The Big Lead Jason McIntyre
I still believe LeBron will end up with the Lakers this summer – others think next summer is a possibility – but after watching Joel Embiid put up a historic performance Wednesday night in LA, it’s time to revisit an unpopular opinion from a few months ago: The 76ers make perfect sense for LeBron.
SALARY CAP: Because they’ve been Trusting the Process, there’s no bad contracts on the books. They just extended Robert Covington (he’s earned it), and if you look at this, there’s nothing toxic. Jerryd Bayless making $8.5 million ain’t the end of the world. You package him with a future draft pick or Dario Saric and you’ve got the room you need for two stars.
TALENT: As we wrote last summer, the talent is fairly absurd, but injuries are a major concern. It’s undeniable how ridiculously talented Embiid is. His 46-15-7-7 line might be the best of the young season. Only 23, he’s in his fourth season, but he missed the first two because of injuries. If he can stay healthy, there’s potential for a Hall of Fame career. But can he stay healthy? Ben Simmons, the heavy favorite for Rookie of the Year, missed last season with an injury. He’s averaging a Magic-like 17.8 points, 9.2 rebounds and 7.7 assists. This doesn’t even factor in the #1 pick in the 2017 draft Markelle Fultz, who is currently out injured. Then again, LeBron hasn’t wished him Happy Birthday on social media yet.
EAST > WEST: What may scare the Lakers most is that by staying in the East, LeBron has a much easier path to the Finals for years to come, even with Boston loaded. I’ll play Devil’s Advocate. The West is more challenging, but if you want to project 2-3 years ahead, do we know Chris Paul is staying in Houston? Are we 100% sure Jimmy Butler will stay in Minnesota when his deal is up? Will DeMarcus Cousins stay long-term alongside Anthony Davis?
It’s early, but LeBron’s 2018 free agency – assuming he’s teamming up with Paul George, as everyone speculates, will be a story all year. Other teams may emerge. The 76ers are only 8-6, but after an 0-3 start they’re on fire with quality road wins in Detroit, vs both LA teams, and over Houston.