Lebron is the Best Player
by- Joe ESQ (I watch the games and I’m an expert)
Joe says A LOT in this discussion.
It’s unlikely that you will agree with EVERYTHING he says.
There’s a lot of assertions that will obviously irritate some people.
Feel free to comment on the parts you like and the parts you don’t like.
Joe ESQ says:
“Lebron is the best player at ANY position,”
“Even mentioning Kevin Durant in the same conversation as Lebron is ridiculous.”
“Kevin Durant isn’t a better player or teammate than Lebron.”
“Dwight Howard is the second best player in the league.”
“Kobe is one of the most overrated players in NBA history and I tell you why.”
“Sportscenter prefers Derrick Rose, but Chris Paul is significantly better.”
“Dirk Nowitzki is still way ahead of Kevin Love and Blake Griffin.”
Ranking the best players at their positions
PG- Chris Paul (4)
SG – Dwayne Wade (3)
SF – Lebron James (the best overall, by far)
PF – Dirk Nowitzki (5)
Again, I’m ranking who the best players in basketball are at each position and how they rank overall against each other-
#1 LeBron James (Miami Heat, SF) Best Player in the NBA By Far.
“Lebron, best player- BY FAR.”
- Joe ESQ
This one’s easy. LeBron is head and shoulders above everyone else in basketball. He’s the most physically gifted player in the league, and is the best or among the best in every single aspect of the game: on-ball defense, help defense, ball-handling, passing, scoring efficiency, rebounding, penetrating and even post offense. “Everything you can do I can do better”—LeBron can truthfully say that to everyone else on Earth about almost any basketball skill.
As a result, LeBron puts up better stats than anyone. More important than any of his stats though is the fact that his presence on the court immediately makes everyone around him better. While that isn’t really quantifiable, we have pretty solid proof of it based on his success in Cleveland and his teammates’ lack of success without him. With LeBron, Cleveland went to the Finals and had the best record in the Eastern Conference multiple times. Without him, they finished last in the league. While there are excuses for that (injuries, changes to the roster, etc.), the lack of success of individual players on those teams is further proof. There are a handful of guys, referenced below, who were key contributors on competitive teams with LeBron but can barely hang on to a seat at the end of an NBA bench without him.
The only knock on LeBron is that he doesn’t step up when it matters. While there’s some support for that, it’s vastly overstated. Look at last year’s playoffs, for example. From the date of the Decision through the end of the regular season, the media almost universally said that Miami would not win the title. LeBron picked the wrong team, he and Wade won’t be able to play together, Boston has talent and more chemistry, etc. According to the experts (the real experts are in Vegas, but I’m not talking about them, I’m talking about commentators on TV and mainstream internet sites), Miami was going to lose to Boston and/or Chicago. Accordingly, when it came time for series’ against those teams, there was plenty of pressure on LeBron. Let’s analyze how he played in those games.
Lebron Can Dominate in Crunchtime Despite What The Media Says
Against Chicago, after the first game of the series, which Miami lost, every game came down to the final few minutes. In those moments, the series would be won or lost. They would have to be considered crunch time, right? In those moments, LeBron dominated in a way that I personally have never seen in a playoff series before (and I did watch Jordan win each of his titles). On defense, LeBron individually guarded the MVP of the league, Derrick Rose, and completely and utterly shut him down. Rose could literally do nothing. He couldn’t score. He couldn’t penetrate. He couldn’t set up teammates. It looked as though he couldn’t even breathe. All Rose did was turn it over or miss shots. This wasn’t one or two possessions. This was the last few minutes of every game; four of which Miami won consecutively. It wasn’t only on the defensive end either, as LeBron hit almost all of Miami’s big shots down the stretch against Chicago, which had the best defense in the league.
Think about what an accomplishment that was– in the most pressure packed moments of games in the Eastern Conference Finals, against the No. 1 team and the one most in the media said would win, LeBron completely and utterly dominated the MVP of the league on one end and the best defense in the league on the other. Have we ever seen that before? If so, when? If that’s not clutch, what performance is?
That wasn’t the only time it happened last year either. Against Boston, LeBron did the same thing. Anyone remember LeBron leading the Heat from behind in the fourth quarter with a bunch of tightly contested threes, and then a steal and dunk to finish off that series? Is that not clutch? It certainly seemed pretty clutch at the time. Was that series less important than the Finals? Not to Miami it wasn’t. By getting to the Finals, they exceeded expectations at least. Had they lost to Boston in the second round, their season would have been considered a miserable failure and LeBron would have taken even more heat from everyone.
