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Receiving yards for Cowboys’ Amari Cooper during Sunday’s 29-23 win over Eagles

Summer of … nothing?

Posted by Eric Fisher On June 26

Everyone seems to be excited about Sunday. That’s the first day on which teams can begin making offers to free agents. Those offers will start coming in approximately 5 seconds after midnight.

The start of free agency certainly is an exciting time. But I feel a healthy dose of hesitation and trepidation mixing with my excitement.

I’m concerned that Sixers fans are going to be disappointed. I’m concerned that the Sixers’ dreams of offseason glory will turn out to be dreams – and nothing more.

LeBron James is probably not going to sign with the Sixers. Why join an up-and-coming team with two young stars when he can create another super team, as he first did with the Heat, by orchestrating a situation in which he and other established stars sign with the same team? James’ history indicates that he isn’t interested in helping a team develop into a championship contender. He wants to assemble the talent necessary to become an instant contender.

The Sixers have a better shot at signing Paul George. Although James is the best player available, George fits into the Sixers’ scheme a little better. George is more suited to playing off the ball than James, so there shouldn’t be any major adjustments for point guard Ben Simmons, who is most effective when he has the ball in his hands. Balancing the needs of James and Simmons would be a good problem to have, but, from a position perspective, George might be a better fit. George, 28, also could be a Sixer for longer than James.

The problem is that George has strong connections to Los Angeles. He is from Palmdale, Calif., which is just north of Los Angeles. He owns a home in Chatsworth, which is in the San Fernando Valley region in the upper northwest section of Los Angeles. George could be part of the super team James is reportedly trying to establish in Los Angeles. If you’re wondering how the Lakers could sign two or three star players, they have, by far, the most space available under the salary cap.

If James and George are crossed off the list, that leaves Kawhi Leonard as the final elite player available. (If point guard Chris Paul decides to leave the Rockets, it’s likely he will do so to join a “super team” rather than to sign with the Sixers.)

The key for the Sixers in terms of acquiring Leonard is that he isn’t a free agent, so there is more involved than money and location. The Sixers have a lot to offer the Spurs. On draft night, Sixers head coach and – this is important as it relates to trades and free agency – interim general manager Brett Brown spoke about how important the unprotected 2021 first-round draft pick acquired in the Mikal Bridges-Zhaire Smith trade is as an asset.

The Sixers could send the Spurs that pick, their own first-round pick, a couple second-rounder picks, Zhaire Smith or Landry Shamet and even Dario Saric (or, preferably, Robert Covington) to acquire Leonard. The Sixers’ chief competition for Leonard in the Eastern Conference appears to be the Celtics, who could offer a better package of current players but can’t match the Sixers’ package of draft picks.

Assuming Leonard, who missed most of last season with a quadriceps injury, is healthy, the trade would be worth it if he sticks around. Leonard, who turns 27 on Friday, is an elite player with many years left in his career.

The problem is that Leonard has a player option for the 2019-20 season, the final year of his contract. If traded to the Sixers, Leonard could opt out after one season.

Where would he go? Los Angeles. Leonard is from Los Angeles. The Spurs, however, are reluctant to trade Leonard within the Western Conference, which would make the Sixers and Celtics front-runners to acquire Leonard. Furthermore, the Lakers might use up their salary cap money this summer, leaving little for Leonard next summer. The Sixers also would be hoping that Leonard’s relationship with Brown, who spent many years in the Spurs organization, would entice him to re-sign with the Sixers.

The bottom line is that, despite letting players such as J.J. Redick and Ersan Ilyasova become free agents and building their draft strategy around acquiring assets and freeing up space under the salary cap, the Sixers could come up empty this summer in terms of acquiring an elite player.

I know that the Eagles’ Super Bowl championship was supposed to make us take a more positive outlook instead of waiting for the other shoe to drop. But I hope fans are prepared for the possibility that the Sixers could swing and miss while going for the home run.

If you want a positive perspective, it’s encouraging that the Sixers are willing to try to obtain elite players, and that it’s not out of the question that those players might want to come to the Sixers.

But I fear that the Sixers’ summer strategy for improvement won’t land any of the big fish they are targeting, leaving them with draft picks who aren’t as NBA-ready as Bridges and forcing them to scramble to pick up enough pieces to be as good as last season.

I hope I’m wrong. But I also want fans to be prepared for disappointment.

More importantly, I hope the Sixers are prepared for disappointment.

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