2018 NBA Playoffs

Vegas gives Sixers best odds to land LeBron James

Vegas gives Sixers best odds to land LeBron James

It’s all happening.

Despite LeBron James willing the Cleveland Cavaliers to the NBA Finals, the Sixers are considered the favorites to land the King.

There’s been no shortage of excitement for a possible James arrival in Philly. Sixers fans have been following the breadcrumbs in hopes LeBron will want to team up with Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and company.

James has taken the Cavs to the Finals in four straight seasons against the Warriors. The last time LeBron’s team didn’t make the Finals was during his first run in Cleveland during the 2009-10 season.

At 33, James had the best season of his career and is having the best individual postseason of his career. He’s averaging 34 points a game and shooting 54 percent from the field in 41.3 minutes a game in the playoffs.

NBA Finals rematch shows Sixers there's no specific way to build contender

NBA Finals rematch shows Sixers there's no specific way to build contender

The NBA Finals are officially set and for a fourth straight year, we’ll see a Golden State Warriors-Cleveland Cavaliers showdown for the title.

While fans of the league let out a collective yawn at yet another championship rematch, the Sixers should be paying close attention to the participants.

Sure, the Sixers know both the Warriors and Cavaliers have all the ingredients that make up true contenders — great players, veteran leadership, strong coaching, positive culture, etc. But the biggest takeaway should be that there is no specific way to climb the NBA mountaintop.

With an important summer ahead of them, the Sixers have the ability to keep adding to their young core with more draft picks to grow organically or shake up their roster with superstar talent through free agency/trade.

Loyal supporters of “the process” would prefer the first model, one perfected by the Warriors. The Dubs have eight players on their current roster drafted by the club, including perennial All-Stars Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. That group has blossomed together to reach incredible heights and will now go for a third crown in four years.

It’s a prototype the Sixers could definitely continue to follow with young studs Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Dario Saric already making their mark in the league.

“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,” Sixers president Bryan Colangelo said earlier this month.

Or … the Sixers could throw that patience right out the window and make a splash for big-name talent. The top target, of course, being LeBron James, who stars for a Cavs squad that features 12 players acquired via free agency or a trade.

“With respect to adding — I’m going to say talent, not free agent — because talent comes in many forms,” Colangelo said. “Talent comes in a possible trade, possible free agency. 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 that this group can do it now, they obviously proved they couldn’t.”

And proving it is all that matters in the end.

Whether it’s the Warriors or Cavaliers that finish the Finals hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy while splashing champagne all around, neither side will be worrying about how their roster was constructed to reach that point.

If the Sixers want to have that feeling again for the first time since 1983, they won’t concern themselves with what people think about their plan to assemble the best team either.

Can Ben Simmons address his 1 glaring weakness in offseason?

Can Ben Simmons address his 1 glaring weakness in offseason?

CAMDEN, N.J. — Ben Simmons has plenty of strengths as a basketball player. His ability to handle the ball and find his teammates at 6-foot-10 is special. Shooting, however, continues to stand out as a weakness.

In the Sixers’ series loss to the Celtics, Simmons made 1 of 6 shots from 10 feet and out. Boston gave him space to shoot and it was clear that, at this stage in his development, he’s not comfortable attempting anything outside of the paint.

Thursday, Simmons acknowledged his jumper is one of the areas he needs to work on this offseason. While some think that radical alterations are necessary, including Jalen Rose and JJ Redick, who have suggested Simmons should be shooting with his right hand, Simmons said he’ll only be making “minor” changes. He recognizes that improving his jumper would force defenses to guard him differently.

“I think it just takes time shooting the ball,” Simmons said. “Obviously I’m very good at getting to the rim and making plays, so that’s what [the Celtics] were trying to stop me doing, and they did a good job of doing that. It’s one of those things where you just want to improve your game and get better, and once you start hitting the shots, they change up their defense, so everything has a counter.”

Al Horford, the Celtics’ primary defender on Simmons, had an interesting perspective on how much greater of an offensive threat Simmons will be if he can develop his shot.

“He’s already difficult to guard,” Horford said before Game 4. “Like all players, we all make progressions. When I came in the league, I wasn’t shooting much outside the paint. And over the years, I’ve expanded my game — you can say that about a lot of guys. And I feel like with him, it’ll just be another weapon in his arsenal, that he will continue to develop that [jumper].”

Simmons knows that opposing defenses will have a lot more trouble if they can’t always default to the strategy of sagging off him and clogging the lane.

“I think offensively, it’s going to be tough to stop me,” he said. “And then obviously for the team, we have another guy who can knock down shots and score, and a guy who can make plays. So I think it’s going to be scary.”

Heading into this season, Simmons said his focus was on getting better as a leader and facilitator. He’s confident he can address the one glaring weakness in his game this offseason.

“There’s never been a year where I haven’t gotten better at something,” Simmons said.

Even without a remotely dependable jump shot to speak of, Simmons posted 15.8 points, 8.1 rebounds and 8.2 assists during his first regular season in the NBA. And despite some of his struggles in the playoffs, most notably in a dismal Game 2 against the Celtics, Simmons averaged 16.3 points, 9.4 rebounds and 7.7 assists in the postseason.

Is that résumé worthy of winning Rookie of the Year? If he wins it, Simmons said he has his teammates to thank.

“It just means I have great teammates who can knock down shots,” Simmons said of possibly winning Rookie of the Year. “It would mean a lot, but I don’t really judge my success on one accolade, so whatever the decision is, it is. But obviously, I’d take myself over anybody.”