Friday, June 12, 2015

Fact Check: Lebron is the Outlier


The Warriors and Cavs are all knotted up at 2-2 in the NBA Finals. After last nights performance by Lebron James, there's every reason to be impressed. James has been putting on a series for the ages thus far, but it's still tough to see the Cavs winning the series. There's a reason the Warriors won a league best 67 games in the regular season and yet, the Cavs were up 2-1 in the series prior to last night, even without two of their best players, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving. That can be chalked up to Lebron James's astounding point and assist totals in those games. He's been a one man team, it's essentially become Lebron versus the Warriors at this point. The news media has taken note, with the WSJ publishing this article about how it's "Lebron and Then There's Everyone Else (Michael Jordan included)". Well, let's take a closer look at the statistics. The graphic below, showing the percentage of team points that a player accounts for with his own assists and points, is what they point to, to show that Lebron is putting on one of the best finals performances in the history of the NBA. So much so that the author even claims that this series by Lebron, "makes Jordan look like a role player." This is utter nonsense.






Let's ask ourselves, why is Lebron on the top of the list? Is he a dominant force? Yes. And he has shown how dominant he is in the first half of this series. There is an explanation for why he's so far ahead of anyone else though. He has absolutely no supporting cast to rely on right now. None. See that Lebron is also on the list two other times, both times his team lost the series. By contrast, Jordan is on the list 4 times with 4 wins (2 other Championships of his not shown). The two finals that Lebron actually did win, he didn't make the list. Why? His teammates at the time included all-stars Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. Sure, without current all-start teammates Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving, Lebron is going to be forced to put up numbers like he currently is. In comparison, Michael Jordan's 1990-91 team won the Championship and series by a 4-1 count. Jordan's partner is crime was all-star Scottie Pippen whom he had to share points and assists with. Let's not take away from the fact that this is a very impressive series for Lebron. He's playing with no supporting cast and ushered the Cavs to two wins so far. But they will not win this series and Lebron doesn't belong on top of this list. The Cavs lost BOTH Kevin Love and Kyrie in the playoffs, if this happened earlier, they likely wouldn't have made it to the title game. Since it happened the way it did, the Cavs are now in the title game with only one superstar left. Subsequently, he has to do all the heavy lifting. Lebron is averaging 36 shots a game. Not 36 points, 36 ATTEMPTS. Michael Jordan had 113 attempts the entire Finals series in 1990-91. That averages to 22 shots a game. Lebron is taking 14 more shots per game than MJ did during the 90-91 finals. So yes, of course Lebron is going to top the list. However, statistically, let us chalk this one up as an outlier, the Cavs lost two of their superstars in the playoffs and left Lebron James as a one man show. He's putting up shots at a rate no one else ever has, and his point total reflects just that. Lots of shots.