From the beginning of the NBA season until now, the biggest question circulating the league is “Where will LeBron James play next season?” It is reported that he is going to consider seven teams when it’ll come to make this decision, such as the Los Angeles Lakers, the Houston Rockets, the Miami Heat, and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The best choice LeBron can make is to join the Philadelphia 76ers next season. Led by Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, the Philadelphia 76ers ended the regular season as the third seed in the Eastern Conference, with 52 wins and 30 losses. Projected to make it to the conference finals, they ended the postseason loss to the Boston Celtics in the second round after five games.
They lacked the experience as well as a superstar to propel them to the next level. Any team with LeBron James not only puts them into playoff contention but also title contention. If Embiid can manage to stay healthy for the entire season and Simmons can develop a better jump shot and improve his free throw shooting from the 56 percent that it was in the regular season, then the 76ers are a force to be reckoned with.
It is also to James’ benefit that he stays in the Eastern Conference as opposed to the Western Conference. The path to making the playoffs in the west becomes harder with the competition, with teams like the Utah Jazz, the Portland Trail Blazers, and San Antonio Spurs recording a similar record to the Cavaliers, and still having to play every last game to make the playoffs. It is likely that James’ could be eliminated early on as well, with the opportunity of facing the Warriors or the Rockets in the first two rounds.
Despite this being James’ 15th season, he played all 82 games, led the league in minutes, and made his case for MVP, averaging 25.5 points, 9.1 assists, and 8.6 rebounds in the regular season. However, no matter how transcendent you are, father time always catches up. LeBron will eventually face a slow but steady decline. Embiid and Simmons will eventually become All-Stars, and with the guidance, leadership, and experience of LeBron James, maximizing their potential is more likely to occur instantly.
While James can serve as a closer, which is something the 76ers weren’t able to accomplish in their series with Boston, his abilities on the court make it possible for games to not even be close. Also, the load doesn’t fall entirely on him. James has the option to play off the ball, with Simmons also able to get his teammates open looks to score.
Embiid averaged roughly 23 points and 11 rebound in the regular season, and with efficient three-point shooters like J.J. Reddick on the roster, scoring doesn’t look to be an issue. Even though at some point LeBron’s conditioning and skills won’t be the same, he can eventually rely on the two superstars he has to carry him as well. Something similar that comes to mind is Magic Johnson in his prime, playing alongside a Kareem Abdul-Jabbar who was winding down in his career.
The chances of James staying with the Cavaliers have grown slimmer, especially after being swept by the Golden State Warriors in the 2018 NBA Finals. Staying on this team with the same roster makes it even more unlikely that the team can make it far in the playoffs, let alone make it to the finals. Averaging 34 points, nine assists, and 9.1 rebounds in the playoffs, James’ carried most of the responsibility when it came to ensuring victory, and even with these stats, the Cavaliers were on the brink of elimination with inexperienced and young teams.
With the return of Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward in Boston, the continued dominance of the Warriors, and the potential of other “super teams” forming, LeBron can have some of the greatest performances in his career and it still won’t be enough to win, especially if he is doing it on his own. Being with the 76ers, it becomes less likely that a fully loaded Celtics team can take them down, and gives them a punchers chance to dethrone the Warriors.
In a piece written by Sports Illustrated in 2016, James said, “My motivation is this ghost I’m chasing. The ghost played in Chicago.” This piece was written a few months after James won the 2016 NBA Finals, having overcome a 3-1 deficit and defeating the Golden State Warriors. While James is widely regarded as the best player on the court today, and one of the greatest in history, many do not believe that he is worthy of being named the “Greatest of All Time”. Despite losing the last two finals ever since he still has a chance to make his case.
The greatest knock on LeBron when it comes to being compared to Michael Jordan is not only the idea of having a killer instinct and delivering in games when the stakes are high but also the fact that he has a finals record of 3-6, whereas Jordan ended his finals career with a perfect record of 6-0.
This season alone, LeBron has put to rest the idea that he isn’t clutch, having scored buzzer beaters against teams like the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Indiana Pacers. In order to make an attempt at making his case for G.O.A.T., LeBron must join a team with the objective of maximizing his opportunity to win championships. Philadelphia gives him the opportunity to win at least one more, as his career starts to wind down.