Just to recap, the Boston series mattered, and LeBron came through in the clutch. The Chicago series mattered, and LeBron came through in the clutch in a way that was arguably better than any player ever had before . The Dallas series mattered, and he didn’t (even though Miami was one Wade FT (game 4) and one stop (game 2) from winning that series anyway). You can say that’s proof he’s not clutch, but it looks more like proof that he’s human.
NOT #1 Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City Thunder, SF)
“Durant, good player, nowhere close to Lebron at anything besides shooting 3-pointers.” – Joe ESQ
Outside of LeBron, the only other guy I think some would list as the best SF is Kevin Durant. Even mentioning Kevin Durant in the same conversation with LeBron is ridiculous. The only thing Durant can arguably do better than James is shoot 3s. That’s it. LeBron is a much better defender. He’s a better rebounder. He’s a better passer. He’s a better ball handler. He’s better at driving to and finishing at the basket. He’s better in the post. He’s a more efficient scorer.
Of course, the pro-Durant camp will say he’s a better teammate. As a basis for that, they’ll say that (1) Durant signed an extension with his original team without making a big deal about it, and (2) his teammates love him and work hard for him. As explained below, while both facts may be true, the argument that they PROVE he’s a better teammate are COMPLETE BULLSHIT.
“Kevin Durant is not a better player or teammate than Lebron James.”
- Joe ESQ
(1) Durant signed an extension with a team that has provided him with maybe the best supporting cast in the league. Durant is surrounded by an All-Star point guard, and All-Star swing man, and good post defenders/rebounders. Of course he’s going to sign an extension there. What reason would he have not to? Where else would he be in a better situation? LeBron (and Howard too) spent years carrying a bunch of garbage deep into the playoffs. His team had countless chances to add some decent players and never did. If LeBron wanted to win it all or play with friends and/or good players, he had no choice by to leave. If Durant wanted the same thing, he had no choice but to sign an extension. Thus, on this front, the only difference between the two is luck—Durant was lucky to get drafted by a better franchise than LeBron. (And don’t bring up The Decision either, because there’s no way that event had an adverse effect on his teammates. Not playing with LeBron hurt them. How he announced it did not.)
(2) The best description of a great teammate is not one that teammates like, but one that makes his teammates better. By that definition, LeBron is clearly a better teammate than Durant. Lousy players have made careers out of playing with LeBron. Guys like Boobie Gibson, Donyell Marshall, Larry Hughes, Drew Gooden were key players on competitive teams when playing with LeBron. Without him, they’re lucky to even be on an NBA roster. The same is true for guys like Joel Anthony and Mario Chalmers even now. Take LeBron away from those guys and they immediately become less efficient and their defensive deficiencies become more evident.
“Kevin Durant didn’t even make the Texas Longhorns a better team.” – Joe ESQ
Who has Durant ever done that for? Which players became instantly better when playing with Durant than they were anywhere else? If you were to take him off Oklahoma City, would they finish in last place? I understand he’s young and there’s a small sample size, but we saw what happened at Texas. His team was better the year after Durant left than they were with him. The players from that team were just as good the year after Durant left as well. This isn’t just conjecture, this is proven by team results and one key stat—every year in college and the pros, Durant has had MORE TURNOVERS THAN ASSISTS. He doesn’t penetrate and then when the defense collapses find open teammates. He doesn’t draw double teams and then find open teammates. He’s a great scorer; primarily a great jump shooter. LeBron is a great overall player. There’s a huge difference.
#2 Dwight Howard- (Orlando Magic, C)
“Dwight Howard is the second best player in the league.”
- Joe ESQ.
After LeBron at No. 1, this is the easiest choice on this list, both as the best center and also the second best player in the league. Howard is the best rebounder and defender in the league. His presence on the court instantly makes everyone around him better. Like LeBron in Cleveland, Howard has proven that in Orlando. He carried Orlando to Finals and has them in the playoffs every year, usually in the second or third round, despite being surrounded by garbage. How many of his teammates have had success elsewhere without him? Turkoglu was an All-Star with Howard– the second best player on a Finals team– but he was almost worthless without him. The same goes for guys like Rashard Lewis, Rafer Alston and Ryan Anderson. He’s been surrounded by guys who can’t play defense and can’t do anything offensively other than shoot, but he’s made them look like above average, well rounded players. It’s easy to have success when someone completely covers your defense failures and gets you open shots (by having defenders collapse in on him).
Let me ask two questions.
First, outside of LeBron, is there any other player who could have Orlando in the top half of the conference?
