Now that the dust as settled and the True North Strong And Free have claimed victory, the question of what happens next is now at the forefront for the Philadelphia 76ers.
Despite the similarities to another drama that unfolded on Sunday night, the Raptors walking off on Kawhi Leonard’s series-ender sets forth an uncertain future for a number of teams, the Sixers included. Brett Brown might not be back to coach a team he ushered through the doldrums of The Process, to name the first of many changes that could be in store for Philadelphia this summer.
Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons are the only ones under contract for next year with the Sixers, and while all indications are they want Jimmy Butler back, there are no guarantees in free agency. Beyond the potential departure of both of their major trade targets from this year, one report indicates that Simmons could be a trade candidate as well.
The 22-year-old on the move may not be a huge surprise, mind you, as there has been talk about him better off outside of Philly for a bit now, given fit questions with Embiid. But with his free agency looming in the coming years, and talk of LeBron James being frustrated in Los Angeles, at least one executive put the pieces together that a swap could be possible.
NBC’s Tom Haberstroh wrote on Monday that it’s possible, and laid out exactly why the Lakers might try to move LeBron James for Simmons if given the chance.
“I think they very well might explore that,” said a rival executive of Philadelphia.
James doesn’t have a no-trade clause, but he shares the same Klutch Sports agent with Ben Simmons in Rich Paul. James has two seasons left on his deal before he can become a free agent. After a disastrous offseason in which their president of basketball operations abruptly resigned and they struck out on their top two head coaching targets in Monty Williams and Tyronn Lue, do the Los Angeles Lakers honestly believe they can put together a championship contender in the next two seasons?
If the answer is no, trading James has to be on the table. And if you’re going to do that, there’s a short list of players that would be worthy of being traded for the King. Simmons is certainly good enough to be on it.
Another bread crumb Haberstroh dropped relates to the failed attempt to lure former Cavs coach Ty Lue to Los Angeles to coach the Lakers. The apparent holdup there was that he would not be allowed to pick his assistant coaches, something now-Lakers coach Frank Vogel doesn’t seem to have a problem with. But Haberstroh suggested that the decision not to join Los Angeles could be related to the Sixers job coming available. Perhaps, the logic goes here, that might be where LeBron would end up after a big swap this summer.
It would be a landscape-altering move if it were to happen, and right now it still remains unlikely. But so, too, did the Raptors trading for a star like Kawhi Leonard, eschewing DeMar DeRozan in the process. It’s a move that’s certainly paid off for Toronto, so perhaps the Lakers and Sixers would be even bolder in a move to alter the NBA landscape in both conferences.