Completely forget about his team for a quick second and you’ll find that this is arguably the greatest season of LeBron James’ storied career.
“The King” is averaging a career high 8.6 RPG and his 8.7 APG are the most by any non-guard in NBA history. He also hasn’t had to sacrifice any scoring and is averaging 26.4 PPG, which is his exact average over his six season Eastern Conference reign. This is also the third best field goal percentage and second best three point percentage James has posted since getting taken first overall in the 2003 draft.
So what switch does an NBA legend playing the best basketball of his life have to flip? Haters of his will turn not making the finals into some personal failure of his, but quite frankly the Cavaliers look vulnerable because the roster around James has been its weakest since he left Cleveland in the first place. If there is indeed a switch that needs to be flipped, the guys not wearing #23 need to be the one ultimately doing their part.
It’s easy to see this Cavaliers roster just isn’t where it was a year ago as a whole and the second that James goes to the bench it all falls apart. Cleveland outscores opponents by 8.4 points per 100 possessions when he’s on the floor and they get outscored by 8.3 points per 100 possessions when he’s not out there, account for a difference of 16.7 points per 100 possessions.
This might get even scarier when you look at what a star player like the Celtics own Isaiah Thomas means to his team. Boston only outscores their opponents by 4.6 points per 100 possessions when he’s on the floor while they get outscored by just 0.6 points per 100 possessions when he’s on the bench, adding up to a difference of 5.2 points per 100 possessions.
Cleveland is 0-7 on the season without James playing and last night’s overtime loss to the Miami Heat without him was only the second instance where the game was even within ten points. Boston does have a disappointing 2-4 record without Thomas in the lineup this year, but it’s still far better than 0-7 and every one of those games was within ten points with the exception of a 117-87 blowout WIN against the Orlando Magic.
The Cavaliers are just 26-23 since New Year’s Day and 10-13 since March 1st. This means Cleveland has only been three games better than the Philadelphia 76ers since the calendars flipped to 2017 and they’ve been one game worse than the Brooklyn Nets since February ended. Just keep in mind that this has all been with James playing some of the best basketball he’s ever played. How bad do the guys around him have to be playing if they’ve been on the Nets level for a month and a half with James playing this great? The answer is pretty bad.
Should you still bet on the Cavaliers to win the Eastern Conference? Probably. Six straight years of going to the NBA Finals is nothing to scoff at, but this year might be the first time during that stretch where you have to actually think about who to pick.
Sure, a lot of fans who tune in to root against James have often tried to find reasons to pick the Chicago Bulls or Indiana Pacers, but they were straight lying to themselves the whole time. Hell, I even know a few Celtic fans who tried to make the case for Boston in 2015 before they got swept in round one.
It’s going to be a wild ride for the Cleveland Cavaliers this spring. Hopefully it makes the NBA Playoffs a tad more interesting for fans across the country.