Bob on 04 14, 2009
Let me start by stating that I am a LeBron James and Cleveland Cavaliers supporter. Nevertheless, it’s ludicrous to be labeled ‘biased’ when claiming LeBron is the best player in the league, or that the Cavs are the favorite to win it all this year. If anyone’s prejudiced, it’s the group who says this (the majority are Kobe/Laker diehards, go figure). Hear me out.
Cleveland just locked up home-court advantage throughout the playoffs by clinching the league’s best record last night against the Indiana Pacers. To say clinching home-court is huge would be an understatement. Given the Cavs phenomenal record at home (39-1), it’s downright silly to make the claim that the Cavs aren’t the team to beat with home-court advantage throughout the playoffs. This is a team that will tie an NBA record for best home mark with a win Wednesday. The Cavs have forcefully handled almost every team that steps foot in Cleveland. Did you see the dismantling of the C’s Easter afternoon? I know Boston was without the ‘Big Ticket,’ but either way you look at it; a 31 point spanking is embarrassing! Perhaps a preview of the Eastern Conference Finals? We all know Boston can’t win in Cleveland…if you’ve yet to notice this, you need to step your NBA game up.
Laker enthusiasts will be quick to point out the game in Cleveland on February 8th, in which LA handed the Cavs their only loss at Quicken Loans Arena. This is NOT a legitimate point to make given the circumstances, nor is the loss in LA (without West and Ilgauskas against a full strength LA team). Cleveland was dealing with some key injuries. Fresh off injury, Zydrunas Ilgauskas wasn’t fully healthy while Delonte West was out with a broken wrist when the teams squared off in Cleveland. The Lakers were without Andrew Bynum, but Lamar Odom isn’t a bad player to have taken his place in the starting lineup (some might make the claim that Lamar Odom is a superstar). Do you know who was starting in place of West? Sasha Pavlovic. Yes, Sasha Pavlovic! I mean, Wally Sczerbiak played 34 minutes when LA won in Cleveland!
I know Lakers fans will argue that they have a deeper bench, which might not be an unreasonable argument. Los Angeles unquestionably has a talented bench with players like Odom, Walton, Farmar, Vujacic and Adam Morrison (that was a joke). However, I don’t think the Cavs bench is given enough recognition. Anderson Varejao was inserted into the starting lineup following Ben Wallace’s injury, and I feel Varejao is one of the most improved players in the league this season. He might look like Sideshow Bob, but night in and night out Varejao gives it everything he’s got, that includes his body. Bringing Joe Smith back, despite all the comments made about him being a bust of a 1st overall pick (I seriously hear this every time Smith is at the stripe) was a HUGE acquisition. Smith allows Z, Varejao and Wallace to keep fresh legs. Smith can shoot, rebound and is a great defender. Smith, Wallace, Gibson, Hickson and Sczerbiak provide solid contributions for Cleveland. Overall though, I think it’s fair to say LA has a more talented bench.
On the other hand, Cleveland has better team chemistry to go along with the most efficient player pair (82games.com) and the best player in the league. If there’s a team with better chemistry than the Cavaliers I’d like to hear it. The Cavs players compliment each other so well. They win games and have a blast doing it. On the topic of chemistry and complimenting each other well, have you seen LBJ and Mo Williams play together? It’s a god damn beautiful thing. LeBron and Mo have a +/- of +615, the highest among any pair of players.
In an ESPN.com NBA MVP ballot, 17 of 18 writers and analysts picked LBJ as their MVP. Granted, MVP doesn’t necessarily mean ‘best player,’ but in this case, it does. Following last night’s game, Danny Granger of the Pacers, a superstar in his own right, stated his thoughts (from ESPN.com): “I think LeBron separates Cleveland from other teams,” Granger said. “Kobe’s still a great player, and D-Wade’s a great player, and Boston has their ‘Big Three,’ but I think LeBron brings so much to that team. It opens up so much for everyone else. He’s virtually unguardable, and I think he makes them special.” Well put, Danny. At least you give credit where it’s due. LeBron James continues to improve on his game, and it scares the bejeezus out of Kobe fans. He drastically improved his free throw percentage (by almost 7%) and defense this season. James is once again at the top of Hollinger’s PER (player efficiency rating) as well as the Roland Rating. There is no ceiling to what LBJ might do. We are all witnesses.
For those of you who love to bring up the ‘clutch’ argument when comparing LeBron and Kobe or LeBron and Wade, get your facts straight first! I suggest taking a look at 82games.com. If you’re looking for NBA statistics, 82games.com has it. On this site, you can find NBA player “clutch” stats. “Clutch” is defined as: 4th quarter or overtime, less than 5 minutes left, neither team ahead by more than 5 points. The site breaks down all players’ production per 48 minutes of Clutch Time. LeBron (.549) has a considerably better FG % than Bryant (.468) or Wade (.481). Not a good clutch 3 point shooter? Think again. LBJ leads Kobe and Dwyane Wade in 3 point percentage as well at .421 %. Other notable categories James pilots are assists, rebounds, steals, +/- and dance moves. Kobe does average slightly more points and has a higher FT % than both ‘Bron and Wade. I’m a strong supporter of individual stats not holding much significance if their team isn’t doing well, but as a result of his ridiculous play, LBJ has his team atop the NBA and in great position to win his first of many titles.
Kobe Bryant is a phenomenal player and the Lakers are a superb team, I’m not taking that away from them, but to be called biased about my thoughts on LeBron and the Cavs is outlandish. I’ll admit that Los Angeles has the best chance to knock off the Cavs, but when you take all of these things into account, it’s damn near impossible to argue that LeBron isn’t the best player in the league, and that his Cavaliers aren’t the favorite to win it all. I’m all ears.