76ers

LeBron James 'thought long and hard' about playing with Sixers' Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid

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LeBron James 'thought long and hard' about playing with Sixers' Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid

LeBron James seriously considered signing with the Sixers in free agency before deciding to join the Lakers, he told ESPN's Rachel Nichols.

But ultimately, the allure of trying to bring a historically great franchise like the Lakers back to the top drew him to Los Angeles.

Nichols asked James why he chose the Lakers over "going to a team that was closer to winning a championship now." Here's his full response:

I definitely thought long and hard about the possibilities of lining up alongside Ben [Simmons] and [Joel] Embiid, or lining up alongside [James] Harden and Chris [Paul]. I felt like at this point in my career, the ultimate for me — just like when I went to Miami, everyone kind of looks at me joining a super team. I think Miami was [47-35] the year before I joined the team. You look at the Lakers’ record. So I like the challenge of being able to help a team get to some places they haven’t been in a while, and obviously the Lakers haven’t made the playoffs in a few years, but the Lakers’ organization and historical franchise matches up there with all the greats. You can look at the Cowboys, you can look at the Patriots, you can look at Manchester United, the Boston Celtics — these are like historical franchises, and for me to be a part of that, it’s a great moment for not only me but also my family, and the history of basketball in general.

There's a lot to break down there. First of all, it's noteworthy that Simmons and Embiid are the first two names James mentioned. It's an indication that the Sixers were, indeed, serious contenders.

James' response also acknowledges that he sees the Sixers as close to winning a championship, and he's aware he could have immediately boosted their chances of a title.

It's also clear that building up a lesser team and joining a "historical franchise" were two things James highly valued. While that makes sense, it's odd to think that the Sixers might have been a more attractive destination for James if they were still in the earlier stages of "The Process." And, if James likes "the challenge of being able to help a team get to some places they haven’t been in a while," that absolutely would have been there with the Sixers, who haven't made the Finals since 2001 and last won it all in 1983.

James' examples of "historical franchises" definitely wouldn't be teams on any Philadelphia sports fan's list ... the Cowboys, Patriots and Celtics are not exactly the most loved teams in this city.

But for James, joining a team with a prestigious past was important. While the idea of playing with young stars like Simmons and Embiid was attractive to him, the Sixers just didn't meet all his criteria. 

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FiveThirtyEight's statistical model gives Sixers best chance of any team to win NBA Finals

FiveThirtyEight's statistical model gives Sixers best chance of any team to win NBA Finals

The Sixers, according to the statistics-centric website FiveThirtyEight, have a 55 percent chance to make the NBA Finals and a 27 percent chance to win it all — both the highest of any NBA team.

FiveThirtyEight's "Way-Too-Early Projections" for the 2019-20 season give the Sixers a greater than 99 percent chance to make the playoffs. The Houston Rockets have the next-best odds to win the title at 24 percent.

It's important to note, of course, that teams' rosters will change between now and the start of the regular season, and we still don't have a schedule.

Its model incorporates heaps of data and does "50,000 simulations of the schedule." A new element this year is the DRAYMOND defensive metric, which gives greater weight to how a defender impacts opponents' shooting percentage.

The fact that Joel Embiid has the second-best DRAYMOND rating since the 2013-14 season might, in part, explain why this year's model is so high on the Sixers. Conventional wisdom would suggest that the Giannis Antetokounmpo-led Milwaukee Bucks (26 percent chance to win the East, 10 percent chance to win the championship) and star-studded Los Angeles Lakers (13 percent odds to win it all) and Clippers (5 percent chance to win it all) have a better shot than FiveThirtyEight gives them.

In case you somehow missed it, a lot has changed for the Sixers this offseason. The team's new starting unit of Ben Simmons, Josh Richardson, Tobias Harris, Al Horford and Embiid is locked in for the long term, while Mike Scott and James Ennis are again expected to feature off the bench. It's a big, defensively imposing team.

Ennis has said he thinks the Sixers can "walk to the Finals in the East." If you trust FiveThirtyEight's model, his view might not be so outlandish.

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Will Kyle Korver return to Sixers? Elton Brand drops an interesting hint

Will Kyle Korver return to Sixers? Elton Brand drops an interesting hint

Elton Brand’s busy offseason is not over.

The Sixers’ general manager acknowledged Tuesday morning in an interview on 97.5 The Fanatic’s “Farzetta and Tra in the Morning” show that he’s still working to fill out the Sixers’ roster. The team currently has 13 players on the roster and could add two more. 

When Marc Farzetta asked Brand about adding a player with similar shooting abilities to the departed JJ Redick, Brand dropped an interesting hint.

We’d love to have that. Spacing is key. We’re going to hang our hats on defense, but when it’s crunch time you’re going to need spacing to operate. So we are looking for players that can space the court. We are in talks with a few of them, so we’ll see how that goes. Hopefully the city will have someone that they know and can receive them well. 

He didn’t use his name, but Brand sure seemed to be talking about former Sixer Kyle Korver. Some Sixers fans might be familiar with available free agents like Thabo Sefolosha and Jose Calderon, but Brand has to be aware that fans know all about Korver.

The Sixers are reportedly a frontrunner to land the 38-year-old, who’s an unrestricted free agent after being waived by the Phoenix Suns. Korver is a career 42.9 percent shooter from three-point range and has made the fourth most threes in NBA history. 

Given the Sixers’ salary cap situation, Korver would need to be willing to accept a veteran minimum deal to come back to Philadelphia. 

A return to the city where he started his professional career would make a lot of sense for both parties. As Brand said, the Sixers could use some outside shooting. And for Korver, you’d think the chance to play for a team that looks poised to contend for a championship would be appealing. 

You can listen to the full interview with Brand here

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