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

Sixers hunting for stars

Posted by Eric Fisher On June 29

The free agent market opens Saturday night at midnight. And there’s nothing free about it.

The two biggest fish reportedly will be on the market with LeBron James and Paul George reportedly declining their player options with the Cavaliers and Thunder, respectively.

The 76ers are expected to be major players in free agency – or at least they’re going to try to be major players. The Sixers are one of the few teams with room available under the salary cap to sign James. Official signings can’t be done until July 6, but teams can negotiate and agree to deals as early as Sunday at 12:01 a.m.

James is, obviously, the biggest fish in the free agent pond. But his situation is complicated by the belief that he only wants to go to a team that can bring in at least one other star player.

The other elite player available besides James and George is Kawhi Leonard. He only played nine games with the Spurs this past season because of a quadriceps injury and a dispute with the team about how to handle that injury. Leonard’s discontent has led to the Spurs fielding trade offers, including one reportedly from the Sixers.

Complicating Leonard’s situation is that he has reportedly expressed a desire to play in Los Angeles. With a player option for 2019-20, Leonard could become a free agent after next season, which could limit the offers from non-Los Angeles teams afraid that Leonard would leave as a free agent after one season.

The Lakers, who have the most money available under the salary cap, seem like the most obvious destination for Leonard and James. If Leonard is traded to, for example, the Celtics instead, that opens the door for the Lakers to sign James and George.

Where would that leave the Sixers? If James and Leonard go to the Lakers, the Sixers could make a strong bid for George, whose offensive and defensive games make him a perfect fit for the Sixers’ style. If Leonard is traded to the Celtics, it would be bad news for the Sixers. First, it would mean they didn’t get Leonard. Second, Leonard would be joining their Atlantic Division rival. Perhaps worst of all, the Sixers would be left without any of the elite players available through free agency or trade.

If the Sixers don’t get one of the big three mentioned above, which unrestricted free agents could they acquire? Kevin Durant isn’t going anywhere. He opted out of his contract so the Warriors could re-sign him for more money. If Chris Paul opts out of his contract with the Rockets, it wouldn’t make sense for him to go the Sixers, where reigning rookie of the year Ben Simmons is the point guard.

DeMarcus Cousins is coming off an Achilles injury and doesn’t seem like a great fit for the Sixers. Forward Derrick Favors is an interesting possibility. Tyreke Evans seems too similar to Simmons in style. Perhaps Kentavious Caldwell-Pope or Rudy Gay would interest you? What about ex-“Process” players Jahlil Okafor, Nerlens Noel, Michael Carter-Williams or Jerami Grant? They are all unrestricted free agents, which highlights the flaws in “The Process.”

If they can’t acquire one of the elite players available, the Sixers might be better off re-signing sharpshooter JJ Redick or forward Ersan Ilyasova and waiting for next year’s free-agent crop rather than overpaying for a mid-level free agent.

Regardless of what happens, the next few days should be extremely interesting for Sixers fans.

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