LeBron James’ Dominance in the NBA’s In-Season Tournament Proves Age is Just a Number

The NBA’s latest innovation became a stage for its oldest player. LeBron James took home the MVP award in the first in-season tournament, proving once again that he can still dominate games – although his approach has changed somewhat over the years. In some ways, his 21st season in the league is one of his best. How can that be?

von Ole Frerks

The In-Season Tournament (IST) was touted by the NBA – at least in part – as an outlet that young players can use; as a stage for a new generation of teams and stars who want to present themselves to a broader public. Tyrese Haliburton and the Pacers took advantage of this opportunity – and yet it was somehow fitting that in the end it wasn’t a new face at the top, but the most familiar of them all. Despite all the innovations, at least one that you could rely on.

LeBron James wasn’t the best player in the finals (that was Anthony Davis), but he dominated the semifinals at will and averaged 26 points, 8 rebounds and 8 assists over the IST round – which is almost exactly his career numbers of over 1,443 Games corresponds to (27, 8 and 7). Over the entire season so far there are “only” 25, 8 and 7, albeit with the best effective throw rate of his career (62.1 percent). Why not.

LeBron is generationless, he has now survived numerous eras and teams, he will be 39 years old in just under three weeks and is still one of the best players in the league. There are no parallels, no precedents for what he is currently doing; The few players who played a 21st season in the NBA before him averaged fewer points than he alone.

This content comes from external providers such as Facebook, Instagram or YouTube. Please enable personalized ads and content as well as providers outside of the CMP standard to display this content.Privacy settings

Every legendary career ends at some point, and that will be no different for James. However, it doesn’t seem like the end is near yet – the output is almost identical to what it was in the best of times. LeBron has certainly adapted his game to take his biblical age into account by NBA player standards.

the essentials in brief

This content comes from external providers such as Facebook, Instagram or YouTube. Please enable personalized ads and content as well as providers outside of the CMP standard to display this content.Privacy settings

LeBron James: The Opportunist

The idea that James could have a minute limit of 30 was rejected by the Lakers in the second game of the season – but the current 33.4 minutes per game is still the lowest in his career. Lakers coach Darvin Ham gives LeBron breaks where he can, even if it often puts the team in precarious situations. According to “Cleaning the Glass”, the Lakers’ net rating is 21.2 points better when James is on the court… the offense in particular is hardly competitive.

On the court, LeBron is more efficient than ever. Not just in terms of his shooting (career-high 40.7 percent from the three-point line), but generally in terms of his energy; He spends more time away from the ball and saves his reserves. No player in the world knows better when it comes to sprinting and when it isn’t.

His attacks come quickly and precisely. Of course, it helps that he’s still more explosive than at least 90 percent of all NBA players (and stronger than 100 percent). And that, alongside players like D’Angelo Russell and Austin Reaves, he has to be a play initiator a little less often and a play finisher more often, i.e. he can be found on the move.

The severity is reduced

James gradually reduces plays and actions that are exhausting and “difficult” and exchanges them for more efficient, easier completions. He takes the fewest post-ups since at least 2015/16 (the data at “nba.com” doesn’t go back any further), and completes plays as a pick’n’roll ball handler or from isolations less often than ever before. His Time of Possession (4.7 minutes) has never been lower, even last season it was a full minute more.

Especially in the game against the Pelicans it was easy to see how he now gets many of his points, apart from his jump shot (4/4 three-pointers in this case). James has been one of the most efficient cutters in the league for years – if the defense focuses too much on the pick’n’roll of Reaves and Davis, for example, he finds the gap:

This content comes from external providers such as Facebook, Instagram or YouTube. Please enable personalized ads and content as well as providers outside of the CMP standard to display this content.Privacy settings

His transition attacks are also related to this. Only Donovan Mitchell, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Jaylen Brown, RJ Barrett and Giannis Antetokounmpo score more points in the rushing attack than James (6.4), who is more efficient than everyone else (77.3 percent eFG). He is still a locomotive with outstanding footwork that hardly any defender can or wants to stand in his way.

This content comes from external providers such as Facebook, Instagram or YouTube. Please enable personalized ads and content as well as providers outside of the CMP standard to display this content.Privacy settings

LeBron: Balanced scoring

James is also able to get to the basket in the half court. Significantly better than should be possible given his age and the Lakers’ suboptimal spacing. He records the third-most completions in the restricted area at the basket (behind Giannis, Zion Williamson and Davis) and hits almost 77 percent of them. Only Giannis and three pure play finishers (Jakob Pöltl, Obi Toppin and Dereck Lively II) are more efficient.

Although James is no longer as fast as he used to be, he can usually find a way to the basket – also because his defenders stick closer to him than in his athletic prime due to his improved jumper.

