Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas – The rumors were rampant the past year or so. Lebron James, having delivered on his promise to bring a championship to Cleveland, was gearing up to leave Cleveland and head to parts unknown, with the most likely landing spot being Los Angeles. Lebron put an end to that, saying that he was going to fulfill his contract with Cleveland for the 2017-18 season.
Obviously, he’s living up to his word, waiting for Tristan Thompson to get back in the line-up and, later, for All-Star point guard Isaiah Thomas to get healthy and help the Cavs make another run to the NBA Finals.
While it seemed pretty clear that Paul George wanted to become a Laker, George wound up in OKC with Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony, giving them a “Big Three” to, in theory, maybe challenge Golden State’s “Big Four.”
AS THE LAKER “THEORY” GOES …
Well, the plan talked about (not by Lebron) was something to the effect that Paul George wanted to become a Laker, Lebron has a house in Los Angeles, Lebron would be willing to leave Cleveland after this season and, among other things, Lebron’s mother didn’t even want him to go back to Cleveland after he “took his talents” to Miami because of the nasty (and classless) letter written by Cavs owner Dan Gilbert. Also, according to some reports, being in L.A. in the future would allow Lebron to pursue other interests.
While Lebron’s mother had a point (don’t return to Cleveland after being in Miami because of the owner’s letter), Lebron did the right thing, came back to Cleveland and gave the city its first title since Jim Brown’s (yes, still the best football and lacrosse player ever) Cleveland Browns won the NFL Championship in 1964.
WHICH BRINGS US TO THE SUMMER OF 2017 AND THE EARLY GOING IN THE 2017-18 NBA SEASON
During the summer, both on and off the air with Philadelphia sports personality Joe Staszak (an excellent host and knowledgeable sports guy), this writer suggested, during the NBA Summer League, that maybe the 76ers would be a possible landing spot for Lebron. At the time, I said it was certainly a longshot, but not out of the realm of possibility, given the talent on the “trust the process” 76ers (where have you gone, Sam Hinkie?).
In any event, after the first few weeks of the NBA season, it says here that Lebron should take a serious look at the 76ers as a landing spot for next season.
Well, it’s pretty clear, after last year’s NBA Finals, Lebron (after beating Golden State with his “Big Three” versus Golden State’s “Big Three” two seasons ago) is going to need his own “Big Four” to match Golden State’s “Big Four.” Indeed, the two best players in the NBA are Lebron and Kevin Durant (in this writer’s opinion, still in that order). Golden State clearly tipped the balance in their favor last season by adding one of the two best players in the game, KD.
In the 2017 Finals, Kevin Durant was the tipping point, playing like the Finals MVP he was and changing the balance of power in the NBA. Lebron will have to do something, it says here, to tip the balance of power back in his favor. It’s unlikely to happen this year in Cleveland as, even if Isaiah Thomas comes back healthy, the Cavs aren’t a whole lot better (if better at all – see what Kyrie did (for the Cavs) and is now doing (for the Celtics)) than they were last year.
Lebron needs a “Big Four.” Where can he get it?
PHILADELPHIA COULD BE THE PLACE FOR A NEW “BIG FOUR”
How can that be? Well, if you’ve watched the 76ers this season, it should be clear that they have (and, yes, ALL of this is based on good health) the potential to become a “Big Four.”
They already have an incredible “Big Two” in Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. If you follow the NBA, you already know that Embiid played like an All-Star last season (albeit for only 31 games). And you also know that Ben Simmons missed the entire season.
But this year, these two guys, admittedly in only 12 games for Embiid and 14 for Simmons (all stats are after the 76ers road win over the Lakers (more on them later) on Wednesday, November 15), are already stars. Embiid’s stats are very impressive (23 points per game, to go along with 11.2 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game). But he’s even more impressive when you just watch his game: Euro step to the basket, excellent footwork in general, 2.5 blocks per game and a guy who can make a three (although a little down this year v. last).
Simmons has a transcendental game and his 6’10” height makes it more incredible. No doubt, as many thought, he’s the real deal: 17.8 points per game, to go along with 9.2 rebounds and 7.7 assists per game, astounding numbers for a rookie (as a brief aside, and with total respect to Simmons, the notion that he’s the greatest rookie ever is absurd. Just to name three (and there are more), Wilt averaged 37.6 points and 27 rebounds per game, Oscar averaged 30.5 points, to go along with 10.1 rebounds and 9.7 assists per game and Magic averaged 18.0 points per game to go along with 7.7 rebounds and 7.3 assists per game and had an incredible Game 6 Finals performance to lead the Lakers to a championship (all of these numbers are rookie numbers)).
While Simmons needs to work on his shooting, Embiid and Simmons are already star players and, if they stay healthy, could be a dominating pair for years to come.
BUT WHERE’S THE “BIG FOUR”?
Well, last season, the rumor was that Paul George and Lebron might wind up in L.A. There weren’t any reports that they met and planned this (and again, Lebron, to his credit, is playing this season in Cleveland pursuant to his contract).
But, if Lebron decides to opt out of his contract at the end of this season (it says here he will) and also decides to speak with Paul George (remember, players can “collude” (in quotes because it’s not collusion – they can talk all they want; see Lebron, Wade and Bosh in Miami)) and those two decide to go somewhere as a team, well, if they choose the 76ers, there’s your “Big Four.”
A PIPEDREAM, YOU SAY? THE LAKERS, YOU SAY? NOT SO FAST
Well, it’s only been 15 games for Lonzo Ball, but, based on his play so far, can he be a member of a Big anything by next season? While that remains to be seen and it’s clear that he sees things on the floor that most point guards don’t, his shooting, to date, has been terrible.
While his coach, Luke Walton, says things like “he’s shot well everywhere his entire career” and Ball himself says “I’m going to be aggressive and play my game,” there were (and still are) real questions as to whether Ball would (or will) be able to shoot it well in the NBA. So far, in only 15 games, the answer is a resounding “No.”
Ball has that funky shot (across his face) and it says here that it’s harder to get his shot off in the NBA than it was in college. Also, as most people know, the NBA three is simply a different animal than the college three. At three feet longer (from at least the foul line extended to above the top of the key), that can turn a good high school/college three-point shooter into a ball “pusher” or even a heaver of the ball.
So far, Ball is 17 for 74 from three, a 23% shooting percentage. The problem for Ball, also, is that he’s only shooting 36% from two and 50% from the foul line. His overall shooting percentage from the field (again, after a small sample of 15 games), is an astoundingly low 30.3%, ahead of only Marcus Smart of the Celtics this season and the fourth lowest in NBA HISTORY for a single season (according to Basketball-Reference.com. for players from 1946-47 until today averaging at least 10 field goal attempts per game and at least 20 minutes played per game with at least 10 games played). Ball is averaging 9 points a game, to go along with 6.6 rebounds and 6.9 assists per game. Nice stats, but, to date, he’s no Ben Simmons.
Whether or not Ball is overrated is a discussion for another time, but when UCLA played Kentucky in college last year, Ball was the third best freshman on the court, behind De’Aaron Fox (who scored on Ball the first four times he went to the basket – somebody else guarded Fox the fifth time) and Malik Monk, the Kentucky shooting guard.
The same thing happened Wednesday night against the 76ers, when Ball tried, with little success, to guard Simmons. According to ESPN, Simmons scored 8 points (including a blow-by dunk) and had 2 assists when Ball guarded him. Ball had 0 points and 0 assists when Simmons guarded him.
So, it says here, if Lebron and Paul George show up in L.A. next season, they might only be a “Big Two,” possibly a “Big Three” if somebody tremendously steps up this season.
But that’s not going to beat Golden State
ARE THERE OTHER PLACES LEBRON CAN GO?
Depending on cap space, probably. You have to think that Lebron’s sole remaining goal in the NBA is, simply, to win more championships. Where could he go?
Maybe OKC? They, arguably, have a “Big Three” there in Westbrook, George and Carmelo Anthony. If Lebron shows up there (would he go to Oklahoma City?), they’d have a “Big Four.”
How about Houston? With James Harden (hard to believe that Durant, Westbrook and Harden played on the same team) and Chris Paul, if Lebron brings Paul George, that would be a “Big Four.”
BUT HERE’S THE PROBLEM WITH OKC AND HOUSTON THAT’S A PLUS FOR PHILLY
If Lebron moves to the West, the problem could very well be that Lebron’s incredible streak of seven consecutive Finals could be snapped (this point, of course, assumes that the Cavs make the Finals this season for Lebron’s eighth straight Finals). Imagine if he went to the West and was eliminated (a clear possibility with Golden State in the West) before the NBA Finals.
It says here that, when everybody in Cleveland gets back healthy (and yes, it’s clear they are not playing well now), the Cavs will again be the favorites to come out of the East. If Lebron and George went to Philly next year, their only serious challenger in the East would be the Celtics.
If this writer had a choice (and Lebron will), it would be better to be in the East than the West this year, next year and for the foreseeable future. And that’s true even if the Cavs do not make the Finals this year and Lebron’s incredible Finals streak is snapped this season.
SO, WILL LEBRON GO TO PHILLY NEXT YEAR?
Well, it was a real longshot when this writer brought it up with Joe Staszak this summer. Lebron would have to make a judgment (hard to make) on the health of Embiid and Simmons (and, hey, if Markelle Fultz (that weird situation is for a discussion at another time) can get healthy, maybe they could be a “Big Five,” which would go over well in the Philly area (you Philly college basketball fans will get that)). Lebron will get a sense of their health this year.
Today, it’ still a longshot, but there is now more of a chance that Lebron could wind up with the 76ers next season. Now that Lebron and the world have seen how well Embiid and Simmons play together (and, if they stay healthy, it’s only going to get better), it says here that he has to at least consider the 76ers.
And, based on their play so far (yes, it’s still early), Philly is looking like a better and better destination every day.
© Copyright 2017 by Steve Kallas. All rights reserved.