LeBron James is most definitely a star. And in 2013, all he has done is improve, turning in one of the best seasons of all-time.
After winning the NBA Finals for the first time in his career during the 2011-12 season, James and the Miami Heat are poised to do it again. Miami is in the midst of an incredible 26-game winning streak and that’s largely due to LeBron. James has made a great case for winning his fourth MVP award, shooting 55.1 percent and averaging 26.7 points per game (PPG).
James has put up insane numbers in the advanced categories as well. His player efficiency rating (PER) is 31.07 and his estimated wins added (EWA) is 26.7. The league average in PER is 15.00, and Kevin Durant, who has the second-best PER, has a 27.95 mark. Durant’s mark is still incredible, but LeBron’s is ridiculous. His season in general has been spectacular.
There are a lot of good scorers in the NBA, such as Durant, Carmelo Anthony, Kobe Bryant and James Harden. However, none of them are as good as LeBron as an overall player, as he has also averaged 8.2 rebounds per game (RPG) and 7.3 assists per game (APG). He is an extremely effective player and without James, the Heat would be a completely different team. EWA isn’t entirely accurate, but there’s no doubt that LeBron has been the league’s most valuable player.
He has a lot of help in the form of Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, but the fact that James is scoring 26.7 PPG and still grabbing rebounds and dishing the ball to his teammates speaks for itself. Durant, Anthony and Bryant are legitimate superstars, but none of them have performed as well as James. The Heat are 55-14 and near-locks to be the top seed in the East and they should definitely be representing the East in the NBA Finals.
Why? Because LeBron and the Heat are easily the best team in the East.
Without James, the Heat would have a nice core with Wade, Bosh and Ray Allen. If those players were the stars and LeBron was on another team, the Heat would likely be, say, a fourth seed. While being a fourth seed isn’t bad, you rarely see teams seeded fourth winning it all. In 2010, the Boston Celtics made the NBA Finals and almost won it all as a fourth seed, but that doesn’t happen too often.
In another article, I broke down which teams can actually win the Finals (depending on seeding) and the disadvantages for lower seeds. Being a fourth seed led by Wade and Bosh won’t cut it for the Heat and while Wade did win an NBA Finals without James (in 2006), he had help from Shaquille O’Neal and other players. Also, the Heat were 7-1 in games decided by five points or less in that postseason.
Without LeBron, the Heat (the league’s worst total rebounding team) would be even worse at rebounding and it would be much easier for teams like the Indiana Pacers to beat them. A 27-win difference is a ton and while it’s safe to say the Heat wouldn’t be 28-41 without LeBron, he has been extremely valuable and added wins for the Heat. The record for EWA in a season was 32.3 and it was set by the one and only LeBron James.
The advanced stats tell a lot, but an easier way to define James’ season would be to look at some of his incredible streaks.
In February (and at the end of January), James had a streak of 14 games in which he shot 50 percent or more. He also had seven consecutive games in which he shot over 58 percent and six consecutive games in which he shot 61 percent or more. Oh, and LeBron scored 30 or more in all seven games.
These streaks are extremely rare, yet LeBron has pulled off tons of them. The fact that he’s scoring in large quantities while taking a limited number of shots proves his efficiency and selflessness, which you don’t often see from stars. Bryant is averaging 27 PPG, but he is shooting just 46.8 percent.
For example, in a game this year against the Charlotte Bobcats on Monday, Feb. 4, James scored 31 points. For a star like James, 31 points isn’t a huge accomplishment. However, when you consider he took a mere 14 shots, it is. James shot a tremendous 92.9 percent from the floor, something you rarely see in video games. In a game against the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday, Feb. 8, LeBron scored 30 points on 11 shots.
If a player scores 30 points on 11 shots and 31 points on 14 shots in their career, it’s an accomplishment. If a player does that in the same week, it’s legendary.
James has stepped up and carried the Heat to new heights this year, and as a result, Miami is 58-14 in its last 72 games (including the 2012 NBA Finals). His stats and his production prove that he’s having a great season, and there’s no doubt it has been one of the best in the history of the NBA. There are still games to be played, but we can all agree that the Heat are in a great position.
And that’s because one of the most amazing seasons in NBA history has been turned in by their star.