LeBron James is widely considered one of the top three players in the NBA for many different reasons. He’s a complete player who can score, rebound, pass and defend as well as anyone in the league. It’s impressive that he’s started the 2012-13 season with 20 points or more in 23 straight games. But, do you realize he hasn’t committed a personal foul in over 212 minutes of play?
Take a look at his game log for his last six appearances:
It’s important to realize that we’re not talking about Steve Novak here. This isn’t a bit player who rarely crosses the three-point line. James is in the thick of things on a nightly basis. He’s going after steals, trying to block shots and takes an active role on the glass.
James averages just 1.9 fouls per game for his career and is at a minuscule 1.3 per game this season. Should we just give him the MVP, Defensive Player of the Year and solidify his spot as the greatest player in the history of the game?
Not so fast.
“Clean” defense is not the same as “good” defense. While James’ streak has been impressive, it doesn’t mean he’s been playing awesome defense.
According to 82games.com, James is allowing opposing power forwards to put up an efficiency rating of 18.6. That’s below average. In fact, if it weren’t for James’ tremendous offensive game, people could really start attacking that part of his game.
The Heat play the kind of swarming defense that values quick lateral movement and help from teammates. That doesn’t translate into stats very well. We’re not claiming that James is a bad defender by any means, we’re just saying his foul streak doesn’t really mean anything.
SynergySports.com has a very interesting number relating to James and his defense. In spot-up plays, James gives up 1.18 points per play. That ranks him as No. 215 in the NBA. That’s beyond terrible. Is it because he’s a bad defender? Not really, but it does point towards a lack of aggressiveness in getting to the ball handler.
It’s tough to commit fouls when you’re five feet from the shooter.
In isolation, James ranks No. 36, giving up .69 points per play. That’s more of what we’d expect out of an excellent defender.
Not being called for a foul in over two weeks is impressive, but it’s not meaningful. It’s like the gambler who puts together 10 wins in a row but doesn’t mention that they’re all tiny wins that don’t add up to anything. When he gets to 10 games and those defensive metrics improve, get back to me.
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