- If LeBron James can’t organise a superteam in Los Angeles and doesn’t want to stay with the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Philadelphia 76ers might be his best option in free agency.
- There have been concerns about James’ fit with players like Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, but they may be the most talented teammates James can find this offseason.
- Joining the 76ers would allow James to contend immediately while avoiding the Western Conference and facing the Golden State Warriors earlier in the playoffs.
LeBron James is drawing closer to a free-agency decision in which it appears there isn’t a perfect fit for him in the NBA.
James is expected to decline his player option to hit the market, where he’ll have to make a tough choice in finding a team that fits his family and off-court needs but also presents him a path to winning.
As it stands, his best options may be collapsing around him. Reports and rumours have linked James to the Los Angeles Lakers, where he could recruit other star players like Chris Paul, Paul George, or Kawhi Leonard (via trade).
However, recent reports have suggested there may not be much movement among star players. USA Today’s Sam Amick recently reported that Paul is expected to re-sign with the Houston Rockets, that the Oklahoma City Thunder have a strong chance at re-signing George, and that the San Antonio Spurs wouldn’t trade Leonard to a Western Conference team.
If those reports play out, that could suddenly make the Philadelphia 76ers – considered an underdog in the pursuit of James – a more attractive destination.
According to The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor, there has long been speculation in the league about the 76ers adding James and trading for Leonard. They have the avenues to do so – but perhaps most important to James, they might come closest to checking all his boxes.
The 76ers were presumed to be third in the race because James doesn’t have any immediate connections to Philadelphia and there were big questions about roster fit.
The 76ers’ two young stars, Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, don’t precisely fit what works around James. Simmons is 6-foot-10 point-forward who commands the ball and can’t shoot. Embiid is a classic big man who thrives posting and facing up, and though he can space the floor, he’s not the typical big man who has played well next to James. The three players together could work, but it might be awkward.
But if James can’t assemble a superteam in Los Angeles with other free agents or soon-to-be free agents, the 76ers might be his best chance at immediately contending.
The 76ers don’t have the cap space to sign James outright, but by clearing the cap holds for impending free agents like J.J. Redick, Amir Johnson, Ersan Ilyasova, and Marco Belinelli, plus clearing extra salary, they can get there. As O’Connor noted, the Sixers also have the assets to make one of the better offers for Leonard.
Joining the Sixers would present two benefits for James. Not only would he join a young core that helped carry the 76ers to 52 wins last season, but he would also stay in the East. If the goal is to beat the Golden State Warriors, going west would only jeopardize James’ chances of getting to the Finals, as he could run into the Warriors earlier.
ESPN’s Brian Windhorst recently guessed on the podcast “The Lowe Post” that the Sixers may be third in the running to land James, behind the Cavs and the Lakers.
But if James is eager to leave Cleveland and can’t assemble a team capable of competing with the Warriors in LA, staying in the East and joining a team already close to contention might be his best bet, even if it’s not the perfect fit.
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