Out west Cleveland Cavaliers legend LeBron James, who is by far the best player in Cavs history, as we know, looks primed to repeat with his current squad, the Los Angeles Lakers. He might just capture another NBA MVP as well.
While the Cavs continue their rebuild, the Lakers and James came into the season looking to build off last season, which ended with a championship.
So far they’ve built on that with a 21-7 record, which is good enough for the league’s second best record currently. LeBron is also in a solid position to get his fifth MVP this year, as we touched on, which would give him the same number Michael Jordan ended up with in his career, albeit in less seasons.
As far as the regular season goes, I think this is the best regular season James we’ve seen since 2012-2013 with the Miami Heat. He’s averaging 25.5 points, 8.0 rebounds, 8.0 assists and 1.1 steals per outing, and perhaps most notably, he’s shooting 38.1 percent from three-point range, and 49.8 percent overall.
Although it’s not quite what he was shooting from there mid-last week, which played into him being ranked at the top in an early season ESPN MVP poll, the 38.1 percent from deep is the highest percentage he’s shot from deep since his last MVP season in 2012-13, too. And that’s been on a career-high 6.8 attempts per game from there.
He’s certainly not playing defense now like he was back then and is not at his athletic peak like he was back then, but LeBron has remarkably improved his game in so many areas now.
He has turned himself into a big-time three-point shooter via pull-ups, his mid-range game is really good and much like Jordan was able to do as his career with the Chicago Bulls progressed, James has become a very reliable post-up fadeaway shooter.
Now, Lakers superstar forward Anthony Davis will reportedly be sidelined for two-to-three weeks with a right calf strain, after which he’ll be reevaluated, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. And per Wojnarowski, an MRI on Monday “revealed the calf strain and the tendonisis aggravation” in his right Achilles, of which Davis had missed two games due to recently, but it was not showing a ruptured right Achilles tendon.
The Lakers have a tough schedule the next couple of weeks before the All-Star break and will miss Davis, albeit if LeBron can lead the them with a good record against some of the top teams the next couple of weeks, it will only cement his MVP case. And as Cleveland Cavaliers are well aware of, James is more than capable of doing so.
Looking ahead from there, though, James looks primed to win his fifth title this season.
As far as looking at the playoffs. Anthony Davis will be back and should clearly be able to get his footing back well before those start. Last season the Lakers gentleman swept the entire Western Conference before ultimately taking the Heat out in six games in the Orlando-area bubble.
I believe the Lakers are definitely much improved off of last year’s championship team, too. Yes, LeBron is still LeBron and AD is still AD, but I think someone like Kyle Kuzma, who never got a taste of the playoffs until last season, will be better off. The experience of going through a championship run will only help him.
The Lakers are a much deeper team, too, by adding the likes of Dennis Schroder and Montrezl Harrell. Dwight Howard was good for the lakers last year, but I think Marc Gasol will get more comfortable with the team as the season goes along and he adds a secondary playmaking presence, while still being an effective interior defender and will mesh better as the year moves along.
The biggest knock on last year’s Lakers were they weren’t that deep and at times it was believed they didn’t have much shooting. This season, statistically they aren’t one of the top three-point shooting teams and aren’t going to be, but come playoff time on paper, they have more than they did last year, and on the other end, they have the league’s top defensive rating and still are fourth in net rating.
Moreover, they have the best player in the world still in James and two of the top five-to-six, and are certainly more deep than last season.
The LA Clippers are having a great season and shouldn’t be takin lightly, but if the Lakers are healthy I have a hard time seeing any team that will beat them four times in a seven-game series.
And if everyone is healthy, at least the majority of the team, LeBron is primed to finish with his fifth MVP and his fifth title, as he just keeps chugging along, even in Year 18.