Plus, a long look at LeBron James from John Krolik, Geoff Tate and Eric Dadourian
There isn’t much that I get, or understand, but this …
*flips Ziploc bag of leftover stew into the back of the freezer*
… I get.
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You remember John Krolik for his work at ESPN’s Cavs the Blog, and we’ll be featuring his work from time to time:
The case for LeBron James as a 76er
Even though LeBron James didn’t have much trouble dispatching them on Monday night, it’s time to take the idea that he’ll be playing for the 76ers next year seriously.
The necessary disclaimers apply: Philadelphia doesn’t have the projected cap space to straight-up sign LeBron James in the summer of 2018, we don’t know what LeBron’s ultimate motivations for choosing his next destination will be, while the Cavaliers’ 2018 postseason could change everything.
Here’s what we do know:
Cleveland hasn’t given LeBron a particularly compelling list of reasons to stay.
LeBron is currently leading the league in PER, he’s shooting tidy percentages of 58-42-77, all career highs. Only 29 and 31 percent of his two-point and three-point shot attempts, respectively, have been assisted, which are both career-lows.
In year 15, after almost 42,000 minutes of regular season basketball alone, LeBron is doing everything but make the popcorn for Cleveland on the offensive end, and they’re 14-7 with a +2.2 point differential as of this posting.
Isaiah Thomas’ improving health will help the Cavs take some of the load off offensively, but he won’t fix their atrocious defense. Kevin Love has defensive issues of his own, and might still be unplayable against the Warriors, the one team Cleveland needs all of its players to be their best against.
There’s a very real possibility that LeBron could stay in Cleveland, but he is carrying a relatively mediocre supporting cast, and he’d have plenty of reasons for leaving his hometown team a second time.
Now, the rub: If he chose to do that, where would he go? The teams with cap space will be Atlanta, Brooklyn, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Phoenix.
He’s not going to Atlanta, Brooklyn, Chicago, Dallas, or Phoenix, leaving us with Los Angeles and Philadelphia.
Let’s leave aside all that goes with being a Laker, both the good and the bad, for the time being, because we don’t know what its real appeal is to LeBron.
Keeping things on the basketball floor, the Lakers are looking at a core of Paul George (assuming they snag him in free agency), Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram, and some good young pieces in Julius Randle, Larry Nance Jr., and Jordan Clarkson.
That’s a solid bunch of lads who are already playing some feisty defense, but does it look like a squad that has enough ammunition to give LeBron a significantly better chance of getting past the Warriors for a second time than he currently has in Cleveland?
Especially when the Lakers’ other primary ballhandler would be Lonzo Ball, who has some undeniable gifts on the floor but is shooting 39% at the restricted area, doesn’t draw fouls, is currently the worst free throw shooter in the NBA, and hasn’t figured out how to make his odd shooting stroke work against NBA defenses?
There is a third option for LeBron — Philadelphia and the fruits of its Process. This could work.
The chemistry between James and Joel Embiid should be there
The big men James have played with in his career have been either finesse bigs like Chris Bosh, Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Kevin Love or one-dimensional pick-and-roll finishers like Anderson Varejao, Chris Anderson, or Tristan Thompson.
Embiid’s turnover issues have kept him from reaching his ceiling so far, but he scores more points per game from the post than any other player in the NBA and retains the ability to be a dominant finisher barreling through the lane on a pick-and-roll or snatching a lob from the sky. Embiid cleans the glass and protects the rim.
His shooting numbers have fallen off from last year, but he’s more than willing to step out and drain a three-pointer if teams don’t want to guard him out there. Embiid contributes all of this while acting a willing passer, although that has contributed to his sky-high turnover rate.
The notion of James running the pick-and-roll with Embiid, slashing when Embiid gets doubled in the post, and each of them punishing smaller men in the post when they force switches? It should have you salivating.
Robert Covington may have a gigantic impact on the next half-decade of the NBA
(Two years ago, the sentence would have seemed a bit far-fetched, but here we are.)
Low usage 3-and-D players thrive next to LeBron like few else, and Covington, who’s currently averaging 16 points, shooting 46 percent from beyond the arc while playing defense like a madman, plays the 3-and-D game as well as anybody in the NBA, currently.
All the long, athletic defenders the 76ers have will do wonders for LeBron, who hasn’t been able to bring it in the regular season defensively since 2014, and isn’t getting anyone to pick up that defensive slack for him in Cleveland. In Philadelphia, LeBron will be able to hide on defense while guys like Covington, Ben Simmons, or Markelle Fultz take the lion’s share of the minutes on the other team’s biggest threats.
Can LeBron and Ben Simmons make it work together?
We know they share an agent and work out together, and there was this tweet from last summer:
This season, Simmons has been the closest thing to a rookie-year LeBron James we’ve ever seen, attacking the basket, slinging work-of-art passes, and snatching down rebounds at a furious pace while showing an appreciation for defense and being a 6-10 tank-human.
However, Simmons, like James, plays with the ball in his hands, and Simmons, unlike James, cannot shoot the ball even one little bit.
