LeBron James signs with Lakers, Sixers need to continue push for Kawhi Leonard

LeBron James signs with Los Angeles Lakers

Free agents are now allowed to speak with teams. Free agency opened up this morning at 12:01 am and the 76ers already received the news that Paul George is staying in Oklahoma City. Both LeBron James and George opted out of their respective deals well before the June 29th deadline. After a second round elimination to the Boston Celtics, the Sixers made it clear that they want to sign a star free agent this summer.

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Retracing the Decision 3.0

At the beginning of the day the 76ers, Los Angeles Lakers and Cleveland Cavaliers were the front runners of landing the four-time MVP. ESPN’s Dave McMenamin reported earlier this morning that LBJ spoke with general manager Koby Altman at 12:01 am.

The fact that the three-time Finals MVP spoke with Cleveland first seemed to be a good sign for Sixers fans. Similar to his departure in 2010, King James left because of the tight salary cap. In addition to a tight salary cap, star players struggled with the concept of moving to Ohio.

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With the 8th pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, the Cavs selected Collin Sexton. Sexton averaged 19.2 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 3.6 assists per game last season. The 19-year-old guard is a solid combo guard who is ready to play right away.

However, his pitch for the King to stay and his skills alone was not enough to sway the King to stay. As the opening hours of free agency continued to pass ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that James’ agent Rich Paul and Sixers management will meet today in Los Angeles.

What about the Sixers meeting with Rich Paul

Entering into free agency the 76ers plan was to sign LBJ. Signing the king would be an instant boost for the franchise. NBA analyst, critics, and fans believed that adding the three-time Champion would guarantee a finals appearance for the Sixers.

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However, Klutch Sports Group submitted a press release which announced that the King is taking his talents to Los Angeles. Over the last few weeks, analysts and reporters believed that the 33-year-old could end up in LA if another big name signed as well.

If James would have signed with Philly he would have helped improve an already stingy Sixers defense, which finished 11th in OPG. Any team who adds the Cleveland native to their roster will instantly improve. But this signing could have negatively affected their rookie of the year in Ben Simmons.

Yes, James could have played off of the ball, but what would that have looked like. Since LBJ was drafted in 2003 he has always been the primary ball handler on his team. When the 76ers drafted Simmons in 2016, the team made it clear that he would be the primary ball handler.

How would the two have co-existed on the court when they both require the ball? A Sixers team that featured James, Simmons and Joel Embiid would have been deadly. But where would the shooting come from?

Today Ersan Ilyasova and Marco Belinelli signed with different teams. Also, don’t forget that the team has yet to re-sign or speak with J.J. Redick.

Reinventing the Lakeshow

Lakers President of Basketball Operations Magic Johnson has come up big with the signing of LBJ. Johnson was able to use his clout to bring in a big name free agent on opening day. James will be joining a Lakers core that includes Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram and possibly Julis Randle.

This is a huge win for Los Angeles because they were able to use their cap space and avoid trading away any major pieces. With this signing, the team will receive a leader, ball handler, and veteran presence.

Ultimately, this is a huge step for the Lakers, but there is still more work to be done. Within the hour of signing James, the team signed Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to a second one-year deal, per ESPN’s Chris Haynes. At the end of the 2017-18 season, the Lakers finished with a 35-47 record. The team finished 11th in the league in PPG and 25th in OPG.

Kawhi Leonard to Philadelphia

Around noon today, New York Times’ reporter Marc Stein reported that the 76ers believe that they can acquire Kawhi Leonard in a trade. Philadelphia wanted to acquire Leonard to bolster the team and use him as an incentive for James to sign as well. The team believed that they could get Leonard to sign long-term after the 2018-19 season.

Leonard like George is a perfect fit for the Sixers. The 6-foot-7 forward can add perimeter shooting and defense. He can also help Simmons by playing off the ball, finding the open spot on the floor and creating his own offense. Unlike James, the 2011 draft pick struggles with ball handling and passing. However, he is the best two-way player when healthy.

For a majority of the season, he suffered from a nagging quad injury. The two-time Defensive Player of The Year was cleared to return by team doctors but sought out a second opinion. Unfortunately, the 27-year-old only played nine games this season.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the 76ers will not include Markelle Fultz, Embiid, and Simmons in any trades in order to acquire Leonard. It’s almost certain that James announcement isn’t sitting right with Embiid who may have subtweeted the King earlier in the week.

What free agents should the Sixers sign if James signs with another team?

Featured photo; Curt Johnson via Flickr.
All stats for this story are from (stats.nba.com)