Looking at Sixers' top competition for LeBron

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Looking at Sixers' top competition for LeBron

With The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor reporting that he keeps hearing the Sixers, Rockets, Lakers and Cavs are the four teams on LeBron James' free-agency wishlist, let's take a look at feasibility and fit of the Sixers' top three competitors for The King's services:

Houston is the favorite in Vegas to land LeBron. The Rockets already have two superstars and an emerging, high-level rim protector in Clint Capela. Houston is a big market and the Rockets may even have a chance to beat the Warriors this season, without LeBron.

From a titles standpoint, the Rockets make the most sense for The King. It's a ready-made championship situation, but it wouldn't be simple building that roster.

To make room for LeBron, the Rockets would have to find a taker for Ryan Anderson's $20 million annual salary. That won't be easy and will almost certainly require Houston to part with a first-round pick or two.

The Rockets will also likely have to find takers for the contracts of P.J. Tucker and Nene, two valuable role players but obviously pieces you're OK with losing for the likes of an all-time great.

From a salary cap perspective, the Rockets could put together a roster including LeBron, James Harden, Chris Paul, Capela and maybe Eric Gordon, but the rest of the team would have to be filled out with minimum types of contracts.

LeBron has two homes in Los Angeles, and the Lakers now have cap space for two huge contracts thanks to the Jordan Clarkson-Larry Nance-Isaiah Thomas trade with Cleveland.

Those are the pros for L.A.

The cons are how it would all fit.

The Lakers' best-case offseason scenario would be signing both LeBron and Paul George. Let's imagine for a second that happens. You'd have a Lakers team featuring LeBron, George, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma and Lonzo Ball. With zero rim protection.

Obviously, in this scenario, a trade would be necessary — involving Ball, Kuzma or maybe both. The Lakers would need more shooting and inside defense, and Ball's best quality (distribution) would be a lot less necessary with LeBron.

Would a team like that win a championship in a loaded West? Probably not. LeBron has to realize that Houston aside, staying in the Eastern Conference gives him the best chance at advancing deep into the playoffs every season. 

If the Cavs have an inkling LeBron is staying, they'd trade that coveted Nets lottery pick for an established star. 

But even with another established star — whoever that may be — this is a fading Cavs team. Kevin Love's trade value isn't nearly as high as it once was. 

The Cavs also have so much money committed to so many guys that they lack roster flexibility. If LeBron, Love and the cast of role players return, along with whoever they trade the Nets pick for, that's still probably a 50-plus win team in the East but not a surefire favorite with the Celtics, Raptors and Sixers all getting better.

These four teams sure look like the only four legit contenders for LeBron, but anyone who claims to know what he will decide at this point is full of it.

Russell Westbrook, Thunder snap Raptors' win streak

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Russell Westbrook, Thunder snap Raptors' win streak

TORONTO — Russell Westbrook had 37 points, 14 assists and 13 rebounds for his fifth straight triple-double, Steven Adams scored 25 points and the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the Raptors 132-125 on Sunday, snapping Toronto's winning streak at 11.

Paul George scored 22 points and Carmelo Anthony had 15 as the Thunder extended their winning streak to six. Corey Brewer scored 10 points for Oklahoma City.

DeMar DeRozan scored 24 points and Kyle Lowry fouled out with 22 points and 10 assists as the Eastern Conference-leading Raptors suffered just their sixth home loss of the season. Toronto is 29-6 at Air Canada Centre, the best home record in the NBA.

DeRozan, Serge Ibaka and Raptors coach Dwane Casey were all ejected in the final minute for complaining to the officials. DeRozan was incensed after not getting a call on his drive with 30 seconds left, and picked up two technicals in the following 22 seconds (see full recap).

Davis leads Pelicans past Celtics
NEW ORLEANS — Anthony Davis had 34 points and 11 rebounds, and the New Orleans Pelicans beat the banged-up Boston Celtics 108-89 on Sunday night.

