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2018 NBA Off-Season: LeBron and Kawhi Join Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid

The Lakers and 76ers have been on a collision course all year and now in the bubble in Orlando, it played out with these two teams in the NBA Finals.  LeBron James is set to lead his 76ers against former teammate Kawhi Leonard and the Lakers.  Kawhi Leonard and Anthony Davis have made an incredible duo where the 76ers are so top heavy on talent between LeBron, Embiid and Simmons that losing Kawhi in free agency barely hurt them in a mostly weak Eastern Conference.  The 76ers took seven games but knocked off Giannis and the Bucks for the second straight season while the Lakers were able to dispose of Paul George, Russell Westbrook, and the Thunder in six games.

Wait… what?

Let us go back to the 2018 NBA Off-Season, you know… the off-season where LeBron signed with the 76ers and they traded for Kawhi Leonard.  The 76ers had the cap space to MAX LeBron so they did so then made a trade based around Dario Saric, Markelle Fultz, Robert Covington and the Heat 2021 First Round Draft Pick with Jerryd Bayless and a few others being spread elsewhere to make it work cap wise.


What are the 5 most important changes?


  1. Zion Williamson is a Dallas Maverick

Since the Lakers missed out on LeBron in 2018 free agency, they ended up being one of the worst teams in the league in the 2018-19 season.  The Pelicans in this case would be pushed back a spot and become the 9th worst teams in the league.  As a result, they would get the 2nd overall draft pick and Ja Morant.  The Mavericks would get Zion to join Luka and Porzingis which would be an insanely high ceiling trio and suddenly the Giannis talk gets serious to have a core 4 of those guys.  The Knicks would be disappointed here as they get bounced back to 3rd Overall while the trade partner in the Porzingis deal gets a stud to join their other young stars.


  1. Jimmy Butler is a Los Angeles Clipper

Without the 76ers as a threat to trade for Jimmy Butler, the Los Angeles Clippers swooped in.  The three-team deal sent Tobias Harris and Lou Williams to Brooklyn who went on to make the playoffs.  The Nets did not retain Tobias Harris after signing Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in 2019 and Harris went on to sign with the Warriors in a double sign and trade scenario for Durant.  The three-team Butler trade got the Timberwolves DeMarre Carroll, the right to swap 2019 first round picks with the earliest of their pick, Brooklyn’s pick and the Clippers pick and Karl-Anthony Towns friend, D’Angelo Russell.  The Clippers then ended up with Jimmy Butler and a top 5 team in the West and retained Butler in 2019 free agency.


  1. Kawhi Leonard and Anthony Davis are Los Angeles Lakers

The Lakers after swinging and missing multiple times having missed out on LeBron the previous off-season decide to still go all in on Anthony Davis and do what it takes to get the deal done.  Kawhi Leonard just won a championship with the Philadelphia 76ers next to Simmons, Embiid and LeBron, but decided he did not love the vibes in Philly.  He preferred to bring the Lakers back to relevance with AD in Los Angeles.  Kawhi and Anthony Davis end up getting the Lakers to the NBA Finals against Kawhi’s former team, the 76ers.


  1. Paul George and Russell Westbrook are still with the Thunder

With no LeBron in the West, no super offer by the Clippers, Durant going East to Brooklyn, etc. the Thunder decide to go for it and run it back with Paul George and Russell Westbrook.  Even with the Kawhi Leonard and Anthony Davis duo in LA, there is not really a better 2019-20 Western Conference team than the Thunder running it back with Westbrook and George.  Chris Paul ended up going to Miami in a deal that saved the Rockets a lot of draft picks (Paul for Goran Dragic, James Johnson, and Derrick Jones Jr.).  The Thunder as a result made it to the 2019-20 Western Conference Finals but lost to the Lakers.  Talks now are that they may break things up in the off-season.


  1. LeBron James Going for Ring 5 in 2019-20 NBA Finals

The team facing the previously mentioned AD/Kawhi Lakers in the 2019-20 NBA Finals is the Philadelphia 76ers who are so insanely talented with LeBron, Ben Simmons, and Joel Embiid that even with losing Kawhi Leonard they were the best team in the East.  It took seven games, but they fought off the Giannis-lead Bucks in the Eastern Conference Finals.  Seeing as how they won the 2018-19 NBA Championship; this would now be LeBron’s 5th Ring if they defeated the Lakers.  That would put him one shy of Michael Jordan.

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