Weekly Countdown (cont.)
2 Sides of LeBron James' value
As expected, much mail was generated by my recent suggestion that James -- by winning five playoff series and reaching an NBA Finals by age 23 -- has accomplished more with less than other stars in the NBA. Response was divided unevenly among the dissenters and the affirmers.
2. Those who believe LeBron is overrated.
You wrote about LeBron, "Imagine what James would accomplish with ... David West and Tyson Chandler in New Orleans." Chandler has been a perennial disappointment and West is just now coming into his own as a player. Would either of them really have been the players they are now without Chris Paul? Isn't Paul responsible for David West and Tyson Chandler becoming David West and Tyson Chandler?
Of course Paul deserves -- and universally receives -- credit for bringing out the best in his teammates. But the point remains that James hasn't played with an athletic shot-blocker like Chandler or an array of shooters like those who surround Paul.
Cleveland's problem has nothing to do with its supporting staff and all to do with the style of offense. If the Cavs let the offense flow through the point guard instead of LeBron, then they are very dangerous. The Cavs stumble when the offense is virtually all run through LeBron. Did you watch Game 3? That is what the Cavs do when Wally Szczerbiak, Delonte West, Joe Smith and Zydrunas Ilgauskas are allowed to play instead of watch.
But who is the point guard? The Cavs have been seeking one for years to take the ball out of James' hands. That's why he wanted them to acquire Jason Kidd this year.
How come no one asks how OVERRATED LeBron is? You article is completely right in that LeBron has made a lot with nothing. But let's stop the suck-up train that is popular media. LeBron does a lot of things poorly. He's a bad defender and an atrocious shooter. He slashes very, very well, and is a beneficiary of today's league. Until he learns to shoot, teams will continue to allow him to shoot and just clog the lane. LeBrick needs a jumper.
James is doing OK for a 23-year-old who is still the second-youngest player on his team. Jordan and Magic Johnson didn't get around to improving their jumpers until they were much older than James. I just can't buy into the argument that he's overrated; here's a guy who was hyped more than any player ever before entering the league, and he has actually exceeded expectations.
Isn't it quite obvious that LeBron is overrated? Isn't quite obvious that he --- not his teammates -- is missing his layups, jump shots and free throws? Isn't obvious that his teammates almost won Game 1 with him shooting 2-for-18? Isn't it obvious that he actually has solid teammates in Big Z, Ben Wallace and Wally Szczerbiak (all former All-Stars)? Isn't obvious that you never wrote an article like this about Kobe when he was playing in the West with the talents of Kwame Brown and Smush Parker? Isn't it obvious that you are bias?
Isn't it obvious that you have never read anything I've written about Kobe Bryant for the last several years? Quite.
Regarding LeBron doing more with less ... there are two sides to the coin. When you are expected to do everything, you are going to have better numbers. It's why guys like Gerald Wallace went from being a nobody on Sacramento to a star on the Bobcats, for example. LeBron is in a similar situation. Combined with playing in the Leastern Conference, that makes it not entirely clear if he is underrated or not (given how good everyone thinks he is already).
It definitely helps James to play in the East, where the road to the Finals is less encumbered. It's also true that his scoring numbers would shrink if he were surrounded by better teammates. But all I was referring to was his ability to lead an unimpressive Cavs roster to five playoff series victories and a Finals before his 24th birthday. His performances last year in the conference finals against Detroit cannot be considered a fluke.
1. Those who believe LeBron is underrated. There weren't nearly as many who agreed with me, but that's not all that unusual. Here is one such response:
I could not agree with you more. Look at his supporting cast throughout his time in the league: Eric Snow, Sasha Pavlovic, Anderson Varejao, Larry Hughes and Drew Gooden. Now I could name one thing that each individual player does well, but ask me for two things and I would struggle. Since he entered the league, his most talented teammate has been Big Z. But Z is limited in that he cannot create his own offense. The only player on the Cavs' roster since LeBron was drafted who is able to create his own offense has been LeBron. No one really has brought this up before and I'm glad someone finally did. He may not be the best player in the league (seems like a consensus for Kobe), but if Kobe and LeBron switched places, the Cavs would certainly struggle to get out of the first round, and LeBron's Lakers would be rolling to their first title since the Shaq era ended.
You had me in agreement until your over-the-top statement about Kobe. It would be interesting to see what James could do in the West, but I can't agree that he would've had a bigger impact on the Lakers than Bryant in previous years. For one thing, Bryant was a much better defender than James in that time.
1 Thought on Kobe Bryant
1. No player is more nitpicked. I've touched on this before, but isn't it becoming more obvious that Bryant's "maturity'' has as much to do with his learning to be a passer as with his having teammates worthy of being passed to?
Anytime the Lakers lose, there are questions about whether he tried to do too much by himself or whether he didn't do enough while deferring too much to his teammates. There always has to be a reason why things go badly for the Lakers, which in a way serves as a compliment to Bryant's overwhelming talent. All of this looking-over-his-shoulder is going to end when he wins another championship, at which time he will instantly earn the benefit of the doubt. Until then, he'll be second-guessed to the highest standard.