Sixers Named as Better LeBron James Landing Spot than Lakers in 2018

LeBron, Embiid

Getty LeBron James #6 of the Los Angeles Lakers reacts after scoring during the second quarter against the Philadelphia 76ers at Wells Fargo Center on December 09, 2022 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

There has been plenty of talk regarding the future of LeBron James of late. The Lakers superstar has had some eyebrow-raising quotes of late surrounding his commitment to Los Angeles. This led Yossi Gozlan of HoopsHype to revisit James’ 2018 decision to take his talents to the West Coast and evaluate his other options at the time. It is often overlooked how the Philadelphia 76ers were a team on James’ radar and Gozlan has an optimistic view of what could have been. As was written:

“A lineup featuring James, Embiid, Simmons, and potentially Butler would’ve been stacked and dominant on defense. Potential fit issues could’ve led to tinkering down the road with the overall lack of shooting, especially with James and Simmons having many overlapping qualities. Thankfully they would’ve had enough flexibility to shape the roster around James and Embiid to make the best team possible. There’s a good chance they could’ve won a championship by now and remain an elite team in the Eastern Conference today,” per Yossi Gozlan of HoopsHype.

What could have been…

The Direction the Sixes Went

You have to turn back the clock before several franchise-altering events to think about what could have been. James’ arrival would have been before the trades for Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris. The franchise was just shifting into win-now mode following years of rebuilding. The Sixers were coming off their first winning season in 12 years as they had a 52-30 record with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons’ first season on the court together as James was being courted for his future destination.

There was a strong connection between James and Simmons at the time as they share the same agent, Rich Paul of Klutch Sports, and the then 21-year-old was being hailed as “the next LeBron.” Philadelphia was slightly short on a full max spot to offer, but that could have navigated this with a salary dump trade if James’ desired to come to Philadelphia. They were loaded with assets due to their collection of young players that were eventually traded for Butler and Harris which could have been used to complete the roster.

Is Door Shut on James to Philly?

James inked a two-year extension with the Lakers before the season as evidence of his faith in the organization. However, things have gone about as badly as possible so far this season. The franchise holds a record of 14-21 and sits as the 13th seed in the Western Conference. Anthony Davis is out for an extended period and even when fully healthy the roster lacks the proper shooting ability and overall balance.

Some have speculated he could desire a change of scenery despite the new deal. While he is ineligible to be traded this season, if James seeks a trade next year he likely will get one. The precedent has been set in the NBA by players with far less influence than the 18-time All-Star and Los Angeles could view this as a chance to improve their future outlook. All indications have pointed to the Sixers being all-in on making the Embiid and James Harden duo work. However, Harden is expected to opt-out of his player option following the season, and recent whispers point toward a potential Houston reunion.

While Harden’s intentions seem to be on continuing to compete for a championship and this could be nothing more than a leverage play, their cap space would be eased in a major way. Several things would have to fall into place, led by James’ desire to play with Embiid, but the chances of the Sixers trying to land the future Hall-of-Famer are not zero.

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For the time being the focus will be on making the most of the team that is currently assembled. The Sixers have won eight of their last 10 games, flashed signs of the Harden/Embiid duo clicking, and Tyrese Maxey is returning from injury. All of their goals are still on the table and the conclusion of the season will have a major impact on the future of the franchise. They cannot right the wrongs of their past, but the future of the Philadelphia 76ers is still unwritten.

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