In an effort to “complete the process”, a certain subsection of Philadelphia 76er fans have been pitching soon to be free agent Lebron James on the idea of taking his talents to the city of brotherly love. The campaign to bring Lebron to Philly has reached new heights, with billboards pining for James to join the Sixers appearing this week in Cleveland.
In response, Cavalier fans hoping to keep their homegrown star had a billboard of their own put up.
Lebron has stayed mostly quiet throughout the courting process, briefly indicating he was flattered by the attention. He seemed especially cordial with current Sixer star Joel Embiid after the All-Star game, and even guarded the second year pro in the games final minutes. Yet, the two playing together would cause more problems than answers.
The trio of Lebron James, Ben Simmons and Embiid would certainly strike fear into the opposition, but there are serious doubts about how well the three would function together once they actually got on the court. Embiid would instantly be the most talented big man Lebron has every shared the court with, save for prime Chris Bosh. Yet Embiid’s a much more traditional post player compared to Bosh, and would present a unique team building dilemma for James if he were to sign in Philadelphia. Embiid has a tendency to hold the ball when he gets the ball deep in the post. He currently posts up on 41.7% of Philadelphia’s possessions, second highest of any player in the league. Despite the higher frequency, Embiid has managed to stay relatively efficient. He averages .99 points per post up, good for the 75.7 percentile. An Embiid post up is currently of the Sixers most effective plays, yet their frequency would likely plummet if Lebron were to come to town. A traditional post up player is not typically a staple of a Lebron James offense, as it takes the ball out of Lebron’s hands and forces him away from the basket. As Lebron gets older and older, he has strengthened his own post up game to exploit even the slightest of mismatches. His post up frequency is much lower than Embiids, only appearing in 9.1% of Cleveland’s possessions, but he is almost as efficient. Lebron averages .96 points per post up, which falls in the 69.9 percentile. If the Lebron-Embiid pairing were to work, Embiid would have to improve as a three point shooter. He is currently shooting 31.7% on 3.4 attempts per game this year. While respectable for a player his size, it’s still a win for the defense when he shoots a three based off how well he does other things. Long term, Embiid will likely turn into on above average three point shooter. He is still only 23, and has played in a total of 80 NBA games. Yet if Lebron were to come to town, everyone’s timeline becomes shortened. The Sixers would instantly become title contenders, and more of Embiid would be asked than ever before. The presence of Lebron would certainly alter the career trajectory of Embiid, and may do the same to the other young Sixer star.
Ben Simmons is the closest thing the NBA has seen to a young Lebron since 2003, when the King himself tore up the league with averages of 20.9 points, 5.9 assists and 5.5 rebounds as a 19 year old rookie. Those numbers look suspiciously close to that of Simmons, who is putting up 16.6 points, 7.4 assists and 7.7 rebounds as a 20 year old rookie. Both have generational passing ability and are most effective as their team’s lead ball handler. That is where the Simmons-Lebron pairing fails, as Simmons especially is not the ideal running mate for Lebron. Lebron typically thrives when playing with four three point threats, and Simmons is about as far from that description as possible. Simmons is historically inept from the three point line, only taking 10 in total this season, eight of which are end of quarter heaves. Yet if Lebron were to come to town, Simmons would almost certainly have to expand his range and completely revamp his game in order to best fit with Lebron. Similar to Embiid, the intense pressure that would accompany Lebron to Philly would likely alter what makes each of those players so special.
Lebron has already realized why Philadelphia isn’t the ideal fit for him (or he will once he reads this article), and has likely already crossed the eastern conference foe off his list. As exciting as it would be, Lebron in a Sixers jersey is a no-win proposition.