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03 August 2005

#4. Lebron James

Position: SF
Ht. / Wt.: 6'-8" / 240
Age: 21
Fun Fact: Over the summer the Akron Star Beacon ran an article that declared that, contrary to public speculation, Lebron's big endorsement deals (Nike, Sprite) did NOT include a bonus for playing in a large market. Sorry Knicks (and Lakers and Bulls) fans.

I don't have a huge problem with Booth going with Amare at #3. That's a few spots higher than I had him, bue he is undeniably a frightful force with lots of TUP. The two big questions are

1. When will he commit to defense?
2. How much of his production is do to Steve Nash? Another important thing to note is some of his success against the Spurs was due to Pop's emphasis on defending the 3. I cannot recall a single time Amare was double-teamed.

Of course question #1 also applies to who I picked for #3. Because Lebron James doesn't play defense. At all. Well, he does rebound. 6 defensive boards a game from a 3 is very good. But have you ever spent a game just watching him the whole time? On the defensive end he often clearly has no idea where his man is. He floats around trying to make the big play; the steal with the windmill finish. It's not quite on the level of And1 type defense; more like college intramurals.

That's easy to fix, though. He definitely has the ability and size to be at least an average defender. All it takes is him realizing he needs to exert some effort on that end in order to get to the top of the heap. It's not like he's the first player in NBA history to develop his offensive game before its equally important counterpart. That's the NBA modus operandi folks.

On the offensive end? Well, he's already the best offensive player in the league. I don't even think there's a need for discussion. 27.2 PPG with 7.2 APG? At age 20? On a team with no serious outside threat? Here's a question: what numbers would Lebron have put up as PG of PHX last year? 33 and 11? I think I just peed myself.

And he's NOT a volume scorer: 1.29 PPFGA last year which put him at 36th in the NBA (just ahead of Timmeh!). This will go up as he learns the ins and outs of drawing fouls. Speaking of learning, his numbers went up dramatically from his rookie season. Not just the counting stats, either. FG% went up 5.5%. 3P% up by 6.1%. AST up, TO down. Steals up, rebounding rate up. FTA up. Everything up. I'm not saying he's going to make the same magnitude of improvement this year, but it's clear he's making adjustments.

The big knock on Lebron is that his teams haven't made the playoffs. This, of course, is a stupid argument. During the last month of the season he put up 32, 10, 7 and 2.3 steals while playing 45 MPG. What the fuck else was he supposed to do? He could have played better defense, but cut the guy some slack. No one player can be held responsible for the success or failure of his team, especially when that team has Ira Newble playing 25 minutes a game.

Some may question picking him above Shaq. Well, I simply wouldn't be willing to risk losing Shaq to injury when a player the caliber of Lebron is left on the board. Call it risk assessment or value engineering... I call it common sense.

Speaking of Shaq, onto number 5!

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All content copyright Matthew Powell 2005.