CAMDEN, N.J. — It’s pretty clear to anyone who follows Joel Embiid on social media that he’d like LeBron James to join the Sixers — #summer2018goals is not exactly subtle.
But after his exit interview Thursday, Embiid was careful to toe the line when asked whether he’d want to play with James.
“Uh, is this tampering?” Embiid asked. “Yeah, it’s tampering … I’ll answer that question on July 1.”
That’s the day NBA free agency officially begins and Embiid doesn’t want to be accused of doing anything illegal before then. But whether it’s James or somebody else, Embiid was willing to say that he thinks the Sixers could use some help to take the next step forward. Unlike his coach (see story), he’s not certain that player needs to be a superstar.
“I don’t know, I’m not sure,” Embiid said. “This year, we felt like we had a pretty good chance. We didn’t get to where we wanted to, but I think new free agents can definitely help, and there’s a lot of them out there that we can add that are going to help the team, especially when you have teams in the East like Boston that are going to add Kyrie [Irving] and Gordon [Hayward]. You kind of feel like you need something else especially after losing to them without those two, you feel like you need somebody else.
"As long as it’s the right fit, guys that get called three-and-D players, guys that can create their own shot and shoot the three and then also at the other end, draw the best player or be a beast defensively, I think that’s what you have to be looking for. I think anybody can help. I don’t know who they’re going to add or who they’re going to go after. Whoever they go after, hopefully, they come and they’re ready to win a championship.”
Of the players on the free-agent market, Avery Bradley, Trevor Ariza and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope are three names who fit that “three-and-D” mold. Outside of the stars like James and Paul George, Chester, Pennsylvania, native Tyreke Evans could be another intriguing option for the Sixers, though he’s more ball-dominant and worse on the defensive end than a traditional three-and-D player like Ariza. That said, Evans has improved his three-point shot over the past couple years, shooting 39.9 percent from long range this season, and he’s proven capable of creating his own offense late in games.
Regardless, there’s going to be a ton of speculation about who the Sixers will pursue, and maybe even more about who they should pursue. Whoever the team ends up going after, Embiid is looking forward to assisting with the recruitment process … after July 1.
“I do whatever the team needs me to,” Embiid said. “I feel like I’m the leader and if the team needs me to recruit somebody, I’ll be doing that. I want to win and if I feel like any of those guys that they go after is going to help us win, I’ll be right here helping them.”