I haven’t written much about NBA free agency, mainly because I think it just devolves into a nothingness of theoretical trades and overreaction to every Woj bomb. Will LeBron James opt out? Was Kawhi’s agent seen at Wawa? Did Paul George tour Methacton High School? A friend of a friend who knows a guy in Hammonton says blah blah BLAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHH.
But the more I think about it, the less interest I have in LeBron coming to Philly. It’s not for basketball reasons though, and I find it strange that Brian Windhorst seems to think he wouldn’t be a “match” for the Sixers:
Windhorst: “I don’t see the basketball match for LeBron & Philadelphia.”
— Ry (@JustRyCole) June 29, 2018
He wouldn’t see the “basketball match” for LeBron in Philadelphia? Is he blind? James can play with anybody on any team, and he can especially play on an up-tempo, pass-happy club featuring the reigning Rookie of the Year and a 24-year-old center who can stretch and shoot and sling it out of the post when he wants to. If anything, I’d think LeBron would enjoying playing in more of an off-ball role, instead of handling the rock almost exclusively in a slower point-forward setup surrounded by the likes of Kevin Love, George Hill, and Kyle Korver. Watching LeBron run the floor with Ben Simmons and company would be phenomenal, and the defensive pressure would be taken off of him by the likes of Robert Covington and Joel Embiid, one guy who finished second in the DPOY race and another who got votes.
Maybe the family thing is the issue with Philly, for sure. There are no ties to the region, not like Cleveland. And sunny southern California is an easier sell than cold and crappy Philadelphia, so I could understand if the fam wasn’t too excited to come here. Those things matter more to LeBron now than they did 10 years ago, I would assume.
Thing is, my issue with LeBron coming to Philly is that it sort of shortens the window of expectations. LeBron is 33, and he would be coming here presumably on a 1+1 deal, so instead of evolving through the post-process era into something tangible and steady, you’re basically abandoning that to go all-out for an NBA title. Question is, does LeBron/Simmons/Embiid/whoever else beat the Warriors? I honestly don’t think it does. You might say the better strategy would be to let the Dubs lapse and allow the cyclical nature of the NBA to bring another team to the forefront, then take your shot. The risk there, of course, would be fan impatience and the perceived wasting of Embiid and Simmons’ early twenties. Will they be the same players 2 or 3 years from now? Nobody can say for sure.
So I think I’m with Spike Eskin on that front, the idea that the addition of LeBron creates a “win now” culture that lends itself to risky auxiliary moves that defer to James and the immediate future without necessarily considering what happens if he jumps ship after the Sixers burn out in 7 games vs the Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals. If LeBron doesn’t like playing with Dario Saric and asks for you to trade him for some schlub instead, do you do it? Then, when LeBron leaves and you’re stuck with the schlub, how do you proceed? Cleveland is looking at that scenario as we speak.
In my mind, it’s up to you, the fan, to determine what you want here. LeBron James gives you the best chance of success, puts the team in the national spotlight, and creates a whole hell of a lot of excitement at the Wells Fargo Center. But you’re also living under the constant spectre of “win now, or else,” with LeBron always a threat to walk away, a guy with a rapidly decreasing NBA life span as he gets set to turn 34 in December. Theoretically, would one title with LeBron be worth the ride if the Sixers then turned to shit like Ruben Amaro Jr.’s Phillies?
Or, do you trust in Markelle Fultz to turn it around? Does Zhaire Smith become a player? Does JJ Redick come back on 3 years at 15 million per and continue to play at a high level on a more experienced starting squad that still features Dario Saric and Robert Covington?
I’m somewhere in the middle. I don’t know if just adding LeBron beats the Warriors next year. Adding Kawhi AND LeBron does, but I don’t see that happening, do you? You’re sort of in this purgatory where you know that the modern day NBA is about assembling super teams and going for broke, but you don’t want to take the plunge until the time is absolutely right. Is the time right for the Sixers? Or do we tell Goldilocks to just fucking relax until the porridge is ready?
I guess what I’m saying is that if the Sixers totally whiff this summer, that I wouldn’t be too worried about it. You’re still returning an excellent young core, a duo that could turn into a trio depending on what Drew Hanlen does with Markelle Fultz. Then you take a look at 2019 free agents, keep an eye on somebody like Kemba Walker or one of the interesting RFAs and see where you’re at with your existing roster.
LeBron to the Lakers: He had to form a super team.
LeBron to Houston: He had to join a super team.
LeBron to Philly: He’s scared of the west.
LeBron stays in Cleveland: He doesn’t care about winning.
You can’t win @KingJames, so just go where makes you happiest.
— Raj Sharan (@Raj_Sharan) June 29, 2018