LeBron James has many options this offseason. Which team he decides to join will change the fate of the entire NBA, and for good reason. James will turn 34 during the season, so this could possibly be his last chance to sign a contract and be the top player on a championship contender.
He hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down so far, but father time is undefeated. James has to do everything in his power to join or create a team that can beat the four-headed monster of the Golden State Warriors. The best chance for him to do that is in Philadelphia.
But James doesn’t sign with the 76ers to win with Markelle Fultz, Ben Simmons, Dario Saric, and others. No, he does exactly what he did when he returned to Cleveland in 2014, except this time, he does it even better.
Philly has arguably the best young core in the game, with Markelle Fultz, Dario Saric, Joel Embiid, and Ben Simmons. However, the signing of James would completely shift their timetable. Instead of building a team to dominate in the future, the 76ers would be built to win now. And that would lead to quite a few changes.
James tells Philly management that he wants a point guard who can score. He doesn’t have time to wait for Fultz to fully recover from his injury, get his shooting form back in line, and adjust to the speed of the NBA. So the 76ers begin looking for a veteran point guard.
James also says that his playing style will not mesh well with Simmons’. Simmons is an incredibly talented player, whose athletic and physical traits mirror much of James’, but his shooting ability and off-ball play are far behind James’. Simmons is the type of player that a franchise can build around, but now, the team that builds around Simmons won’t be the 76ers.
Stretch 4 Dario Saric and imposing center Joel Embiid are the players that James highlights he is excited to play with. Saric will play the role that Kevin Love did in Cleveland, and Embiid will continue to do what he does best; dominate smaller players in the post and protect the rim.
As far as the bench goes, Philadelphia has some solid pieces. T.J. McConnell is one of the better backup point guards in the league. Justin Anderson is a solid young scorer. Veteran Jerryd Bayless is a dependable scoring option, although he could end up being involved in a trade. Robert Covington is one of the best reserve wings in the NBA, and would be a starter on most teams.
Philly also has some valuable draft picks. They own the 26th overall pick and the 1oth selection this year by way of the Los Angeles Lakers. The 76ers also possess the Sacramento Kings’ 2019 first-rounder, which could very well end up as another lottery pick.
It’s clear that Philadelphia has the assets to add some legitimate players to the roster, and that’s exactly what they do after signing James.
In one of the biggest trades of the century, the 76ers immediately strike fear into the hearts of the Warriors.
Charlotte Hornets receive: Markelle Fultz, Robert Covington, 10th overall pick
Philadelphia 76ers receive: Kemba Walker, Kawhi Leonard, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
San Antonio Spurs receive: Ben Simmons, Jerryd Bayless
An absolutely ridiculous trade? Yes, but only for the 76ers. Are they comfortable with giving up two #1 overall picks? Probably not, but if they win a championship, it’s all worth it. Also note that they were able to keep Sacramento’s 2019 1st, so they can still add a young stud next year.
Walker gives the 76ers a great scorer at point guard who is also a capable passer. His defense isn’t great but it’s not nearly as bad as some of the other guards in the league. Leonard is the second-best wing in the NBA after James and is as perfect a counter to Kevin Durant as there is. His exceptional defense and great scoring will be crucial in the Finals. Kidd-Gilchrist is not a player you want shooting the ball, but against Golden State, you need all the wing defenders you can get, and MKG is one of the best.
The Hornets make this trade because they are looking to the future, and Markelle Fultz and Malik Monk make a very nice core to build a team with.
The Spurs accept because Leonard expresses his desire to be traded, and Simmons has arguably the most potential at this point of any player in the league, and the Spurs have the NBA’s best player development. It’s scary to think how good Simmons could become under the tutelage of Gregg Popovich.
The 76ers new starting lineup looks like this: Kemba Walker, Kawhi Leonard, LeBron James, Dario Saric, Joel Embiid. They lack a true shooting guard, but that’s not a problem when you replace the position with Kawhi Leonard. Off the bench, they have McConnell, Anderson, and Kidd-Gilchrist. In free agency, James is able to convince J.J. Redick to take a massive pay cut in order to have a great shot at winning a ring.
Brook Lopez also signs for a large discount in order to chase a ring, and suddenly, the team has gone from young and spooky to downright horrifying. It’s impossible for any team to slow down all five starters, and the defense of the team is also fantastic. This squad should easily win the Eastern Conference even against a great Celtics team.
The series against the Golden State Warriors would be one of the greatest NBA Finals of all time, but James comes out on top. Embiid is a matchup nightmare, as the Warriors have no one who can rival him physically, and his respectable three-point shot will keep the floor spaced for the 76ers’ endless array of slashers. Add to that the great catch-and-shoot ability of Redick, Walker, Leonard, and Saric, and the Warriors are in big trouble.
Golden State has been able to beat teams on talent alone from their guards and wings, but suddenly they meet a time that is even more stacked on the wing.
Is this a realistic scenario? Probably not, but neither was LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh playing on the same time. Or James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love. Or Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson, and Kevin Durant.
This may be the craziest flurry of acquisitions of all time, but similar things have happened.