Big men like Kevin Love and/or Blake Griffin couldn’t. We’ve seen them miss the playoffs with better supporting casts. Great players on the perimeter couldn’t either. Kobe had a better supporting cast than Howard during his two years without a dominant center and he couldn’t do it. Don’t say Derek Rose, because with him and not Howard, Orlando wouldn’t be able to stop a mediocre college team from scoring. The answer is nobody.
Second, is there any team that, with Dwight Howard, wouldn’t make the playoffs?
Put Howard on Washington, and they’d be just as good as Orlando is now. Put him on Minnesota instead of Kevin Love, and there’s no way they’d be 6 games below .500 with or without Rubio. (Has Howard ever even played with a player as good as Rubio?)
The knock on Howard can be the same as LeBron—he hasn’t carried his team in the clutch. His team lost in 5 games in the Finals. It can also be said that Howard can’t be counted on to make the last shot when his team is down by one with 10 seconds left. Those aren’t really valid. The fact that Howard got that lousy team to the Finals is proof of his greatness. Their failure to win that series only shows that he’s not superhuman. The difficult in going to him on a final possession is unfortunate, but his greatness in the only reason his team will have a chance to win the game to begin with.
Like LeBron above, there is maybe one overrated player who some would mention here instead of Howard; Andrew Bynum. Unlike Durant, Bynum’s not even worthy of the time it takes to write why he’s inferior to Howard. He’s inferior in every possible aspect.
#3 Dwyane Wade- (Miami Heat, SG)
“Kobe Bryant might be the most overrated player in NBA History.”
- Joe ESQ.
This basically boils down to Wade vs. Kobe. Like Paul and Rose below, I don’t see why this is much of a debate. Wade’s a much more efficient scorer. Kobe has shot a lower shooting percentage than the lowest of Wade’s career in 7 of the last 8 full seasons. He can’t blame his supporting cast either, because he’s had a better one for all but at most two or three of those years.
Kobe’s a great scorer, but he’s even better at public relations. How he consistently gets mentioned in comparison to LeBron or Jordan is beyond my comprehension. Sure, he’s won 5 titles, but he clearly wasn’t the best player on his own team for at least three of those titles. Robert Horry won 7 titles, yet you don’t hear people saying he’s the best player ever. The number of titles a player wins isn’t definitive. A player with more titles is not automatically better than a player with fewer. You have to look at the circumstances. Kobe’s circumstances have been more favorable than any other player in my lifetime; so favorable that he should have even more titles.
Kobe played his first eight years with the most dominant player in the league, Shaq, playing at the peak of his career. During those eight years, they won three titles. (To put that in context, Tony Parker won three titles as the second best player on a team with a dominant big man too.) Shaq’s Lakers would have and should have won a fourth title, but despite an impressive performance by Shaq in the Finals, they lost because KOBE WAS OUTPLAYED BY RIP HAMILTON AND TAYSHAUN PRINCE.
After proceeding to run Shaq out of town, we finally got to see for the first time in Kobe’s career what he could do without a dominant big man. That came in 2005, during the prime of Kobe’s career. Even without a dominant big man, he still had a decent supporting cast. The prior season, Lamar Odom and Caron Butler (along with a rookie Wade, Rafer Alston at PG, and center combo of an old Brian Grant/rookie Udonis Haslem) led the Heat to the second round of the playoffs, where they pushed a legit Indiana team to 6 games. With Odom and Butler as teammates, Kobe’s Lakers couldn’t get out of the first round. The following year, the same thing happened. Again, they couldn’t get out of the first round. The year after that, the team traded for Pau Gasol, one of the best (if not THE BEST) post players in the league, and coincidentally Kobe was able to win a playoff series again.
Think about that.
Playing with a good but not great supporting cast during the prime of his career, Kobe couldn’t get out of the first round of the playoffs. How many other great players can you say that about? You can’t say it about Wade, because he did so as a rookie with probably a lesser supporting cast than the one Kobe had. You obviously can’t say that about James and Howard. Even guys like Paul Pierce, Allen Iverson and Vince Carter were able to take mediocre teams out of the first round, and you’ll never hear any of them mentioned along with Jordan.
Good Looking Loser says: I agree with this- even Baron Davis advanced to the 2nd round of the playoffs without GREAT supporting cast. It’s impossible to say that Kobe never would have, but it’s still worth noting.
edit: Although Tracy McGrady was on the 2009 Rockets that advanced to the second round, he was injured and never played in the postseason.
In Gasol’s last full healthy year with Memphis, he took a horrible Memphis team to the 4th best record in the Western Conference. He was an up and coming skilled big man in a league with a diminishing number of dominant big men.
