The Los Angeles Lakers could have some stiff competition in free agency this offseason, as the Philadelphia 76ers reportedly plan on targeting LeBron James and Paul George in free agency, according to Keith Pompey of Philly.com. The Sixers have also “expressed interest” in Kawhi Leonard, according to the report.
The Sixers can’t publicly say so until July 1, but it doesn’t take an engineering degree to realize the team is prepared to do whatever it takes to sign James, a four-time league MVP. Oklahoma City small forward Paul George is another free agent the Sixers have interest in, according to folks around the league. He would be a great fit because of his ability to shoot the ball and defend.
Don’t be surprised if they also try to acquire San Antonio Spurs small forward Kawhi Leonard in a trade. Sources have said the Sixers have expressed interest in the two-time all-star. While he is eligible for a five-year, $219-million ‘super-max’ extension with the Spurs this summer, there are reports that Leonard wants out after staying away from the team for most of the season with a quad injury. He played in only nine games.
The 76ers will have roughly $31 million to play with this summer, enough money to sign George to a max contract starting at $30.6 million. However, they would be just a few million dollars short of offering James’ a max contract which will start at $35.7 million.
But if the 76ers got a verbal commitment from James this summer, they could use one of their two first-round picks in this year’s draft to offload Jerryd Bayless’ contract, clearing up an extra $9 million in cap space. Of the three players Philadelphia will reportedly pursue this summer, James seems the most plausible.
Coming fresh off of a 25-point loss to the Boston Celtics in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Sunday, James will likely be looking for a new place to call home this summer.
While Los Angeles has been a popular rumored destination for the four-time league MVP, it’s hard to imagine James would leave the Eastern Conference, where has reigned supreme for the past 15 years, to play for a Lakers team that hasn’t made the playoffs in five years and has nothing close to an established star on the roster.
In Philadelphia, James would be able to play alongside a rising star in Ben Simmons, who happens to share the same agents as James, and a superstar in Joel Embiid all while staying in the comfort of the Eastern Conference. That’s a pretty tough sales pitch to beat.
George could also be an option for the 76ers in free agency, but that would imply George sees Philadelphia as a more attractive situation that his current situation with the Oklahoma City Thunder. As disappointing as the Thunder’s season was, OKC’s track record of success and the relationship they’ve built with George could give them the slight edge over the 76ers in free agency.
Could the same thing be said about George and the Lakers? Sure, if you chose to ignore George’s well-reported interest in playing for his hometown, I guess you could say it’s the same thing.
Whether it’s George, James or Leonard, it’s clear the 76ers aren’t going to make things easy for the Lakers this summer. Hopefully with the progress the purple and gold made this past season, they can sell stars on their process.