Friday, March 29, 2013

The New LeBron - Some Thoughts

http://www.grantland.com/story/_/id/9109245/how-lebron-james-transformed-game-become-highly-efficient-scoring-machine

Very interesting analysis.

Let me propose a different theory -- those of you who read the Blog know that no one loves LeBron more than I do.  But let me propose this theory -- he got lucky.

When LeBron came to Miami, Wade was healthier, Bosh was still a star level player, and LeBron was a couple years younger and more spry.  They reached the Finals.  They should have won.  But Dallas was playing awfully well. 

Recall that Dallas just absolutely whacked the Lakers and Phil Jackson in an embarrassing sweep.  The Lakers played so poorly against Dallas that it almost imploded the whole Lakers team.  Phil Jackson left, Gasol was almost run out of town, people decided that the Lakers didn't need Bynum.  That Dallas team was just red-effing hot.  Kidd was burying 3s, Terry was burying 3s, Dirk was unconscious, Tyson Chandler was holding down the middle like a man possessed.  Shawn Marion had found the fountain of youth.

That Dallas team had 5 guys with a playoff PER over 15.  Miami had 3.  The only way Miami beats Dallas in that series is if James plays like James can - he didn't.

Fast forward to 2011-12.  The Heat actually were WORSE in the Eastern Conference playoffs then they had been in 2010-11.  They rode LeBron's ridiculous 30 playoff PER into the finals, but again - only 3 guys had above a 15 playoff PER (and recall that Bosh did not play a lot due to injury).

So what happened?  The Heat faced not the Mavs or the Lakers or the Spurs, but the team that had beaten all 3 - Oklahoma City.  And, to put it mildly, OKC wasn't ready for prime time.  In Games 3, 4, and 5 the "big 3" for OKC had the following differentials between Offensive Rating and Defensive Rating:

Durant -- minus 11, minus 2, minus 19
Westbrook - minus 8, plus 7, minus 38!!
Harden -- minus 21, minus 48!!!  +2.

These are your BEST players.  Harden had a 67/115 in Game 2.  67 - Ben Wallace's ORtg is generally better than 67....today.

The Heat won, and James played well.  But let's face it.  The Thunder sucked, so the Heat won a title. 

That is nothing to be ashamed of.  I mean, Bird's Celtics only once beat the Lakers (1984) and two of their titles were against Houston teams who were just lucky to be there (1981 and 1986).    Philly was East champion in 1980, 82 and 83 and the Lakers beat the Celtics in 1985 and 87.  No one takes those Houston titles away from Bird, but a fair assessment would be that the Celts were lucky to face Houston and that the Lakers were probably the best team in 1981 and 1986 as well.  Similarly, if you look at Hakeem's career statistically, he does not measure up to guys in the top 20 all-time, but he won two titles, so he is thought more highly of than he should be.  Why did he win two titles?  Michael Jordan retired and John Starks shot one for a million in Game 7 in 1994.  Hakeem was lucky. 

James and the Heat were lucky, but that doesn't mean they cannot ride that wave a little.  Winning a title gives you an aura and it gives you a calm in difficult situations.  When people question you, you can reply, "Hey, we are champions, we know how to win."  Even if it is bullshit, how can they really reply? 

The article above implies that James has become a better player.  Not really.  His defensive effort is down, he doesn't quite have the fresh legs he once did, his scoring is down, and his assists and rebounds are basically flat from his last two years in Cleveland.

What James has done is become comfortable in Miami and (with Wade's decline) achieve roughly the same production he was achieving at the end of his Cleveland days.  He shows up every night and carries his team....just as he has always done.  His shot selection is different, but he has fully regained the LeBron greatness after deferring to Wade for too long. 

3 comments:

Al Swearengen said...

Or, maybe he's just getting more positive press, now -- i.e., nearly three years removed from his tin-eared, tone-deaf "taking my talents to South Beach" blather.

For my part, I would be more interested to see where James would rank in an objectively-written piece about the most beloved buffoons in American history.

K said...

"For my part, I would be more interested to see where James would rank in an objectively-written piece about the most beloved buffoons in American history."
Seconded!

Al Swearengen said...

The people have spoken, HM, and we call upon you to author the requested piece.