Report: NBA executives expect 76ers to pursue LeBron James in free agency

AP Photo/Matt Slocum
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In 2010, LeBron James left the Cavaliers’ weak supporting cast to join Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh with the Heat.

In 2014, LeBron left declining Wade and Bosh to play with younger stars Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love in Cleveland.

Could LeBron make another proactive move next summer – specifically to join Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons with the 76ers?

Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today:

executives around the league believe Sixers president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo will attempt to sign James.

Do these executives know something we don’t, or are they just connecting dots? The possibility of the former makes this intriguing.

Philadelphia can relatively easily carve out max cap space next summer. Any team with so much room would want LeBron, though determination to chase him will vary. Some teams will bow out, not wanting to waste their time. Others – maybe including the 76ers? – will make harder pushes.

LeBron’s agent, Rich Paul, and manager, Maverick Carter, have both publicly emphasized that winning should be LeBron’s priority. There’s a case Philadelphia with LeBron would win more than Cleveland with LeBron.

The 76ers are overloaded with assets – Embiid, Simmons, Markelle Fultz (whatever you make of him at this point), Robert Covington, Dario Saric, several other young and an extra future first-round pick. Philadelphia also signed J.J. Redick in a bid to accelerate its timeline, and the team is 12-8. If LeBron comes, it’d be easy to flip young players and picks for more players capable of winning now.

Embiid and Simmons already appear to be on that level, and they’re just 23 and 21, respectively. The 76ers’ championship window could be open from the moment LeBron signs until he retires. That should intrigue him.

But it’s not so simple. LeBron also cares about his legacy, and leaving the Cavs again would compromise it. He doesn’t want to be known as a carpetbagger. On the other hand, another title would bolster his résumé, and Philadelphia offers the possibility of LeBron continuing his reign over the Eastern Conference.

I don’t know what LeBron will do next summer. He probably doesn’t know what he’ll do next summer. But between now and then, multiple teams will have their moment where speculation centers on them signing LeBron. This is the 76ers’.

It’s a long way from actually signing the superstar forward, but after years of tanking, Philadelphia ought to feel good it has established enough credibility where a LeBron pursuit is at least taken seriously.