With Gasol, Odom and a young Bynum (and later Ron Artest), Kobe once again had the best supporting cast in the league. With that supporting cast, Kobe’s Lakers went to 3 more Finals. They lost the first one, in which he was badly outplayed by Paul Pierce. The Lakers then won it in 2009 against the Magic team that Howard single-handedly carried that far. In 2010 they beat Boston in 7 games. In the decisive seventh game, not only did Kobe go 6-24, but PHIL JACKSON KEPT THE BALL AWAY FROM KOBE IN THE FINAL MINUTES. He had Odom bring it up the court and run the offense went through Gasol on the final possessions. Those Lakers didn’t win the title because Kobe Bryant was better than everyone else. He wasn’t. The Lakers won because they were bigger and deeper than everyone else.
Kobe has always played with some of the NBA’s best players
#4 Chris Paul- (Los Angeles Clippers, PG)
“Chris Paul is much better player than Derrick Rose.”
- Joe ESQ.
This is the toughest position to rank. Not only are there a number of excellent point guards, but there are different styles of play. There are the traditional point guards; pure passers who make everyone around them better. This includes Paul, Steve Nash, Deron Williams and Rajon Rondo. There are scoring point guards who play more like traditional shooting guards, but compile assists simply by virtue of controlling the ball most of the time. This includes guys like Derrick Rose, Tony Parker and Russell Westbrook. That’s not to say that the passers can’t score and the scorers can’t pass; it’s just that their strengths and styles are different.
For the sake of simplicity, I’m going to compare only the best of each: Paul (who’s consistently had a much higher assist/turnover ratio than the other passers mentioned above) and Rose, the reigning MVP. I think Paul is a much better player. The only reason that’s not the consensus is because Rose happens to play for a better team and makes more highlight-reel type plays that play well on SportsCenter.
I’m not a huge stat guy, but the stats confirm what I’ve observed, so I’ll mention them here. Paul doesn’t score quite as much as Rose, but he shoots a higher percentage on field goals, threes and free throws. Paul also gets more assists and rebounds, and has a significantly lower assist/turnover ratio. Defensively, Paul has consistently produced more than twice as many steals as Rose. The only area in which Rose is superior is in scoring, but there’s no reason to believe Paul couldn’t score just as much if he wanted to. Paul has a better outside shot than Rose, and unlike Rose, I’ve never seen a defender who can completely stop Paul’s penetration.
One thing that I think has to be considered in this is what happened to Rose in the Eastern Conference Finals. I understand that he’s young and relatively inexperienced, but he was completely shut down by LeBron in crunch time for four straight games. It’s not as though LeBron simply got the best of him; LeBron dominated Rose. It was like watching a man against a boy. Rose was rendered completely useless. He couldn’t do anything. It’s rare to see such a thing happen to a player considered one of the best in the league. It’s not just that he failed or shied away from shots in the clutch; it’s that he was completely dominated by a better player. I doubt the same thing could be done to Paul. He’s too quick and his game is too diverse.
#5 Dirk Nowitzki (Dallas Mavericks, PF)
“Dirk Nowitzki is still far ahead of Kevin Love and Blake Griffin.”
- Joe ESQ.
Not that it affects my pick of Dirk, but please know that I consider Zach Randolph and Pau Gasol centers. The same is/always has been the case with Tim Duncan as well. Although they may start next to taller guys, their back to the basket games are those of centers. If Otis Thorpe happened to by 7’3”, would you call Hakeen Olajuwon a power forward? If Horace Grant or Charles Oakley were 7’3”, would you call Shaq or Ewing power forwards? Their games were those of centers, and therefore they should be considered centers regardless of what they are listed as or the height of the guys they played next to.
With regard to Nowitzki, he’s not having a great season and as a result people would probably go with Kevin Love or Blake Griffin instead.
I’m not buying either of them.
Love is a much better player at this point than Griffin. He’s got a well-rounded offensive game and is a great rebounder. But while Love admittedly hasn’t had a great supporting cast, in order to be one of the best players in the league, a guy should at least be able to carry his team to the playoffs. As explained above, the best players like James and Howard can get anyone to the playoffs. Dirk is almost in that same league. Until Love’s done that, he doesn’t have much of a claim against Nowitzki.
As for Griffin, he’s a great athlete, but he can’t be relied on to generate offense. He doesn’t have a great back to the basket game. He can’t really create his own shot. He struggles against taller defenders. He’s athletic and is great at dunking, but he needs to improve. At this point, LaMarcus Aldridge is a better player than Griffin.