These are words you may not want to hear, but I’m going to say them anyway. Think of this as a public service. Rip off the Band-aid, down the hatch with the gross-tasting medicine. Here goes: Even if the Sixers whiff on the law firm of James, Leonard, and George, they’re still going to be OK. They very well may even win a championship without them.
I know we are all caught up in reeling in these big fish and rightfully so. Getting any one of the trifecta or more than one could push the Sixers ahead of the Celtics in the East and put them at least in the conversation with the Warriors or Rockets.
The Sixers have the assets and money to make it happen. They have the young core, and a coach that is genuinely liked and respected around the league. But that is no guarantee. This is a very subjective process. The Sixers could offer the best package and this decision could come down to simply geography or family preference. You can’t control that as an organization. It’s quite possible when the dust settles that none of the above, LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, and Paul George, end up in a Sixers uniform. This is not meant to be a Debbie Downer exercise. In fact, it’s the opposite.
After the initial disappointment subsides, the reality of the situation is the Sixers have two absolute studs, foundation “maunsters” as Brett Brown would say, in Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Pair that with a vastly improved, scrappy, Dario Saric, a frustrating but valuable Robert Covington and the ultimate wild card, Markelle Fultz. If Fultz regains his shot and confidence — granted that is a big “if” — but if that happens and he resembles the guy they traded up for to take first overall, that is a young, immensely talented five that took enormous strides last year. This is not including JJ Redick, who likely will be back if the club’s cash is not doled out to these big names.
We tend to forget this is a team that leaped from 28 to 52 wins in one season. Embiid played in his first full season. Simmons was a rookie. Saric is still just 24. Fultz is 20 and two years removed from high school. Think about the number of games early in the season the Sixers lost because they could not hold big leads — a byproduct of youth and inexperience. They could have easily won five to seven more games. That won’t be the case this year. They won’t be overwhelmed and fall apart in a playoff setting as they did vs. the Celtics.
There is no denying how good Boston is and will be with its full complement. It goes without saying the Warriors are dynastic, the Rockets are a major force, and if say the Lakers land any combo of the big three, throw them into this mix.
It will not be easy but there are far too many people writing off the Sixers' chances of winning a title the next couple of years if they don’t hook one of these names. Embiid is an MVP-level, generational player, who, for the first time in his pro career, will not be rehabbing leading into a season. He can simply work on his game and conditioning. Simmons is already a triple-double machine and will only get better. Saric is a glue guy, whose shot is vastly improved.
The Sixers will still have plenty of money, picks, and possible pieces to dangle in front of other teams to land a stud. There are other fish in the sea. They may not have the name or star power of James, Leonard, and George, but they could be difference makers.
Here’s hoping it happens but not all will be lost in Sixer-ville if the star hunt does not result in one of the big three.