LeBron James will not let age, injuries, or his rather unimpressive set of teammates stop him from being the most elite player in basketball.
Is LeBron James ever going to stop being incredible? Well, year-after-year, Skip Bayless and others would like to say so. And yet, he is arguably having his best season as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers. Although the team is struggling, and the King has battled some minor injuries, his dominance is truthfully uncontrollable. At the ripe age of 37, this legend continues carrying his retirement community of a team. Something the Akron, Ohio kid has done for the last 19 years and seemingly won’t stop doing.
Despite the Lakers’ marquee acquisition of Russell Westbrook, the team is in utter disarray. The aging roster cannot contend with the new wave of talent flooding the association. So much so, the Lakers are the slowest team in the league. However, LeBron James is not slowing down whatsoever. Sure, he may lollygag up and down the court at times, but nobody in the league today has the drive, will, or brute strength that LeBron holsters.
So just how good is the King playing this year? Can he overcome the aging roster around him? Will he force the Lakers into a playoff birth in a deep western conference? The simple answer — James is still amazing and will certainly do so. Why? Because he Lebron-freaking James, that’s why. However, here’s a deeper, more articulate answer to those questions.
The Ageless Wonder that is LeBron James
Since missing the first month of the NBA season, LeBron has made it clear his inevitable decline is not impending. Although his first month of play was not overly ridiculous, because that’s the only way one can gauge the seventeen-time all-star, his last month has been quite remarkable. ESPN made LeBron’s consecutive 30-point streak well-advertised, but his numbers go well beyond just that. Of course, dropping seven-straight 30 bombs is especially impressive at his age, his other numbers might be even more astonishing.
This season, LeBron James is averaging the most points per game (28.6) not since joining the Lakers, nor since his return to Cleveland, but since he left for Miami in 2010. Twelve years ago, at the young age of 25, LeBron last surpassed the 28 points per game threshold, and he is somehow on pace to do so again. Furthermore, LeBron, someone who’s evolved into one of, if not the best distributor in basketball is averaging just 3.3 turnovers a night, his lowest since his 2015-2016 Cavaliers season. Albeit, his assist numbers (6.5apg) are the lowest since his final season in Miami.
Despite his recent move to the center position (more on this later), LeBron James continues rebounding at his normal pace. However, his defense is above and beyond his recent years. With 1.7 spg and 1.1 bpg, James is currently averaging the most in each category since 2013 and 2009, respectively. Consequently, despite a mediocre teamwide defensive rating (14th), the King, if maintained, deserves DPOY consideration. All things considered, it is pretty clear his season has been one of the best statistical in recent history. But wait, there’s more!
LeBron’s Efficiencies Aging Like the Fine Wine He Be Sippin’ Courtside
His efficiencies are stellar as well, especially from the charity stripe. With 5.7 attempts per game, which is the same number he’s averaged the previous two seasons, he’s knocking down a near career-high of 77.3% of them. Truthfully, it is somewhat disappointing his career-high is just 78%, but to see such a rapid, dramatic increase from the last couple of years is noteworthy. Moreover, in his first three seasons as a Laker, LeBron shot just 68.31% from the free-throw line.
If you’ve watched LeBron over the years, a major change to his game recently has been his willingness to shoot threes. Throughout his career, Bron was never a bad deep-ball shooter, he simply was better at attacking the basket. However, today, LeBron is attempting more threes per game than ever before (8 per game vs. 6.3 the past two years). In doing so, one might think his efficiencies have dropped due to more attempts, which may be true by the end of the year. For now, though, the King is splashing home three a night, which, in turn, gives him a 37% three-point percentage, his highest since he was just 29 years old.
There are several other statistics that could be illustrated, but these basic, yet important ones paint plenty of a picture. That said, these numbers do need to be taken with a grain of salt as LeBron James has only participated in 27 of the Lakers’ 39 games thus far. Nonetheless, his numbers jump off the paper as truly extraordinary and, if sustained, might just put him in MVP considerations as well. The only problem with that is his team is just one game above five hundred (20-19) and currently at the bottom of the playoff picture.
LeBron James & His Old Friends
One of the most interesting parts of this Laker team is truthfully how good they all once were. In fact, the Lakers could field a starting five of players that were previously the faces of their respective franchises. With Pelicans AD, Nuggets/Knicks Melo, Magic Dwight, Thunder Westbrook, and literally any season LeBron, each and every one of them were true superstars. Not to mention previously vital starters like Deandre Jordan, Rajon Rondo before his trade to Cleveland, Darren Collison, Trevor Ariza, Avery Bradley, and more are also on this wacky team.
The clear theme here is they all once were those types of guys. Out of all those players mentioned, the only one actually on-par with their prime is none other than LeBron James. Sure, AD is good, just hurt and despite the immense criticism, Westbrook is still pushing triple-double numbers, just without even alright shooting splits, but both are simply not enough. Simply put, they are just too damn old. And by a long shot too.
Take last night’s players for example. With nine players on the court at some point, the Lakers’ average age was 30.78 years. Granted, this number is skewed due to 23-year-old Austin Reaves, 21-year-old Talen Horton-Tucker, and 23-year-old Malik Monk. Without them, that average age jumps to a ridiculous 35 years. To put that in comparison, SportingNews.com found that the league’s average roster age was 26.1 years. This is a major red flag and a significant reason why this random assortment of players is simply not working.
LeBron Doing LeBron Like Things
In an attempt to quickly wrap up this lengthy article, let’s rundown the realistic odds for the Lakers this season. As of January 4th, the Lakers host +1500 to win the championship according to OddShark. Although LA is currently in 7th place in the western conference, they somehow host the 7th best title odds. How can this be? LeBron James is how. Of course, betting odds are based upon what people have already bet on, but this just goes to show the faith the people have in the King.
Realistically, as their roster currently sits, this Laker squad is far from title-contenders. Furthermore, another major problem with LA is their lack of flexibility when it comes to the trade deadline. With three monstrous contracts in LeBron, AD, and Westbrook, either one needs to be traded, or no major moves will occur. The Lakers are certainly the type of team to win the buyout portal, but shifting around role-players may not be enough as long as LA’s big three cannot coincide.
For that reason, I certainly do not foresee another Lakers title in 2022. However, their playoff hopes are all but guaranteed because of one man and one man only. Furthermore, once in the playoffs, this roster could step up to the plate and dismantle these younger, unproven teams like the Grizzlies, Timberwolves (if they squeak in), and more. In that sense, do not be overly surprised if LeBron and company make a ‘shocking’ run for the title.
What really needs to happen for the Lakers is a cohesive playstyle that optimizes each veteran’s skillsets. With such a high-IQ team, it should be obtainable, but in such a short time, is another question. What is unquestionable, though, is that LeBron James, at the age of 37 and in year 19 of his illustrious career, is still one of, if not the best basketball players in the world.
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