiid, Simmons, Saric and Fultz are all under 23 years of age and factoring in players like TLC, Korkmaz, Covington and McConnell doesn’t hurt. The abililty to have those guys play quality minutes would lessen the need for James to play 40 minutes per game each night and could help him stay healthier as he gets older.
- Ben Simmons:
Simmons is a LeBron clone. At 6’10” tall Simmons is taller than James, but he’s a true point guard. His height and court vision are above and beyond where someone his age are usually at in the start of their career. He’s also able to defend multiple positions and this, again, would take a lot of pressure off James throughout the year. LeBron has really worked on his outside game and can hit the open three when needed but, having someone with Simmons talent and court vision could help Lebron get over the 40% mark on three-pointers. Also, in the open floor, a tandem of James and Simmons would be virtually unstoppable, coming down the court.
Not only that, but LeBron has been a huge influence on the career of Simmons so far, as Ben explained to our writer Liam Jenkins in London.
NBA London Diary: Sixers star Ben Simmons is learning from the best and teaching the rest
“He’s just been a great supporter.” The Aussie went on to say. “If I need any advice or anything like that I can go to him, he’s been through it all. He’s been a great role model.”
- Joel Embiid:
Embiid is, if he stays healthy, going to remain one of the top players in the NBA. His post moves are unstoppable and if he puts on a little more weight and continues to stay in the low post, the teams defending him would have a very hard time as his vision and passing are also above average for a center. Lebron would be freed up against smaller and less skilled small forwards and slower power forwards, depending on where he’s playing. Again, this will lighten the load that James will have to carry as he gets older.
Philadelphia can offer something that the other teams being mentioned in the conversation can’t. They’re playing in the Eastern Conference. If Lebron would like to get a few more titles before retiring, his best bet is to remain in the East. The quality of the top teams in the West is high and until someone proves me otherwise, the title will run through Golden State, at least for the next few years. Playing in the East, with the Sixers, Lebron should be able to get to at least, three or four more finals by the time he’s considering retirement. He would be a great leader and teacher for players like Simmons, Fultz, Embiid and Saric as well as taking some of the focus and stress off of those guys as they develop.
The other part of Lebron leaving Cleveland is that the owner, Dan Gilbert, is not a favorite of Lebron nor his wife. The guy wants to be the star and instead of building a trusted group to lead the team, he wants to be the hands-on guy that thinks he knows more than anyone else. He shreds GM’s on a regular basis and has resorted back to his old ways of when Lebron was there the first time and had to handle the whole load as the team wasn’t very good around him. Despite the most recent trade deadline deals that brought in younger and better players, he’s still trying to run the franchise instead of trusting it to good basketball people. When teams in the West are trying to grab a few top tier players in order to tangle with the Warriors, he’s making sure that his GM and arguably one of the best point guards in the league are both gone from the team. To see the way that Lebron and Kyrie have interacted during the season and at the All-Star game, it’s hard to believe that the Cavs HAD to get rid of Irving and that Isaiah Thomas was an upgrade.
All of the signs are there pointing to Lebron leaving the Cavs for a second time. Even if Lebron has stated that he doesn’t have anything more to prove to the league or the fans, he’s still a competitor and wants to win. He’s not going to want to play out the final five or six years on a mid-level squad that doesn’t have a chance ot win titles. Staying in the East and heading to Philly would be a smart move and would put him in the Finals race for at least the next four to five years. We’ll all have to wait and see, but there’s no reason to think that Philly doesn’t stand a chance at getting James this offseason nor do I think that it’s not the best situation for him to end is career in. As a side note, remember that when Lebron went to Miami he wore #6 because of his love for Dr. J. The stars might be aligning and the only hard part is whether Jerry Colangelo can see it or if he messes this up too.
Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports