Philadelphia 76ers: Paul George Could Be The Top Free Agent To Sign In 2018, Not LeBron James [Opinion]

Pat CarterGetty Images

The Philadelphia 76ers have the attention of the NBA, and they haven’t been to the playoffs since 2011. As crazy as it sounds, trading Jahlil Okafor may have netted the Sixers Paul George. With Okafor being dealt to the Nets, the Sixers received a low post option in Trevor Booker, but they also set themselves up for next season.

Although Okafor was to become a free agent at the end of the season, the Sixers will no longer have to deal with questions about his or their future. However, the questions will now lead to other players like LeBron James, DeMarcus Cousins, and Paul George. Yes, the Sixers have a great chance of landing one of these top players for the 2018 season. How so? It’s all about the money they were criticized for spending this season.

For starters, the Amir Johnson ($11 million) and J.J. Redick ($23 million) deals. That’s a lot of money for role players, but look where it has them so far. Not to mention, the trade with the Nets for Booker ($9 million). While it’s a hefty price to pay in 2017, just think, all that money will be gone next season. While winning now will bode well for this young team’s confidence, however, it’s actually an audition of sorts.

While there are rumors that the Sixers will entertain the thought of signing LeBron if he leaves the Cleveland Cavaliers, according to SBNation, the real player they should go after is George. While George has stayed quiet about leaving Oklahoma City Thunder next season for his hometown team, the Los Angeles Lakers, he might be leaving his options open.

Think about the direction of the Lakers and Sixers.

The Lakers are built on hope and question marks. Lonzo Ball has struggled, Jordan Clarkson and Julius Randle are on the trade block, Brook Lopez is a free agent, and the emergence of Brandon Ingram may leave George looking elsewhere. As for the Sixers, they have a dynasty in the making with Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, Dario Saric, and Robert Covington. A lineup like that should draw the attention of George over what the Lakers now have.

The Lakers can’t really offer George much but hope. The Lakers hope Ball will become a better player. Management hopes they can find a defensive-minded center and they hope they can snag another top-tier talent to pair with George. However, the Sixers are the real deal. Simmons is ROY, Embiid is the second coming of Patrick Ewing, and Covington is a Scottie Pippen clone. And, to push the balance more in favor of the Sixers will be money.

The Lakers will have a ton on their hands once Lopez, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Randle, and Corey Brewer leaves. But, even so, there is still the contact of Luol Deng (if he’s still there) to deal with. The Sixers, however, will be free of Redick, Amir Jonshon, and Trevor Booker. While the rosters look even in terms of cash, the talent is not. The Sixers are young, much like the Lakers but they have proven players and by the end of the year, they could have a playoff berth to show George how serious they are.

While LeBron is a proven brand, he’s also going to command more money and that he will be 33-years-old compared to George (28) by the start of next season does play a factor. There is no need for the Sixers to sign LeBron with a youth movement going on. LeBron has already said that Simmons will be better than him so why sign two of the same players?

What the Sixers are hoping for is a domino effect. If they can land George then other players will take notice. But the issue the team will face is where to place incoming talent. Simmons is the point guard, Markell Fultz is the shooting guard, Covington is the small forward, Saric at power forward, and Embiid at center. However, if George were to come, then Brett Brown can really get creative. Fultz can lead the second unit and be replaced with George or Brown. Meanwhile, Covington can slide over to power forward and put George at small forward, leaving Saric to lead the second unit.

With the way the Thunder are playing now and the Lakers not too sure of their future, George will have his choice of suitors. The Sixers are an up-and-coming team with young talent and money to spend. LeBron is a household name, but George can be a fixture for years to come.