Kawhi Leonard

With Kawhi Leonard joining Clippers, James Ennis says Sixers can 'walk to the Finals in the East'

With Kawhi Leonard joining Clippers, James Ennis says Sixers can 'walk to the Finals in the East'

James Ennis is awfully confident the Sixers are the team to beat in the East.

The veteran forward is re-signing with the team on a two-year deal, his agent Scott Nichols confirmed to NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Noah Levick (see story). He took a veteran minimum deal despite more lucrative offers being on the table, per Nichols.

Ennis is in Las Vegas and took in the Sixers’ summer league loss Wednesday (see observations). When asked by the Inquirer’s Keith Pompey about why he re-signed, he was pretty candid.

You don’t expect him to say much less, but it’s a fairly brash statement from the 29-year-old. The Sixers will still face stiff competition in MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks, the team that finished with the best record in the NBA last season.

Ennis was acquired by the Sixers in a second-round pick swap at the trade deadline with the Rockets, one of Elton Brand’s more underrated moves. He was their best reserve in the playoffs, especially during the seven-game series against the eventual champion Raptors.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Sixers

How Clippers reportedly landing Kawhi Leonard, Paul George impacts Sixers

How Clippers reportedly landing Kawhi Leonard, Paul George impacts Sixers

This has arguably been the craziest offseason in NBA history with so many stars changing places and shifting the balance of power.

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any more nuts, Kawhi Leonard and the Los Angeles Clippers said hold our beers.

In the wee hours Saturday, it was reported that the Finals MVP Leonard will sign a four-year max deal with the Clippers.

But wait, that’s not all …

L.A. also swung a deal for MVP finalist Paul George from the Oklahoma City Thunder “for a record-setting collection of draft choices,” per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. This comes just a year after George signed a max deal with the Thunder.

So how does all this affect the Sixers? Well, good news, bad news.

The good news is that with Leonard out West and Kevin Durant likely not playing for the Nets this season, the Sixers have as good a chance as anyone to come out of the East. The bad news … well …

There are two legitimate juggernauts in the Western Conference with the pairings of Leonard and George and LeBron James and Anthony Davis with the Lakers (see story). And let’s not forget about the Warriors or the Rockets, who’ve run things in the conference the last couple years.

There is a path for the Sixers to become the best team in the East, though.

The Bucks will still be tough with the league’s MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. Despite losing Malcolm Brogdon, Milwaukee did well to bring back Brook Lopez and George Hill and sign guys like Wesley Matthews and Robin Lopez. While it lacks the star power of others, it looks to be the deepest team in the league.

Brooklyn, though much more formidable than it was a year ago now with Kyrie Irving, will not quite be at the upper echelon of the conference with Durant’s Achilles injury and uncertain timetable. The Celtics are a bit of wild card. They signed Kemba Walker, who should flourish in Boston, but lost Irving, and more importantly Al Horford. The Raptors went on a historic run last season, but without Leonard, it’s difficult to see them repeating that journey. They’re still dangerous, but not quite like they were.

The Sixers still have plenty to sort out. Will the starting five feature enough shooting and scoring? Will Tobias Harris continue to improve and look more like the Clippers version? Will Horford and Joel Embiid be a good fit? And the most important question of all: Will Embiid and Ben Simmons be motivated by last year’s playoff defeat and make the necessary improvements to join the NBA’s elite?

With Leonard heading out to Hollywood, the East is truly up for grabs. The Sixers should have as good, if not better, chance than anyone to take it.

But beating one of the West teams in the Finals? That would be a tall order.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Sixers

2019 NBA free agency rumors: Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler teaming up with Clippers 'increasingly possible,' per report

2019 NBA free agency rumors: Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler teaming up with Clippers 'increasingly possible,' per report

There’s good news and bad news, Sixers fans.

The good news is that Kawhi Leonard is reportedly “interested” in teaming up with Jimmy Butler. The bad news is it wouldn’t be with the Sixers.

The idea of Leonard and Butler joining forces on the Los Angeles Clippers is “increasingly possible,” per the Athletic’s Sam Amick.

The Clippers would have to move the contract of Danilo Gallinari, who has just one more season left on his deal at $22.6 million. That would open up two max slots for L.A. to sign both Leonard and Butler.

It actually does make sense for both players. Leonard would be back on the West Coast and playing for a likely Hall of Fame coach. Butler does have an affinity for Los Angeles and Glenn Rivers is the kind of coach that would seem to be able to foster a relationship with the four-time All-Star. Leonard and Butler would form a pretty formidable duo on the wings, especially on the defensive end.

Nothing has changed from the Sixers’ perspective. Amick notes that Butler is still a “priority” for the Sixers along with the Rockets, who are reportedly attempting to target Butler in a sign-and-trade. Despite Houston’s interest, the Sixers are still expected to be “aggressive” and feel “confident” in their ability to re-sign Butler and Tobias Harris.

It’s also fair to mention that none of the reports surrounding Butler have involved Butler’s desires or intentions — which seems to be a fairly big part of any of the aforementioned scenarios. 

NBA teams are allowed to start talking to free agents on Sunday at 6 p.m. The Sixers have an awful lot of work to do with just four players under contract plus first-round pick Matisse Thybulle and two-way player Shake Milton.

Stay tuned.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Sixers