Reportedly, LeBron James will be selecting between four teams this summer: Cavaliers, Lakers, Rockets, and 76ers. Naturally, after his decision, there will be times the other three options look greener, but passing on one destination could haunt him with regret for the rest of his career: The Philadelphia 76ers.
LeBron became a witness last night to how dominant this 76ers team can be, and that was without Joel Embiid who is well on his way to becoming the best center in the last decade. If seeding in the East stays the same, the conference finals may very well go through Philadelphia.
Here is the scary part. The 76ers are so young, so talented, and only getting better. They have a chance to own the East for years to come. But what if they get LeBron? Or, more importantly, what if they don’t get LeBron?
The smart money would be on LeBron staying in Cleveland or going to the Lakers (where he has been rumored to go now for almost a year — still no denial) but this creates the problem.
The prevailing wisdom is that, at this point in his career, LeBron’s top priority is winning championships. If so, turning down the 76ers may force him to second-guess himself into paranoia.
Think about it. If he doesn’t choose Cleveland, he will watch them fall back to irrelevance by January. If he doesn’t choose Los Angeles, he will watch the young team grow with no real chance to compete for a championship and can still spend his summers there. Houston does not make sense as of now due to the fit and salary cap situation.
But if he doesn’t choose Philadelphia, he could be watching them defeat him annually, run the East, compete for championships. He could be constantly wondering if they could have been a dynasty with his presence.
If LeBron’s choice is not the 76ers, it could turn into a star actor turning down the lead role in the next Star Wars series. He will always be thinking “what if?”
Philadelphia’s cap situation would allow the addition of LeBron without losing any major pieces. A potential lineup of LeBron, Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Robert Covington, and either JJ Redick or Markelle Fultz is serious business and would provide nightmarish length and athleticism for competition.
For the first time in, well, forever, LeBron would have the least amount of responsibly as he would not need to constantly be on the court to make the team run efficiently. LeBron has played with several All-Stars in his career, but he has never had a center at his disposal like Embiid, or someone like Simmons who he can pass the torch to within three years (beyond Kyrie Irving).
Simmons is a rookie and is already one of the most impactful players in the NBA. If he can develop a better jump shot and three-point game, this could be an all-time talent. Simmons’ play has already resulted in Julius Erving awarding him the highest of praise:
“Once-in-a-decade, maybe once-in-a-lifetime-type player,” Erving said. “He’s able to make everybody better immediately each and every time down the floor; guys are spotting up or looking to cut or keying off of triggers that come out of his handling skills.”
Technically, LeBron could wait and join the 76ers next year, or the year after, but by then, they may becoming off a Finals berth. Does he really want that pressure and scrutiny late in his career? It has gotten to him before.
Some choices in life are safe (staying in Cleveland), some make a lot of sense (Los Angeles), and others need to be risked (Philadelphia).
If not chosen, it will be the latter that has LeBron James looking over his shoulder for the remainder of his career.