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Can the Sixers win a title in the "New NBA"?


Let’s get this out of the way right off the bat: LeBron James was NEVER joining the Philadelphia 76ers.

Granted, even if James was choosing between our hometown squad, the Lakers, or even a return to the Cavaliers as his NBA career winds down, there was no way Magic Johnson was going to let “King” James walk out of any meeting that didn't culminate with LeBron agreeing to wear the purple and gold in the fall. The Sixers’ “meeting” with James’ reps was nothing more than a formality, if you even want to call it that. Frankly, the team should be quite insulted that they even wasted their time with LeBron’s management team, but then again, it seems that anything associated with LeBron James always has a twinge of drama attached to it that leaves people rather annoyed after the fact.photo: clutchpoints.com

There’s several things you can take away from James’ decision. For starters, if he really was interested in winning another championship, the Sixers would have been the obvious choice. Were Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons not talented enough for him? No way that’s accurate. LeBron James most likely choose Los Angeles to eventually become the proverbial King of Hollywood (which will be readily nurtured by Johnson). It certainly wasn’t because of championship aspirations—furthermore proving that he should never be compared to Michael Jordan again. Could you ever imagine Jordan not making championships his first priority while in his prime? That’s laughable. What’s even more laughable are the people declaring James the greatest Laker of all time.

Despite James’ arrival in L.A., is anybody convinced that the recent additions of JaVale McGee, Lance Stephenson and Rajon Rondo will get that team to the next level? Maybe there’s more moves to be made, but even if the Lakers manage to acquire Kawhi Leonard (and let’s be honest, they probably will sooner or later), they are still not good enough to beat the Golden State Warriors, who surprisingly, added DeMarcus Cousins on a 1-year, $5.3 million deal. Cousins allegedly received no offers from an NBA team, so this is a steal for the Golden State. In today’s NBA, the rich get richer, or it’s a major recruiting party and the Sixers weren't invited. Barring a major playoff upset, nothing (not even a key injury to one of their players) and nobody, and I mean, NOBODY is going to beat the Warriors in the foreseeable future. This is a double-edged sword for title-starved Sixers fans.


In fact, almost none of the transactions currently taking place in the Western Conference bode well for the Sixers in any shape or form. In the present, or in the future.

Photo: hoopshabit.com

With Embiid and Simmons, the team has two legitimate franchise cornerstones you can build around if both remain healthy. Whether or not you thought LeBron James was a fit for the Sixers, it’s no longer a concern. With Paul George returning to Oklahoma City, and Leonard already a tremendous gamble for several reasons (San Antonio reportedly wants three draft picks and two players), what was projected to be a potentially promising off-season could be a tremendously unfulfilling one for the team and their fanbase.

Despite resigning J.J. Redick, the Sixers have already lost Marco Belinelli (Spurs) and Ersan Ilyasova (Bucks) to free agency, leaving the bench razor thin. Are free agents Tyreke Evans and Jabari Parker the missing pieces needed to take down the almighty Celtics come playoff time? Not a chance. You can try and convince yourself that the Sixers hung in there against Boston last May as much as you’d like, but you’re only kidding yourselves. The way the team is currently assembled, they won’t get past Boston, let alone meet their demise in the NBA Finals. Worst case scenario is that the Sixers land a free agent next summer, but whose to say the same scenario won't repeat itself? If this pattern continues, you might see some of the team’s own players (ie: Simmons and Embiid) head out West in the near future. Despite all the good will bestowed upon the Sixers the last several years, that will quickly be forgotten, and it’s not out of the realm of possibility to wonder if the franchise could ever truly recover from yet another setback.

The NBA wants the Lakers to be so relevant again they can taste it. Furthermore, ESPN was campaigning so badly for James to join the Lakers that it was literally nauseating. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, who clearly is not a Sixers fan, was probably suffering from night terrors at the sheer thought of LeBron James playing in South Philly. Moreover, he clearly has no problem with the clear lack of parity in the NBA. If he did, he wouldn't have approved of the Cousins deal.

In the end, they got their wish. The Sixers basically lost LeBron James (and possibly Leonard) because, simply put, they aren’t in Los Angeles. As of now, the talent on the Sixers roster seems to have mattered very little to NBA free agents, and that’s a genuine concern moving forward. Vegas has taken notice as well, with the Sixers squad now a distant fifth (14/1) among odds makers to win the NBA Finals. Who are the other teams? Golden State (10/11), the Lakers and Celtics (7/2), and Houston Rockets (7/1).

Remember when the NBA vetoed Chris Paul’s trade to the Lakers in 2011 due to competitive balance issues?

My how things have changed.

Contact Joe Vallee at jvallee@philly2philly.com 


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LeBron photo: clutchpoints.com

Cousins photo: hoopshabit.com