LeBron to Philly – Even if you beat them, join them.
He may have narrowed down his free agent options to four teams, but there should only be one destination on LeBron’s radar.
The Cavs and Sixers clashed in a thriller two Fridays back. LeBron and Ben Simmons both put on a show, posting a triple-double a piece. However, it was Simmons and the crew who took the W 132-130, after almost blowing a 30-point lead. Joel Embiid remains out with a facial fracture, but that hasn’t stopped Philly continuing the rack up wins. The Sixers run finally ended at 17 wins, including their game 1 win over the Miami Heat. The Sixers enjoyed their longest winning streak since the title-winning team of the 1982-3 season and has won 50 games for the first time since Iverson and company in 2001.
The playoffs have arrived, and many now tip Philly and the Cavs to meet again, this time in the Eastern Conference Finals. The way that the team has come together over the last two months (21-3 since the start of March), there’s no reason Philly can’t make the Conference Finals, especially with Embiid set to return during the series with the Heat. LeBron may have a tough task ahead of him to get his team deep into the playoffs, but this isn’t new territory for him. But this isn’t the topic at hand. The real issue is that even if the Cavaliers defeat the Sixers to get back to the NBA Finals, LeBron should make his way to Philly this offseason, because it’s the last team he’ll ever need to play for.
A final move?
The Sixers have the cap space to sign him to a max contract so that’s no issue. If they can get Reddick to agree to take a pay cut that’s more fitting to his market value, say a two-year deal worth $24 million, then they can bring him back, before signing Embiid to the extension that’s reportedly been agreed since October. With Ilyasova and Belinelli back on vet minimums, the talent that LeBron could be spoilt with from next season would cause teams some serious problems.
But why would Philly be the last team LeBron needs to go to? Simple. If he were to sign a 3-year deal with the Sixers with a player option after his second season, these are the players who would be signed for the duration of his deal: Simmons, Embiid, Covington, Saric, and Fultz. He could rest easy knowing the nucleus of the team would be there for the long run, with plenty of time to build the chemistry needed to bring championships to Philadelphia. It’s scary to think what a 50-win team could do with LeBron James added to the lineup, especially in the East. Not only that, but Philly is exceptionally balanced as a unit, as they’re in the top ten in the league in points and assists per game, number one in rebounds and number one in opponent’s FG%. They move the ball, play tough defense, and are well coached by Brett Brown, a protégé of Gregg Popovich.
Cementing his legacy?
Now for argument’s sake, if the Philly project works out, they’ll be a sure bet to make three NBA Finals’ appearances in the years following LeBron’s signature, and potentially win multiple championships. LeBron wants to stay competitive, and get paid, but once this would-be deal is over, the Sixers would have to turn their focus to signing Simmons to the max deal he would have earned, barring injury, and Dario Saric. At age 36, however, and with an organization that can keep him competitive, would LeBron be more open to taking the “Tim Duncan discount”?
In the last years of his career, Tim Duncan took little to no money to keep the Spurs competitive, knowing San Antonio would do what it takes to get him a championship team. Now LeBron will never take $5 million a year, but a 36-year-old James taking a cut, so his fellow Klutch Sports star in Simmons and Dario Saric get paid? Not an impossibility, especially after what will then be six years of max money.
With the remaining years of his career, LeBron could enjoy the primes of both Simmons and Embiid, not necessarily as the best player on his team anymore, but still with a chance to win many more titles. If catching or surpassing MJ’s six rings is truly a goal of his, then Philly is the only destination which ensures he can compete for the ultimate prize for years to come. As special an athlete as he is, it’s hard to imagine that he’ll be able to carry the load for a team for much longer. The East isn’t getting any easier, and eventually, they will be a formidable challenge to LeBron. Time for him to go on the offensive, and play for a team that can play good basketball without him, not a train wreck he must transform.
Money, rings, and legacy. That’s what Philly can provide. The other teams he’s considering can dabble in these partly, but the Sixers hold the most cards.
Complete the process, LeBron, complete the process.