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The Lakers are in shambles now. They’re a bad team, period. They’ve won less than 28 percent of their games (91 out of 328) over the past four seasons. On the surface, they make little sense as a home for LeBron. But LeBron is one of the most cerebral athletes in history, on and off the court. If LeBron takes a longview, it’d be easy to see the Lakers’ existing potential. Once you factor in another year of development for their young core, add their draft pick this summer, toss in signing Paul George next summer, then add LeBron, suddenly it’s a roster with a blend of impact players on cheap contracts and veterans ready to win now. A mix of vets and youth is how to build sustainable winners in the NBA.
You should buy stock in George heading to L.A. The vibe I’ve gotten from talking to NBA executives and agents over the past few weeks is that teams aren’t willing to sell the farm for George because of the possibility that he’ll sign with the Lakers is so strong. George is better than both Irving and Love — he’s a rare two-way superstar. He’s also a player whom LeBron respects. If George does indeed go to L.A., the Lakers would have to move their two albatross contracts in Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov in order to also add LeBron. They have picks (the Rockets’ 2017 first-rounder and a couple of extra second-rounders over the next few years) and young assets (Julius Randle) that could be used to sweeten a package deal. They should try to unload those contracts as soon as they can this summer, largely to clear the books, but also to prepare for a splash in 2018.
Now, replace just about everything you read there with the Sixers.
This is only a thought experiment, of course, but if LeBron were looking to go somewhere next summer to build a super team with Paul George and young talent, you can very easily argue that Philly is a better place to do it. Let’s just look at cap space: Currently, the Sixers are dead last in the league with only $8 million committed in salary in 2018-2019, according to HoopsHype.com. That doesn’t include cap holds for Joel Embiid and other options, but the point is that if there is one team that could essentially serve as a blank canvas on which to build a super team, it’s the Sixers.
Imagine, Joel Embiid is healthy this year and proves himself to be the best big man in the league. Ben Simmons wins Rookie of the Year. Lonzo Ball, Josh Jackson or Malik Monk prove to be useful rookies capable of getting heavy rotation minutes on a good team. The Sixers don’t make any major free agent signings this offseason. They would, most likely, have the cap space to max two free agents next summer and retain Joel Embiid. Derek Bodner laid it out in his deep-dive on what signing Kyle Lowry would mean for the Sixers’ cap in 2018-2019. It’s behind a paywall (subscribe here), so I’ll just excerpt a small portion:
In some sense, there’s a part of me that would respect the gumption and guts it would take to try this, if this was, in fact, even the longer-term plan the Sixers have in mind if and when they offer Lowry a contract this summer. Building the bench would be tough, especially as Simmons and Saric come up for new contracts following the 2019-20 season. But if you walk away with a core of Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Kyle Lowry, Jonathan Isaac, and a Paul George level player it may not matter, even as Lowry begins his inevitable decline. I also think there’s some argument to be made that how swift Embiid’s rise to being an impact player should make you, at the very least, re-evaluate your definition of the timeline the Sixers are on.
Now, replace Lowry with LeBron, who will get a similar contract to what Lowry will get this summer (where do we all fit in this world?), and all of a sudden you have a potential super team. Ball, George, James, Simmons, Embiid. Jizz.
This is all speculation, of course, but it is doable. Whether LeBron would want to come to Philly or not is debatable. He does have a relationship with Jerry Colangelo (perhaps not a good one) through USA Basketball. He’s literally Ben Simmons’ mentor. Philly would be the largest media market he’s ever played in, with the biggest and baddest practice facility in the league, and plenty of business opportunities for him. On paper, it makes sense. His reasons for wanting to go to the Lakers would be more vanity and destination than team-building. The Sixers could very well emerge from this season in a much more stable position than the Lakers… and they have their draft pick next year. I’m just saying– it’s hard to read all the Lakers speculation and not think that the Sixers would be an even better option. Even though it will likely never happen. COME AT ME.