After missing a year due to foot injuries, which should presumably have been full of opportunities to practice or even overhaul his shot, Simmons still hasn’t made a three-pointer in the NBA, doesn’t really shoot outside the paint, and is shooting 57 percent from the free-throw line. The free-throw problems, combined with the fact there’s a very good chance Simmons is shooting with the wrong hand, lead me to believe it’ll be a very long while before NBA defenses will have to respect Simmons as a shooter.
The good news is that LeBron made it work beautifully in Miami with Dwyane Wade, who was another ball-dominant player without a solid outside shot. Before James came to the Heat, Wade’s entire game was based around slashing dribble-drives, and while that aspect of his game by no means disappeared when LeBron came to town, he also transformed himself into a kind of shooting guard/power forward hybrid on offense.
Instead of using the attention LeBron draws to get open three-point looks, Wade brought his game closer to the basket, constantly moving without the ball, cutting to the rim, and punishing any defense overloading on LeBron with a dunk or layup.
In Wade’s last season without LeBron, 28 percent of his two-point shots came off an assist — his first year with LeBron, that number was up at 37 and reached as high as 44 percent. As Wade’s athleticism waned, he was able to keep his scoring efficiency high because of the Charles Barkley impression LeBron allowed him to do.
When you think back to LeBron’s Miami-era production with Wade, and consider that Ben Simmons is already working the hybrid guard/power forward thing, except with actual power forward size, there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about James and Simmons’ ability to work together. Even though LeBron isn’t partial to catch-and-shoot 3s and Simmons doesn’t take jumpers.
Furthermore, when LeBron does finally slow down and reach the point in his career where he won’t be able to bully past defenders at will, Simmons should be the perfect player to guide him into the next phase of his career, when he’ll be making a living on catch-and-shoot threes, post-ups, off-ball cuts, and embracing the roll aspect of the pick-and-roll.
The 76ers are turning all these heads without Markelle Fultz
Plenty have been eager to write Markelle Fultz off after his shoulder injury caused his ugly NBA start, but when you move past the free throw issues he had in college, Fultz remains a heck of a prospect.
He should be a monster defensively, he shot better than 40 percent from the three-point arc in college without any of the unorthodox mechanics Lonzo Ball brought to the league, filling up the basket and making plays.
There’s a reason Markelle went No.1 overall just a few months ago, and if he can get healthy this year and play up to expectations before the season ends, the on-court choice between Cleveland, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia should be an easy one.
There’s so much more here, campers
Dario Saric is a nice piece who would become a lovely sixth man if LeBron were to come to Philadelphia. J.J. Redick wouldn’t make anywhere near the $23 million he’s getting this year if he decided to stay, but the allure of the shooter’s paradise that playing alongside James, Simmons, and Embiid would provide could be strong enough to keep him from taking a more lucrative offer.
TJ McConnell isn’t much of an outside shooter either, but he’s a heady passer and a perfectly cromulent backup guard in this here NBA — he’s a good sight better than any of the point guards the Cavs got to back up Isaiah Thomas.
To top it off, the 76ers have two first round-picks and three second-round picks this year, and still have an absolute slew of extra second-round picks lying around through 2021 courtesy of all those Hinkie Specials. Those can be used to fill the roster with cheap, young, solid pieces or be utilized in trades to bring solid veteran role players in, if that’s the direction LeBron and the Colangelos feel like going in.
LeBron really only has three options: Cleveland, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia. When you really look at what Philadelphia has to offer LeBron compared to the other two rosters, instead of merely chuckling at how weak of a narrative The Process has acted as so far, you have to consider that the 76ers have a very real shot of landing LeBron this summer.
Geoff Tate wanted to chat the other night, after the comedian watched The LeBron Game on YouTube.
Geoff was talking about the right game, Game 5 of the Eastern finals in 2007 when LeBron went off for 29 of the team’s final 30 points straight points (Drew Gooden).
Dominant, to be sure, but maybe not as loved as his other outbursts?
Tate, who will be appearing at Wiley’s in Dayton on Dec. 1 and 2, takes over after you re-introduce yourself to this game:I’m shocked by how the last 29 points feel more like a statistical anomaly as opposed to domination.
I can’t tell if its because we’ve seen him do so many amazing things since, or if it’s because he actually didn’t play that game that great. At least compared to LeBron now – he had two airballs, and a bunch of long twos where he jab steps inside the three-point line.
People have begun to understand how bad his teams were.
I didn’t recognize literally any motherfucker on that team outside of a few names that are only used as reference points to how bad his teammates were.
Not one of them ended up doing anything memorable. I knew seven or eight Pistons.
It’s a goddamn shame LeBron still essentially has to play that style of basketball.
Follow Geoff on Twitter, and go see live comedy.
LeBron is the greatest storyteller the NBA has ever seen.November 28, 2017
We asked comedian and Groomzillas podcast co-host Eric Dadourian to explain away
LeBron's understands the power of the narrative, he's Post protagonist if I could use such an obnoxious term, he's been to seven finals in a row, he's onto the narrative he doesn't want to be compared to rookie (SENSATION ALL CAPS) Ben Simmons and so he folds this into his narrative, Philly fans are booing him, he folds that in, his protege leaves him, he folds it in, people doubt him, he folds it in, they talk about the Warriors, KOBE, Jordan, he folds all that into the narrative he is writing.
Cavs vs. Sixers
(KD NOTE: Behind the Boxscore night, we will see you early on Thursday.)