It’s already been an interesting and anxious offseason for the Sixers, but the fun has only just begun.
They’ve been mentioned as a possible landing spot for the greatest player in the world in LeBron James and disgruntled Spurs superstar Kawhi Leonard.
It’s no secret the Sixers want to acquire another star — or two — to complement Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Brett Brown, the team’s head coach and interim GM, wasn’t shy in stating that the Sixers are “star hunting.”
But what’s the cost?
For James, it’s simple: A max contract, which the Sixers should be able to afford fairly easily with few maneuvers. Leonard, on the other hand, could be tricky.
There’s no doubt the Sixers have the assets to make a Leonard trade happen, but what would they be willing to give up? If James is coming here, then you sell, sell, sell. Dario Saric and Markelle Fultz are tough guys to lose, but if you’re getting the opportunity to bring in James and Leonard to play with Embiid and Simmons, you don’t think twice.
The counterpoint to acquiring James and Leonard is a desire to keep the team’s young core in intact. But why? You get those four superstars and then you figure out the rest later. Do you think the Warriors were worried about their "young core" when they let Harrison Barnes walk and signed Kevin Durant? Nope. That’s worked out pretty well for them.
The trickier scenario occurs if you know you’re not getting James. Do you go all in and build around the core of Leonard, Embiid and Simmons? Do you hang onto your assets and cap space, hoping to take another shot at a star next offseason? What about Leonard’s contract situation?
If James doesn’t come here, the Sixers should be careful with Leonard. He’s a star player — a two-time Defensive Player of the Year with an ascending offensive game. He’ll be just 27 when the season starts. The injury is a concern, but with Leonard being treated by Dr. Jonathan Glashow, the Sixers' chief medical officer, there’s no team with better information on Leonard’s quad. This is a player worth trading for.
But again, at what price? A Leonard, Embiid and Simmons-led squad would be among the East’s best teams, but if you’re giving up Saric, Fultz, and first-round pick Zhaire Smith among other things, will you be able to compete with the Celtics in the East? Sure, you’ll have veterans that will want to play here, but the Sixers have to be wary to not relinquish too many assets to the Spurs.
When it comes to Leonard’s contract status, if he’s unwilling to sign an extension here, you don’t make the deal. It’s that simple. There is no point in giving away assets on a one-year rental, even if James comes to Philly next season.
Star-hunting season begins July 1. Should Leonard be in the Sixers’ crosshairs? Yes, but the trigger should only be pulled if the price is right.