The folks at SBNation NBA reached out to Liberty Ballers with a question for a league-wide story: what can the Sixers do in the offseason to make fans over-the-top happy? And what can the Sixers do that would make fans very, very mad?
When it comes to potential Sixers transactions, there’s some polarity within the fanbase. And so, approaching this topic through a utilitarian point-of-view, the one move that would make fans ecstatic would be to acquire LeBron James as a free agent.
In the 2017-2018 season, the Sixers demonstrated their ability to compete in the Eastern Conference. Until, of course, they ran into the Boston Celtics. Depth was lacking for the Sixers in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, with the main issue being an absence of two-way players. Players like JJ Redick and Marco Belinelli were exposed defensively; Robert Covington’s poor shooting performance held the offense back. Considering the Sixers need for two-way contributors, the Sixers not only acquire the best player on the planet, but they also fill a need in welcoming the King’s services.
Now, LeBron James’ skill set fills a need on just about every team in the NBA. But with the Sixers specifically, James provides the team a player outside of Joel Embiid that can create their own shot. And on the opposite end of the floor, a lineup of say, Ben Simmons, Markelle Fultz (who, despite shooting struggles, showed flashes defensively), Robert Covington, LeBron James and Joel Embiid would likely be an intimidating force that ranks within the elite.
There are concerns about fit when LeBron James and Ben Simmons are sharing the court. Both players are often ball-dominant. That could be a problem for Ben Simmons, who struggles to be effective off the ball. But there is an underlying benefit in the apparent redundancy of the two players’ skill sets. Taking some the initiating responsibility out of Ben Simmons’ hands and forcing him to find ways to contribute without the ball is to the advantage of Ben’s (and the team’s) development, even if Ben currently struggles when off-ball. If Ben can progressively become comfortable off the ball deferring to LBJ, it paves the way for a smooth transition to a Fultz/Simmons backcourt.
On the flip side, there are a number of free agents that, if signed, would make Sixers fans angry. But rather than targeting a single player, the anger spewing on the web from Sixers fans would be due to a circumstance in which the team offers long term dollars in an overpay to a marginal player — or really, to anyone who isn’t an All-Star level player. It would have to be a real bargain to commit multiple years (3 or 4) to players not named LeBron James or Paul George. The Sixers just have too much potential and too much financial flexibility to jeopardize both by committing 4 years to someone who may add 1 or 2 extra regular season wins, but won’t help the Sixers overcome the Celtics, Warriors, Rockets, etc. in the playoffs. Even the fans opposed to adding a player like LBJ or Paul George would likely prefer a minor move be made using a 1-year deal.
Ultimately, the Sixers will succeed in helping fans achieve their wildest dreams if the organization is able to lure LeBron James to South Philadelphia. Fans maintain a rational fluctuation between pessimism and optimism though, and will be irate only if the team commits future finances to marginal talent.