Blogtable: Good or bad for LeBron James to not lead his team in scoring?
Each week, we ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day.
LeBron James has been the leading scorer on his team for 14-straight NBA seasons. Right now he’s averaging 23.6 points per game, second to Kyrie Irving’s 24.8. Is this the year LeBron slides down to No. 2 on his own team? And would that be a good thing or a bad thing? What say you?
Steve Aschburner: Can I just cite this and call it good? I called this on opening night. Kyrie Irving is one of the league’s most elusive and versatile scorers. Why wouldn’t Cleveland want to take maximum advantage of that? LeBron James is a natural facilitator who has as much help on this roster as he’s ever had – including, yes, as much as in Miami. James also benefits at this stage from a dip in minutes, which suggests fewer points. Irving is on the rise, young enough that his biggest challenge is potential injury — which would sit him down for whole games, not affecting his scoring average. And so on and so forth. But mostly, I submit Exhibit A from late October.
Fran Blinebury: If the slide is only down to the range he’s at now, it won’t hurt the Cavaliers at all. LeBron is actually having great fun — and great effect — this season whipping the ball around the court as a facilitator and averaging a career-high 9.7 assists per game. And don’t worry. When the Cavs need him to step up and drop a bundle, LeBron is still quite capable.
Scott Howard-Cooper: It could happen. And it wouldn’t matter. If LeBron is No. 2 on his team in scoring because he is picking apart defenses with passing, because he is constantly finding the open man when opponents send a double team, because he is spending more energy on defense and rebounding, it’s all good. Are the Cavaliers winning at a high rate? Is James still the player no opposing coach can counter? That’s what matters, not the scoring leader.
Shaun Powell: This would be a very good thing. It would confirm that (a) LeBron’s passing can be as deadly as his shooting at times, and (b) the Cavs are a lot more balanced than some of us were led to believe. LeBron is actually doing more than ever before. Very quietly, the efficiency of LeBron (scoring, rebounding, facilitating, defense) is surging to the forefront this season and pushing him into the debate for best player of all time, if not our time.
John Schuhmann: The leading scorer doesn’t matter if the offense is working as a whole. Even after Tuesday’s loss in Milwaukee, the Cavs rank third in offensive efficiency and have scored 6.9 points per 100 possessions better than the league average, a much better mark than they had in their previous two seasons (+4.7 and +4.2) or any other season in the last 40 years. Irving is having the most efficient scoring season of his career and James surrounded by shooters is a pick-your-poison situation for every defense. As it has each of the last two years, defense will determine just how good the Cavs are.
Sekou Smith:No thing! LeBron’s scoring average this season means little in the grand scheme of things for the Cavaliers. They are trying to craft a repeat bid and it’s by any means necessary. If that means LeBron has to step aside as the team’s leading scorer to continue empowering Kyrie to serve as the closer, so be it. No one will complain about LeBron’s scoring average if he keeps his team on track for a seventh straight Finals appearance. Trust LeBron’s process.
Ian Thomsen: As the best player in basketball, LeBron should want Irving to lead their team in scoring. There is nothing bad about that. Based on Irving’s age, shooting range and athletic explosiveness – in addition to the confidence he gained during the run to the championship – he may be the No. 2 offensive player in the East, behind LeBron, of course. It’s why no one else in the conference appears to have a chance.
Lang Whitaker: Honestly, at this point in LeBron’s career, does anyone (other than a few screaming heads on cable TV) care? LeBron has nothing left to prove, and is basically just playing against ghosts and legends. To that end, which player leads the Cavs in scoring in November isn’t nearly as important as who is leading the way in May and June. Maybe LeBron cruises for now and lets Kyrie get buckets. You can bet LeBron won’t be cruising in the postseason.
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