The Philadelphia 76ers got their reality check last week in the Eastern Conference semifinals, but is it realistic that they can actually land LeBron James this summer?
According to philly.com’s Keith Pompey, the Sixers are “prepared to do whatever it takes” to acquire the King.
And James won’t be the Sixers’ only target. Pompey reported that the team is also interested in pursuing free agent Paul George and trading for the San Antonio Spurs’ Kawhi Leonard.
The Sixers can’t publicly say so until July 1, but it doesn’t take an engineering degree to realize the team is prepared to do whatever it takes to sign James, a four-time league MVP. Oklahoma City small forward Paul George is another free agent the Sixers have interest in, according to folks around the league. He would be a great fit because of his ability to shoot the ball and defend.
Don’t be surprised if they also try to acquire San Antonio Spurs small forward Kawhi Leonard in a trade. Sources have said the Sixers have expressed interest in the two-time all-star. While he is eligible for a five-year, $219-million “super-max” extension with the Spurs this summer, there are reports that Leonard wants out after staying away from the team for most of the season with a quad injury. He played in only nine games.
Leonard has a great relationship with Sixers coach Brett Brown. However, trading for him would be risky without first getting a guarantee that he’ll agree to a contract extension. Leonard is set to become a free agent on July 1, 2019.
Pompey’s report comes on the heels of Sixers head coach Brett Brown’s exit interview Friday when he bluntly stated that they need to add a “high-level free agent.”
“I think a high-level free agent is required. I feel like we have the ability to attract one.”
It’s not like this hasn’t been brought up before. ESPN’s Brian Windhorst spiced up a scenario where the Sixers could sign James and trade for Leonard while on the set of SportsNation in April.
“I could construct you a way where [the Sixers] could trade for Kawhi Leonard and sign LeBron James.” pic.twitter.com/dQOXYaNoKG
— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) April 16, 2018
It’s no secret that Philadelphia’s showdown against Boston in the conference semis will be the first of many over the next decade or so. The Sixers had an extremely difficult time matching up with gifted and athletic wings Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Celtics head coach Brad Stevens used the switching Brown defense against him and forced mismatches, leading to Tatum and Brown making swiss cheese out of J.J. Redick and Marco Belinelli. Redick and Belinelli are able to space the floor, but defense is a weakness.
Defense for Leonard and George, however, are strengths. And they can also shoot the ball from deep. Obviously James isn’t known for his shooting prowess, but he can still defend and is the best player in the freaking world.
Brown also discussed if acquiring a ball-dominant player would mesh with point guard Ben Simmons.
“If this player you are describing was great, we’d figure it out. Truly. Truly. We’d figure stuff out. It’s as honest and as simple as I can answer that.”
The Sixers have about $30 million in salary cap space at the moment, with James projected to make at least $35 million next year. The Athletic’s Derek Bodner tweeted out a scenario that would give Philly $32.5 million in cap space. It is one of the few teams in the NBA that can sign LeBron without have to surrender one of its foundational pieces.
Updated salary cap projections.
– Embiid doesn't get 1st team All-NBA or MVP
– Lakers pick slots in at 10th
– Stretch Jerryd Bayless
– Decline Holmes' option
Gives #sixers $32.5 million in space. Would be easy to get to $35.35m for 35% max. Can get 30% max from jump
— Derek Bodner (@DerekBodnerNBA) May 13, 2018
Where the Sixers would have to surrender a core piece is in a potential swap for Leonard. The popular proposal that’s been laid out is one that includes Markelle Fultz, the Lakers’ pick depending on what happens during Tuesday’s NBA Draft Lottery and Dario Saric or Robert Covington. With Leonard set to be a free agent next summer, an extension would also have to be in place for a potential deal to materialize.
A tandem of James and Leonard to join the blossoming stars Joel Embiid and Simmons? That’s one devastating quartet.
And one that may bring multiple parades down Broad Street.
Complete the process.