Let me lead by saying this has been a real challenge. First of all trying to establish how to break down an NBA player. Then locking in and doing the work, as objectively as possible measuring the players against each other and the NBA respectively. This whole thing started with an argument on Twitter with loads of people weighing in on “who is the best NBA player right now”. The mutual consensus was that LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Kawhi Leonard were the four best. And those are the players I have broken down into 14 different categories.
To make sure as many as possible agree on the way I have done this, over 500 people participated in a poll on Twitter voting “how to emphasise offence vs defence”. Over 70% said a 60/40 split in favour of offence was the way to go. So thats what I have I done. Then to make sure to cover every angle, I have added a 3rd category with four points, “the Extras”. Hope you enjoy the read.
– Basket Regards. Magnus Barstad (follow me on Twitter @MagnusBarstad)
14 points of breaking down the King, LeBron James.
- Long distance & FTs (3s and long 2s)
This has been LBJs weak spot throughout his career. This being said he has worked a lot on it the last couple of years. This accumulated in the 2017 Playoffs where LBJ shot better than Klay Thompson from down town (107 v 106 shots). 44 makes on 107 shots for James (41.1%) is very, very respectable. Still you don’t feel like he is a knock down shooter from distance. Not the greatest at the free throw line. Taking a step down this season with 67.4% vs his 74% career avrg.
- Close to the basket
One of the greatest drivers to the basket in the history of the game. Amazing first step and strength to finish with defenders flying into him from all angles. Unstoppable.
“He is Steve Nash, just in a 6’8” / 260lbs body” – Channing Frye
James is a point guard at the SF/PF position. Flat out a great passer of the ball. On time and on the spot every single time. Can pass over, around and behind defenders. Best passing SF/PF of all time. 8.7 apg last season.
- Controlling the game
Ability to read the game, knowing plays, players and coverages combined with his off the charts IQ and passing ability. LBJ controls the game like few other.
- Unstoppable move(s)
LeBron James running downhill in transition, able to make the right play every time. Lethal move. And most importantly a move he gets to do often. One of the things that make James so good is the fact that he has several unstoppable moves. Single man coverage of the dribble, or back to the basket reading the play – also impossible to stop.
- His ability to handle pressure and double teams
You cannot stop LeBron James with a double team. He is too good a passer. He will find wide open teammates and do the right play every time. His ability to handle pressure has been held against him throughout his career because he isn’t the same style player as Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant. LeBron wants to do the right basketball play and trust his teammates instead of forcing it by himself. Whether this is right or not, we just can’t get into that now. I will say that earlier in his career he visibly felt the pressure at end of big games. I struggle to hold that against him now. Is he the meanest killer of all times? No. Still, I would trust him.
Offence total: 55/60
- Man to man guarding
LeBrons unique physique allows him to guard 1-5. What’s more concerning on the defensive end is the effort when he is 1 v 1. You feel that he tries to conserve energy and does not go all out all of the time. But when he does he is really, really good. Strong and fast. Can look down almost anyone IF he wants.
- Flexibility and switching
As mentioned LeBron can guard 1-5. One of very, very few players in NBA who can do that. He can also switch pick and rolls, go under and over screens and recover. His IQ and playbook awareness allows him to play the passing lanes.
- Defensive leadership
James does not have the same presence on the defensive end as he does on the offensive. He is a solid floor leader, but you have to wonder that the quality of his teammates might rob him of a top rating here? He is playing alongside poor defensive players with terrible awareness that have a tendency to get overplayed and back cut a lot. This obviously does not make LeBrons defensive leadership look great. Then again in the Miami days he was leading one of the better defences of this decade.
- Protecting the paint or the perimeter
Being one of the players that have made the chase down block into an art form, LeBron James excels when he can roam the paint. The pinnacle of his ability is forever engraved in NBA history with the block on Iguodala in last years finals. His rare combination of skills allows him to be one of very few players who are effective both on the perimeter and protecting the paint.
Defence total 35/40
Very, very rarely do you hear any kind of current or ex teammate say anything bad about LeBron James. He wants to win and leads the way by putting in enormous amounts of work. He makes his teammates better on and off the court. Great at creating togetherness and a strong team feeling at the point of his career. Almost every player in the NBA wants to be his teammate.
A strong and vocal leader. By many “made fun of” as a player/coach or “Uncle LeBron” by the way he micromanages his team. Still you can’t fault the effectiveness of his leadership. If you put in the work and sacrifice he will stand up for you all day long. Can be a bit tedious with his subtweeting and moaning when things don’t go his way. But. At the end of the day, he usually gets his way. And it usually amounts in success. Has had a leadership role since day one in the NBA fourteen year ago. Does not ever get in trouble, and leads 100% by example.
LeBrons rebounding is one of the most underrated facets of this game. 9.1 rebounds pr game in the playoffs. Great numbers for any player shifting between PG, SF and PF at 6’8”. The more important the gams is, the better LeBrons rebounding is. Really good at boxing out on the defensive boards, no matter the size of the opponent.
His unprecedented abilities naturally gives him the x-factor. He can take over games like few others and come up with game winning plays on both ends. Defenders fear him. The only thing that keeps him from getting a top, top score here is the fact that he does not really heat up from 3pt land like some of the other players in the NBA.
Extra total 29/30
Total rating LeBron James = 129/140
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