Last season during the NBA Finals, LeBron James averaged 35.8 points, 13.3 rebounds, and 8.8 assists per game. He wasn’t terribly efficient (47.7 true shooting percentage), but considering the offensive load he was asked to carry you can’t ask much more than that. He carried the Cavaliers to two wins against the Warriors.
Which is why what LeBron said about how he feels physically right now, at this point in the season compared to a year ago, should scare the NBA. From Dave McMenamin of ESPN.
In fact, James said he’s better off this season at 31 years old than he was last season, when he missed a career-high 13 games, including a two-week hiatus to rest.
“It’s how my body was feeling,” James said Wednesday after the Cleveland Cavaliers held shootaround in preparation for their game against the Charlotte Hornets. “Last year I was banged up. It’s not a mindset, it’s just reality. This year I feel 10 times better than I did last year. So that’s the mindset.”
The slow decline of James’ skills has been a topic around the NBA for a couple of years now. He’s gone from being the unquestioned greatest player in the game to somewhere in the top five but usually three through five, depending on whom you ask. His jumper isn’t as consistent, he doesn’t attack or defend with the same energy, and he admits he’s saving that energy for the playoffs, when he needs it most. That said, he has defended better this season than last, and he seems to have more vintage LeBron athletic plays.
That said, once the Cavaliers lock up the No. 1 seed (they are just three games ahead of the Raptors) coach Tyronn Lue has said he would rest LeBron before the playoffs (presumably Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, and others, too). If this is a healthy Cavaliers team, they are a much bigger threat in the NBA Finals.
Whether that will be enough remains to be seen.