The Cleveland Cavaliers stink.
That isn’t to say they won’t be good eventually, or that they won’t win the Eastern Conference for the fourth-straight season. They could get it figured out. It might take a week, or a month, or the rest of the season. For now they just aren’t very good.
Despite all of this, LeBron James has unequivocally remained the greatest player on the planet.
2017 has seen the birth of a new generation of stars. James Harden and Russell Westbrook had a historically entertaining MVP race. Kevin Durant secured his first NBA title, and Steph Curry won his second. A pair of 22-year-olds (Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kristaps Porzingis) are currently leading the league in scoring. Even still, there remains a gold standard that the rest of the league looks up to.
That standard is the King.
Nobody should be allowed to do what James is accomplishing in his 14th NBA season. The King has been putting up near triple-double averages on a seasonal basis throughout his illustrious career. As such, his current 28.5 PPG, 8.5 APG, 7.3 RPG stat-line is to be expected at this point. But these numbers shouldn’t be overlooked. James hasn’t put up this many points since his last year in Cleveland the first time ('10), and has only bested these assist numbers twice in his career ('16 and '10).
He's stunningly been able to put up these high averages while shooting blistering percentages. James is shooting a career high 59.1-percent from the field while knocking down 36-percent of his three-point attempts. What’s probably helped him most has been staying closer to the basket. In 2016, James attempted the most threes he’s had since 2010. He shot it pretty well (36.3-percent), but the rest of his offensive attack suffered a bit.
This year, he’s been far better from inside the arc. Nearly half (45-percent) of his attempts come within three feet of the basket, and he’s converting on 82.1-percent (!) of those opportunities (per Basketball Reference). He’s also been great from the midrange (16-feet and beyond) -- hitting 43.8-percent of those attempts (up from 30.7-percent last year).
LeBron has even decided to take his signature efficiency to new heights with his numbers from the charity stripe. After failing to fulfill his postseason promise from a season ago, James has currently joined the ranks of the 80-percent club -- converting on 60 of his first 73 attempts from the line (82.2-percent). Although his attempts per game would be a career low (5.6), it’s refreshing to see James knock down some freebies and set yet another career high (previous FT% high was 78-percent in '09).
James’ 2017 has further proven the three-time NBA champion is virtually indestructible. He’s playing even more minutes than he did last year (38.3 from 37.8), and is carrying a Cleveland roster that is without Isaiah Thomas. Cleveland’s roster is essentially the 2012 All-Star team. After James, the team’s next five top scorers are Kevin Love, Derrick Rose, Jeff Green, Kyle Korver, and Dwyane Wade. Fellow 2003 draftees (Wade and Korver) are on the wrong side of 30. Rose’s injury history is well-documented. Green’s best days were with the Thunder, and he’s been on five teams since then. Love spent the start of the season trying to play center. James’ presence alone still has us firmly believing Cleveland will be in the NBA Finals once again. This is an incredible nod to his individual greatness.
It’s truly astonishing that a four-time MVP is finding ways to better himself with each passing season. Nobody knows how long James can sustain this level of greatness, but it should be constantly appreciated and praised.