Photo: Slam Magazine
I think the fact that I just typed that headline shows how far the 76ers franchise has come since LeBron James last switched teams in free agency. The last time that happened the Sixers were busy wrapping up the Orlando Summer League title on NBA TV. I couldn’t care less that James was “Coming Home” when Hollis Thompson was dropping 21 points on the Memphis Grizzlies as well as recording 4 steals, three of which were in the game and one was my heart.
Anyways, this past Monday, LeBron’s Cavaliers came into Philadelphia to face the young tandem of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons for the first time this season. He spoke very highly of Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, and even Carson Wentz before trouncing the young Sixers 113-91. Then two days later, Jeff Zillgit reports that the Sixers plan on making a serious push for LeBron this off-season.
The best player in the world, having arguably his best season ever coming to Philadelphia next year would be unbelievable. For the first time since 2001, the Sixers would be in the NBA Finals. This would also be early enough in the careers of Embiid, Simmons, and Markelle Fultz that they would just be hitting their primes by the time LeBron would start declining, so they aren’t mortgaging their future to win now. If anything, they would just be prolonging their window of opportunity to win a championship and would be getting valuable playoff and championship experience. I also believe that team could beat the Warriors. The one flaw with Golden State is that they struggle against big teams. Just look at the problems Timofey Mozgov caused in the 2015 Finals as well as the first half of game 1 of the Western Conference Finals a season ago. The Spurs went big and were up 20 points before Kawhi went down. ANd the word “big” doesn’t do the size of the Sixers justice. A near 7′ point guard and a 7’2″ center combined with LeBron James would be tough to matchup with. These three also currently rank in the top 15 for points in the paint.
Now, as tough as this will be for the Warriors to match up, they are the most talented team ever assembled and do not think they would lose 4 times in two weeks to that Sixers team. That ultimately is why I think this would not be an advantageous move for LeBron. I think there are three teams that could end up with LeBron and beat Golden State. Those teams are the San Antonio Spurs and the Houston Rockets. For the Spurs, the possibility of Kawhi Leonard and LeBron James on the same team would be incredibly difficult for the Warriors to play against. Leonard can give Durant a lot of trouble while James takes the offensive load off of Leonard. This also will take pressure off of LeBron when it comes to the defensive end as he can afford to take more plays off and save his energy for crunch time. If you remember, James’s stats decreased significantly in the fourth quarter due to fatigue from literally having to play all 48 minutes or his team would get blown off the court. For Houston, you would be upgrading from Chris Paul to LeBron who have similar pass first styles and this Houston team is already a legitimate threat to Golden State.
Although it is certainly a possibility James goes to Philadelphia, I believe his best chance to beat Golden State would be to go out west. Maybe when he is approaching retirement he will hop onto the Sixers roster to try and get one more ring.