CAMDEN, N.J. — In order for the Sixers to reach the level of title contention, they believe they have to add outside talent. It's an intriguing need as they enter the offseason with salary cap flexibility and one of the best players in the NBA possibly becoming a free agent.
“I think that another high-level free agent is required. I feel like we have the ability to attract one,” Brown said Friday. “At some point, when the time is right, I think we need help to win a championship.”
The most obvious free agent target is LeBron James. The three-time NBA champion and four-time MVP could opt out of the final year of his contract with the Cavaliers and enter a market that will have teams clamoring for his proven talents, especially after proving ageless at 33 years old this postseason. James averaged 34.0 points, 8.3 rebounds and 11.3 assists in the Cavs' Eastern Conference semifinals sweep of the Raptors.
The second-biggest name potentially on the free agent market this summer is Paul George, who also has a player option. There is heavy speculation George will not return to the Thunder and instead return home to play in Los Angeles for the Lakers. He posted 24.7 points, 6.0 rebounds and 2.7 assists in the Thunder’s first-round loss to the Jazz, including shooting 2 for 16 in the final game. George currently is sidelined six-to-eight weeks after undergoing a left knee scope.
The players the Sixers pursue this offseason will be added to enhance the young core of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Brown said this is the first time in his coaching tenure there is clarity of the pieces the Sixers have heading into the offseason.
“There’s no mystery when you look at, what is Ben Simmons’ skill package?’” he said. “There’s no mystery of what is Joel Embiid’s skill package? You say simply, ‘What complements that?’ Now drape those qualities over the free agent market and say, ‘Yup, that fits him.’”
Simmons ranked second in the league with 95.0 touches per game in the regular season. James was fifth with 87.1. There is the question of how a ball-dominant free agent would fit in a system that is currently designed to have the ball in Simmons’ hands so frequently. That’s an issue the Sixers wouldn’t mind solving.
“If this player you’re describing was great, we’d figure it out,” Brown said. “Truly. We’d figure stuff out.”
The Sixers' solution to a top-tier player doesn’t necessarily have to come in free agency. The Sixers also will look at possible acquisitions through trades. All eyes are on the Spurs to see if they decide to part ways with defensive stopper Kawhi Leonard, who played just nine games this season because of a quad injury. There are questions as to whether or not Leonard’s relationship with the Spurs will be strong enough for a return.
“Talent comes in possible trade, possible free agency,” president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo said. “Both options loom with cap space and flexibility. If the right deal comes along, we’ll certainly pursue it. We will explore any and all options to add that talent. But to say this group can do it now, they obviously proved they couldn’t. Adding another talent and another piece is certainly something we’re striving for.”
The Sixers have cap space, and they also feel they have time. They have maintained they are not going to rush into a deal for the sake of it. The talent in next summer's free agent market includes Klay Thompson.
“The decision whether or not we move forward is a long-term decision. It’s a deal that we feel will help put us in a position to sustain winning for many years to come," Colangelo said. "We have to figure out what’s the best way that we can continue to develop our core, supplement that core with good, veteran experience and players that are going to help them grow and develop, and exercise patience along the way.”
The Sixers showed last summer they could land a big name free agent when they inked JJ Redick to a one-year, $23 million contract. This season, they also were the destination selected by Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova in the buyout market. When the time comes for them to make a major free agent pitch, they are ready.
"If I were a free agent, and of course I’m biased, if I were to look at how do they play," Brown said. "It’s pretty clear the style of play. I think it’s exciting, I think it’s a modern day way to play. I would look at the cultural aspects. I think we treat people well here. I think it’s a great place to come in and be a part of a culture and family. When you look at the city of Philadelphia and the sport-mad people that we have, when you walk through this door and say, I could come to work here every day, that’s a pretty good package."