NBA PM: LeBron Having Best Season Ever?
Jeremy Lin has exceeded all expectations, Chris Paul has revitalized a franchise and Kobe Bryant has turned back the clock to lead the league in scoring. The 2011-12 NBA season has been full of excitement, but arguably the most intriguing storyline of all has received little attention.
LeBron James is having one of the greatest seasons in NBA history.
James has been absolutely outstanding on both ends of the court, averaging 28.2 points, 8.2 rebounds and 6.9 assists. He carried the Miami Heat when Dwyane Wade was sidelined with an ankle sprain. Miami currently holds the second seed in the Eastern Conference and James deserves a lot of credit for the team’s early success. After being criticized for disappearing during the 2011 NBA Finals, the 27-year-old has certainly made his presence felt this season.
James’ Player Efficiency Rating is currently 32.39, which is by far the highest in the league. By comparison, Chris Paul has the second-best PER in the NBA at 26.85. That’s a difference of 5.54, which is astronomical when discussing PER. That’s the difference between stars and role players, the gap between Carmelo Anthony (20.34) and Jonas Jerebko (14.80). James is on a tier of his own right now, with the rest of the NBA’s elite players looking up to him.
Not only is James leading the league, he’s actually on pace to break Michael Jordan’s single-season PER record. Jordan set the all-time mark of 31.89 during the 1987-88 season, when he averaged 35 points, 5.9 assists and 5.5 rebounds. The league didn’t start tracking individual turnovers until the 1973-74 season so there isn’t enough information to include players like Wilt Chamberlain and Oscar Robertson.
Jordan’s 31.89 mark has only been challenged once in recent years, when James posted a PER of 31.69 during his 2008-09 MVP season. Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant and Larry Bird were each more than a point shy of Jordan during their best seasons.
While James’ 32.39 mark is impressive, it’s actually down from last month when his PER was 34.25. That’s off the charts and shows just how dominant James has been throughout the course of this season. James is spending more time in the post, which allows him to better use his size and strength to his advantage. He is shooting a career-high 54.7 percent from the field, the sixth-highest percentage in the league.
The general consensus around the league is that James is leading the MVP race. The argument that James and Wade cancel each other out is no longer valid. While the way he went about leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers hurt his image, it shouldn’t be held against him when determining the league’s MVP.
James is the first one to admit that he had no shot at winning the award last season. With his departure fresh in everyone’s mind, he was the villain. He received just four first-place votes during last year’s voting.
“The change from Cleveland to Miami wasn’t going to allow me to win the MVP,” James told HoopsHype in August. “I got a chance [this year]. But they made me take a year off.”
Now, James is having the best year of his career and one of the greatest seasons of all-time. Love him or hate him, the numbers show that he has elevated his game to an unprecedented level in the NBA’s modern era. There’s no shortage of storylines in the NBA this year, but few are better than the historically great season that James is having.
Lin Excited to Play Alongside Anthony: Will Jeremy Lin and Carmelo Anthony be able to co-exist in New York? That’s the big question surrounding the Knicks right now. Lin has been effective with the ball in his hands, leading New York to a six-game winning streak. He’s averaging 26.8 points and 8.5 assists during this stretch and has become a household name in the process.
How will things change once Anthony’s groin injury heals and he returns to the starting lineup? If you ask Lin, he believes it’ll make New York’s offense even scarier while making his job easier. The 23-year-old can’t wait for the Knicks to be at full strength.
“It’s going to be unbelievable,” Lin told HOOPSWORLD last week. “You have Amar’e, who can shoot and drive. He’s a powerful finisher and an unbelievable pick-and-roll player. You have Melo, who is a top five scorer in the league. Then you have Tyson Chandler, who you can just throw it up anywhere and he’ll get it. The key for us is getting this offense flowing the way we want it to. We need to be more efficient and I need to get the ball to the guys in the spots that they’re comfortable in and most effective in. I think that’s going to take a little bit of time, but I’m excited. If we can get it to work out, this is an explosive offense.”
Lin has shown that he can be effective as a distributor, making the players around him better. He has excellent court vision and sets his teammates up for easy baskets. While he needs to lower his turnovers, the Knicks’ offense should continue to thrive if he takes on more of a facilitator role.
The point guard understands that his statistics may drop, but he’s not concerned about that.
“The way I look at it, I don’t go into games looking to get a double-double,” Lin said. “I really just try to do my best, play for God’s glory and take what the defense gives me. It may not be a lot on some given nights and I’m really not worried about my stats. I just want to help the team win. I know that sounds really cliché and whatever, but we need to make a playoff push right now. That’s what the whole team is focused on. As a result of buying into that, people have had really nice numbers but that’s not what we’re focused on. I definitely don’t care about numbers, I just want to win.”
Lin will take pressure off of Anthony and Stoudemire, and defenses will have to keep an eye on him. His biggest strength since moving into the starting lineup has been his ability to create contact and draw fouls. Lin is averaging 7.6 free throws per game, many of which come after made baskets.
Linsanity continues to grow and shows no signs of slowing down once Anthony returns from injury.
Ranking the 2012 Free Agents: It’s never too early to talk about free agency. Jason Fleming did an excellent job breaking down the 2012 free agent class today, ranking the players by position. While the class isn’t as star-studded as recent years, there are some notable players included.
The list features big-name unrestricted free agents such as Dwight Howard, Deron Williams, Steve Nash, Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan and Gerald Wallace. There are a number of talented restricted free agents as well including Roy Hibbert, Eric Gordon, Nic Batum, O.J. Mayo, Ryan Anderson, JaVale McGee and Brook Lopez.
NBA Chats: There are two NBA chats on the schedule today. HOOPSWORLD’s CBA expert Larry Coon, hosted his weekly chat at 3 p.m. ET. Lang Greene will be hosting his weekly chat at 8 p.m. ET. You can always find the next upcoming chat here: Upcoming NBA Chats. Or if you are looking for a chat that is no longer active, try here: Previous NBA Chats.