A few weeks back the Cavs came to town and rumors naturally began circulating that LeBron might consider Philly as a free agent destination. With the Cavs and Sixers meeting again tonight these rumors continue to be discussed. For years they would have been dismissed as baseless, but for the first time they’re gaining real traction with the national media. A recent USA Today article from Jeff Zillgitt discussed why James should consider Philly, and ever since that possibility has entered mainstream discussion.
To the outside observer (which would be LeBron) the Sixers have the supporting cast that could reasonably help him win a title, and they have the requisite cap space to make that happen without sacrificing that very talent. It may be hard to believe, but because of this, the possibility of LeBron coming to Philly is no longer inconceivable. And it’s hard credit anything but the organizations patience and commitment to The Process for making that a reality.
With fans beginning to realize this possibility they’re hopping aboard the ‘LeBron to Philly’ bandwagon en masse. Just about everyone suggests that LeBron holds the keys to this decision, and he does, but that doesn’t mean Sixers brass and their fans shouldn’t do their due diligence as well.
The incontrovertible truth for the past decade-plus of LeBron’s career is that few teams were good enough – or well-positioned for the future – that they could afford to pass on ‘The King.’ But thanks to the vision of Uncle Sam Hinkie it’s fair to say the Sixers are in a position where they should at least consider it.
The case for LeBron James joining any team isn’t hard to make. With 4 league MVP’s, 3 NBA Championships, 3 Finals MVP’s, and 7 consecutive Finals appearances he more than sells himself.
Bringing LeBron to Philly would elevate this team immediately into Finals contention just as he did when he went to Miami and when he returned to Cleveland. To argue against LeBron to Philly is to argue against being in NBA Finals for the next 2 or 3 seasons.
No matter how many ways you spin it it’s the same simple argument: with LeBron James we’re a better basketball team. But the reality of the decision to add LeBron James to our already flourishing Process is much more complex than, ‘are we be better with him?’ In fact, I think that question misses the point of this Process altogether.
For as easy as it is to make the argument for LeBron to Philly, it’s similarly difficult (nearly impossible) arguing against adding him. Telling ‘The King’ to take his talents elsewhere is a position I’m sure nobody has taken seriously. But here’s my take:
Like many who loyally trusted the process since its inception, I bought into and adopted most of the oft-maligned philosophies Sam Hinkie preached. His penchant for analytics, innovation, and “zigging while the rest of the league comfortably zags” are a few values that make up the foundation of the Sixers, even in a post-Process era.
One of his beliefs that I believe applies here is Sam’s dedication to “having the longest view in the room.” In his now infamous 13-page resignation letter, Hinkie elaborates on this “longest view” idea as a commitment to long term planning – which he considered a prerequisite to compete for championships over a sustained period of time. If there’s a quote or principle that indicates signing LeBron James is an ‘anti-Process decision’ it’s this one, and here’s why.
First, it’s important to understand that the goal for this plan wasn’t just to yield championships, but to build a consistent contender. The simple argument for LeBron is that he drastically increases our odds to win the Finals, and this is true. But that assumes the goal was to win one maybe two titles, which anyone who’s followed closely knows falls short of the real vision. With building a sustainable dynasty the focus of Hinkie’s ambitious plan, the question we need to be asking isn’t if LeBron increases our odds of winning the Finals, but if LeBron increases our odds of developing a consistent championship contender that will compete for years to come? I’m not as sure of that answer.
In a scenario where LeBron decides to sign with Philly he wouldn’t suit up for us until he reaches 33 years old. Even if he’s still in his relative prime his best days will be behind him; that may sound stupid and cliché, but it’s true. Combine that with a Sixers core still so young and it’s fair to wonder if they will mature enough before James (however little) slows down. Although we could talk ourselves into this being a match made in heaven, it’s definitely possible that the timing of the rise and decline of both parties causes a headache of its own.
Then there’s the matter of if he would leave the team in ruin when his time in town is inevitably up. Although I hear the argument that he could leave the team as seamlessly as he would arrive – and he would arrive seamlessly with all our cap room – I find it more important to consider if he’ll leave our roster in shambles, just as has in the past.
The first time he abandoned Cleveland he agonized them with “The Decision” while inflicting emotional pain to the very city that raised him. When he left Miami to ceremoniously get back with his Ex, he made sure to hijack their offseason before running high-and-dry. And when he finally decides to leave Cleveland for a second time they’ll be without first-round picks, talent, or cap-space. In all three scenarios LeBron’s former team is left with a stripped roster and no assets; the first two teams he left never recovered, and when he leaves Cleveland again they’ll be nothing short of hopeless.
The Sixers are currently well positioned for not only the immediate future but for the long-term future as well, which is something Miami or Cleveland didn’t have to lose. And based on LeBron’s track-record it’s clear that whatever team he joins will be forced to hemorrhage whatever assets GM James wants in order to pursue a twilight championship or two. If you think he would come in here and not have the power to call the shots – you’re wrong.
There’s a real argument to be made that adding LeBron James would jeopardize our long-term future for the sake of chasing one or two quickies. Although some Hinkie heads will tell you a goal of his plan was to get to the point where we could attract a caliber of player like LeBron, it wasn’t supposed to be at the expense of our long-term goal but rather as a supplement to that goal. Throwing your assets into a fire sale just to plunge into a few years of contention is the antithesis of The Process. And for the sake of maintaining the longest view in the room, I’ll say it, “LeBron, we don’t want your talents in South Philly.”