Second-year pro Cheick Diallo had a season-high 17 points and Nikola Mirotic added 16 for New Orleans, which was desperate to win after dropping four of its previous five while in the thick of the Western Conference playoff race.

Davis capped his night by hitting a baseline fallaway as he was fouled by Abdel Nader to make it 106-85 with 3:35 to go. The shot brought the crowd to its feet as Davis stumbled toward the sideline, where he exchanged high-fives with several fans before walking to the foul line to hit his foul shot.

The play capped a 22-6, fourth-quarter run to blow open what had been a tight game for most of the first three quarters (see full recap).

Harden scores 34 as Rockets hold off Timberwolves
MINNEAPOLIS — James Harden had 34 points and 12 assists, and Houston held off a fourth-quarter rally to beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 129-120 on Sunday night for the Rockets' 26th win in 28 games.

The West's top team led by as many as 25 before the Timberwolves, holding on for dear life in a tightening playoff race, pulled within five in the fourth. The loss dropped the Wolves into the eighth playoff spot after they started the day in a three-way tie for fifth.

Harden had 11 points in the final 6:34, including a 3-pointer with 58 seconds left that effectively secured the win.

Chris Paul and Clint Capela each had 16 points for the Rockets.

Jeff Teague led Minnesota with 23 points, Andrew Wiggins had 21, and Karl-Anthony Towns and Jamal Crawford each added 20 (see full recap).

Bradley Beal helps Wizards pull even with Pacers

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Bradley Beal helps Wizards pull even with Pacers

WASHINGTON — Bradley Beal scored 19 points, Marcin Gortat had 18 and the Washington Wizards beat the Indiana Pacers 109-102 on Saturday night in a possible playoff preview.

Washington (40-30) earned its second straight win to move into a tie with Indiana for fourth in the Eastern Conference standings. The Wizards also claimed the first tiebreaker by taking two of three in the season series.

Gortat was 6 for 8 from the field and also grabbed eight rebounds. He scored a total of 17 points in his previous four games.

Washington went 10 for 20 from 3-point range and shot 54.8 percent from the field overall. Kelly Oubre, Jr. had 16 points for the Wizards, and Markieff Morris added 15 (see full recap).

Giannis' double-double helps Bucks hold on to beat Hawks
MILWAUKEE — Giannis Antetokounmpo had 33 points and 12 rebounds, Khris Middleton added 23 points and the Milwaukee Bucks held on for a 122-117 win over the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday.

The Bucks finished off the Eastern Conference's worst team with a game-ending 11-5 run, pushing the pace after the Hawks lost ball-handler Dennis Schroder. The guard fouled out with 2:46 left, and was called for a technical foul after exchanging words with an official on the way to the sideline.

Middleton hit the free throw that started the run. The Hawks looked rushed on their next two possessions with a turnover and a blocked shot, allowing the Bucks to brush past them.

Trailing by 13 at one point, Atlanta put up a spirited fight before losing its 50th game of the year. Taurean Prince scored 38 points, while Schroder finished with 18 (see full recap).

LeBron gets 33 points in triple-double as Cavs beat Bulls
CHICAGO — LeBron James scored 33 points as part of a triple-double, Jordan Clarkson had a tiebreaking four-point play with 1:27 left and the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Chicago Bulls 114-109 on Saturday night.

James had 12 rebounds and 12 assists for his 15th triple-double of the season, and Jeff Green added 21 points. Clarkson finished with 19 points to help the Cavaliers salvage a six-game split on their season-high six-game trip.

Denzel Valentine led Chicago with a career-high 34 points, hitting 8 of 11 from long range. The Bulls wiped out a 17-point halftime deficit even though they held out banged-up core players Lauri Markkanen, Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn, only to come up short in the closing minutes.

Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue spent the second half in the locker room with an illness, another hit for an already short-handed team (see full recap).