By Titus Falodun
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — When the Sixers look to court the King during this free agency period as most NBA teams are doing, they need to understand that he’s just not that into you.
Reports are flying left and right that LeBron James is headed West, specifically Los Angeles, even before he officially opted out to become a free agent on Friday. And that is OK. The Sixers do not need the LeBron James to represent the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals next year.
The Sixers have a solid core built around the dynamo duo of All-Star center Joel Embiid and reigning Rookie of the Year Ben Simmons. These two pieces alone have shown ceilings of super stardom in their first year of playing together.
They took a squad just two seasons removed from a 10-win season, and only having 38 wins in the last two seasons, to a 52-win regular season that ended with a 16-game win streak.
The Sixers further showed their accelerated growth by beating a seasoned Miami team 4-1 in the first round of the NBA Playoffs.
Although, all things came to a halt upon meeting the well-coached Boston Celtics as the Sixers’ postseason efforts ended in a 4-1 second-round loss.
But the Sixers were literally one round away from the Finals. Let that marinate for a moment.
Embiid, a four-year player who is 24 and Simmons, a first-year player who is 21, led the Sixers to great heights their first season together.
With those two players alone, the Sixers have a young core to build a perennial winner without the services the King.
The Assets & Cap
The players surrounding Embiid and Simmons matter, especially when you consider the talents of young players such as hard-nosed forward Dario Saric, guard Markelle Fultz, guard T.J. McConnell, center-forward Richaun Holmes, soon-to-be added stretch-man Jonah Bolden and guard/forward Furkan Korkmaz. Plus, freak forward Zhaire Smith (an athletic perimeter defender) and sharpshooting guard Landry Shamet can possibly contribute this coming season.
No matter what, all the above players can either add to the value on the court or provide weighted value in a trade to get a legitimate supporting piece. In addition, the Sixers have close to $30 million in salary cap space to sign one-and-done role players this offseason in order to have money next offseason to maybe go after a possible free agent in smooth shooter Klay Thompson.
And that is where the Sixers can really make a move to transform their fortunes.
The Titus Plan
Contrary to popular belief (better yet, Brett Brown’s belief), the Sixers do not need to star-hunt.
The Sixers made huge strides this past season after signing shooting guard J.J. Redick to $23-million one-year deal, guard Jerryd Bayless and forward-center Amir Johnson. They then added stretch-forward Ersan Ilyasova and guard Marco Belinelli around the trade deadline, which further bolstered the roster heading into the playoffs.
Basically, if the Sixers managed an Eastern Conference semifinals appearance with those additions and a young core, imagine what they can do with savvy moves this summer.
By signing Chester-native guard Tyreke Evans, guard Will Barton and savvy wing Rudy Gay, the Sixers can and will make the NBA Finals.
Granted, the Boston Celtics pose the greatest challenge to the Sixers clearing that hump. And that team is adding two legitimate studs in Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving to their lineup next time, if healthy.
But with Evans, who is 28, the Sixers get a second player who can create for himself and shoot. The major flaw the Celtics exposed of the Sixers during their postseason series was the inability for the Sixers to space the floor and execute without the ball being in Simmons’ or the undersized McConnell’s hands. Evans both alleviates that pressure to create and elevates the Sixers ability to score.
Barton, a 27-year-old shooting guard, has shot 37 percent from beyond the last two seasons with the Denver Nuggets as he averaged a career high 15.7 points last season. With Barton, the Sixers get a guy who stretches the floor and shoots at a good clip from the field.
Then, there’s Gay, who at 31 can still slash and score in a way to keep defenses honest. Plus, he can defend.
Those three guys give the Sixers versatility, spacing, scoring, depth and youthful veteran leadership that the young core needs to take their game to the next level.
Trust The Process
If you “Trust The Process,” you should root for these three moves because they all are affordable and helpful, leaving the Sixers flexibile to make some nice moves at the trade deadline or sign a legit star next summer.
Regardless, the Sixers can make the Finals with that roster. From there, bring on any warrior because the Sixers will be charged and ready.