At the moment, his scoring is in perfect balance, James takes slightly fewer threes than in previous years and instead uses the threat for more of the shots that he actually prefers. James last took 46 percent of his shots at the ring in the 2019/20 season, when he won his only title to date with the Lakers.

An actually impossible feat

It is not yet clear whether they can repeat this coup this year. The Lakers can certainly be among the contenders with their excellent defense when they are healthy – there is a big question mark behind the offense despite LeBron’s excellence (113.8 points per 100 possessions, 21st place). And with LeBron himself, on the one hand, health is an issue… and on the other hand, the question of the extent to which his current scoring can be transferred to playoff basketball.

The discussion about the MVP in the NBA broke out early in the season. After Finals MVP Nikola Jokic won twice in a row, Joel Embiid was honored last season. ran shows the best MVP odds for this season at a glance (source: Draft Kings / as of December 10th).© 2023 Getty Images

14th place (shared): Anthony Davis (Los Angeles Lakers)
Quote: +7000
If you bet 100 euros you would get 7100 euros.© ZUMA Wire

14th place (shared): Donovan Mitchell (Cleveland Cavaliers)
Quote: +7000
If you bet 100 euros you would get 7100 euros.© 2023 Getty Images

Platz 13: LeBron James (Los Angeles Lakers)
Quote: +6500
If you bet 100 euros you would get 6600 euros.© 2023 Getty Images

Platz 12: Devin Booker (Phoenix Suns)
Quote: +4000
If you bet 100 euros you would get 4100 euros. © 2023 Getty Images

10th place (shared): Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors)
Quote: +4000
If you bet 100 euros you would get 4100 euros. © 2023 Getty Images

10th place (shared): De’Aaron Fox (Sacramento Kings)
Quote: +4000
If you bet 100 euros you would get 4100 euros. © 2023 Getty Images

Platz 9: Anthony Edwards (Minnesota Timberwolves)
Quote: +3000
If you bet 100 euros you would get 3100 euros. © 2023 Getty Images

Platz 8: Kevin Durant (Phoenix Suns)
Quote: +2500
If you bet 100 euros you would get 2600 euros.© ZUMA Wire

Platz 7: Tyrese Haliburton (Indiana Pacers)
Quote: +1500
If you bet 100 euros you would get 1600 euros.© 2023 Getty Images

Platz 6: Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee Bucks)
Quote: +1400
If you bet 100 euros you would get 1500 euros. © Icon Sportswire

Platz 4 (geteilt): Jayson Tatum (Boston Celtics)
Quote: +1000
If you bet 100 euros you would get 1100 euros. © Xinhua

4th place (shared): Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Oklahoma City Thunder)
Quote: +1000
If you bet 100 euros you would get 1100 euros.© Icon Sportswire

Platz 3: Joel Embiid (Philadelphia 76ers)
Quote: +700
If you bet 100 euros you would get 800 euros.© ZUMA Press

Platz 2: Luka Doncic (Dallas Mavericks)
Quote: +450
If you bet 100 euros you would get 550 euros.© 2023 Getty Images

Platz 1: Nikola Jokic (Denver Nuggets)
Quote: +160
If you bet 100 euros you would get 260 euros.© ZUMA Wire

As of now, his season is basically under the simplified motto “Less is more” – he uses less playing time, energy and touches for more points per possession. His team remains dependent on him, but he also uses his team more, takes fewer shots from his own creation than ever before, and benefits more from assists. He invests less energy defensively and lets the infrastructure (and of course Davis) carry him to some extent.

LeBron is currently managing the impossible feat of conserving (a lot of) energy while still being indispensable. He showed that there is another way in the IST, especially against Phoenix and New Orleans – against the Suns he dominated again and again with the ball in his hand in a 31-point, 11-rebound, 8-assist performance in crunch time As a play initiator (and finisher), against the Pelicans he not only excelled offensively, but also picked up three offensive fouls in his 22 minutes and almost didn’t allow Zion, the walking paint touch, to get into the zone. Can this also be done (still) over an entire postseason, again and again?

LeBron: Nothing is impossible

We will see. Actually it doesn’t work when you’re 39. Actually, what we are currently seeing (and in reality have been seeing for several years) from LeBron isn’t really “possible”. By now, in year 21, there are no longer any examples or players with whom James can be adequately compared.

You can only compare James, who has played more minutes in the NBA than any other person, with himself. He’s doing shockingly well at the moment – as I said, in some ways it’s the most efficient year of his career. A career in which each stop (CLE, MIA, CLE again, LAL) would have been enough for an induction into the Hall of Fame.

LeBron won’t be the one you can always rely on forever. He’s had the job longer than anyone before him. But there’s no end in sight yet… at least not really.

2023-12-14 10:13:00
#Lakers #star #LeBron #James #achieves #impossible #feat

Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *