More Sports:

May 09, 2017

The Sixers were smart to rebuild during LeBron James’ prime

When there isn’t any real Sixers news, we make Sixers news. That is why much talk in Philadelphia on Monday was about native son Kyle Lowry potentially coming home in free agency and giving the Sixers roster the top-flight traditional point guard it hasn’t had since… Mo Cheeks? We weren’t any different, mind you, with two Lowry articles (one and two). Click on them if you please.

For now, let’s focus on Lowry’s current team, or at least the one he’ll opt out from to hit free agency this summer. Read Lowry after Game 3 and listen to his running mate, DeMar DeRozan, after Game 4 of their series against Cleveland:

“They’ve got LeBron James,” Lowry said. “Nobody’s closing the gap on him. I mean, that’s it right there: They’ve got LeBron James and nobody’s closing the gap on him.” [The Vertical]

Those two dudes are three-time all-stars! Those two dudes won gold medals! Those two dudes went 204-124 in the regular season over the past four years! And yet they sound defeated, helpless, and just plain resigned to the fact that their current team will never compete for an NBA title.

LeBron James will do that to you.

Ever since LeBron took his talents to South Beach, the Eastern Conference has run through him. A look at some stats since the 2011 playoffs for Mr. James, a dominant run that doesn’t show any signs of slowing down:

•    20 consecutive playoff series, 20 straight wins
•    80-20 record in those games
•    Only twice did a LeBron series go seven games, the last of which was the 2013 ECF against Indiana

This is all to say that if the Sixers’ main goal has been to win an NBA championship at some point (which has been the case since Sam Hinkie took over in 2013), Processing from 2013-2017, when LeBron was still at the peak of his powers, was the right move.

In this way, the NBA is particularly brutal to its middle class. This isn’t hockey, where a Flyers team that needed a shootout win on the season’s last day can fall just short of a Stanley Cup. This isn’t football, where a 9-6-1 Eagles team can come reasonably close to a Super Bowl berth.

Here you have the best run of Raptors basketball by a country mile, created by some luck and a bunch of shrewd moves, and they never had a shot against LeBron and his supporting cast. Their reward for such a really solid, fun run? The option to essentially run this back at a much more expensive price or blow everything up.

Again, the NBA is cruel in this way. The Raptors (and other teams like the Bulls and Pacers) are Charlie Brown, and LeBron is Lucy.

The Sixers are still a few years away from being a contender, if they turn into a contender at all. LeBron sometimes looks like he’ll keep cruising until the age of 40 he and LeBron James Jr. are on the same team like the Griffeys. Nothing for the Sixers is a given, especially with players like the Greek Freak getting better and their own major question mark with Joel Embiid’s injuries.

They also lost a lot of games while Toronto won the last four seasons. Heck, the Sixers lost pretty much every game the two teams played during that stretch. But by choosing to hang back while an all-time great was at the absolute height of his powers, the Sixers have a much clearer path forward than the Raptors.

Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann

Like the new PhillyVoice Sports page on Facebook