Brett Brown kept it real.
The 76ers coach chose not to be politically correct. He didn’t say this season’s roster is NBA title worthy. He knows this summer’s free agency class will be stacked with the likes of LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and Paul George among the headliners. And the coach is determined to win an NBA title.
“I think a high-level free agent is required,” Brown said. “I feel like we have the ability to attract one.”
The coach cited the Sixers’ uptempo style of play as exciting and the modern-day way to play. He talked about the team’s culture and that organization personnel “treat people well here.” And Brown mentioned the city of Philadelphia and its “sport-mad people.”
“When you walk through this door [of the practice facility] and say, ‘I can come to work here everyday,’ that’s a pretty good package,” he said. “At some point when the time is right, I think we need help.”
But will the help come this summer as everyone expects?
Team president and general manager Bryan Colangelo said the team could have roughly $25 million available in cap space to attract free agents. James made $33 million this season with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Most NBA teams — including the Sixers — have the four-time league MVP atop their wish list, although they can’t publicly say so until free agency begins on July 1.
The Sixers, Los Angeles Lakers, Houston Rockets and Cavs are believed to be on his short list of teams.
“2018 free agency is right ahead of us,” Colangelo said. “There may or may not be a good decision to make. If the right opportunity comes along, we will move forward.
“If the wrong opportunity is there, and we don’t feel it’s right for our team for the long-term approach of what we are taking, then we will be patient.”
Colangelo would be content with deferring to 2019.
He points out that going after an A-list free agent would require some sacrifice to get the flexible cap space needed. The Sixers would have to renounce the rights to JJ Redick, Amir Johnson, Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova. All four players had major roles in the Sixers’ success during the latter part of the season.
“Replacing that is going to be difficult,” Colangelo said.
But the Sixers learned in losing 4-1 to the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference semifinals that this roster isn’t equipped to contend for a title. Like Brown, Colangelo even admitted that.
“To say that this group can do it now? They obviously proved they couldn’t,” he said. “Adding another talent and another piece is certainly something that we’re striving for.”
Due to tampering rules, the Sixers can’t disclose their primary free-agent target to the media.
They’re looking for someone to complement the skill packages of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons.
“Drape those qualities over the free-agent market, and say ‘Yup, that fits him,'” Brown said. “We will all make our own assessment … I’m not here to tell names. But I am here to answer your question. It’s clear what we have in those two players. So, to me, equally the answer becomes clear, too.”
However, James and Simmons are both ball-dominant players. As a result, adding James could stunt the rookie point guard’s growth.
So Brown was asked if he would be concerned with bringing in another ball-dominant player versus someone who fits well with Embiid and Simmons as an off-the-ball player or shooter.
“If this player you are describing was great, we’d figure it out. Truly,” Brown said. “Truly. We’d figure stuff out. It’s as honest and as simple as I can answer that.”