As I sit here typing this, the LA Lakers are putting a beat-down on the basketball team that used to be known as the Warriors. As the Lakers coast to their 9th win of the season, albeit against a Warriors team that is missing the best shooting back-court in NBA history, I can’t help but notice how different this team is (aside from KCP). Yes, I know it’s early in the season, 11 games to be exact, but the 2019/20 Lakers are 9-2, first in the Western Conference, and are playing like a completely different team than the 2018/19 Lakers, who started out 5-6 through their first 11 games. Granted this team also has Anthony freaking Davis on the roster (who might be the best player in the league), but make no mistake, this team’s heart and soul is still LeBron James.
LeBron James is in his 17th season, but you would never know it by his energy, effort and stat line. LeBron has played in all 11 games this season and is averaging 24 points and 8 rebounds per game, which are actually not far off his career averages of 27 and 7. The reason that I believe LeBron is the MVP of the league is because he took a slight step back scoring for his new teammate AD (and when a slight step back is still 24 points a game, you’re pretty freaking good) and took a huge leap forward in distributing the basketball while maintaining his incredible efficiency. LeBron is averaging a league-high 11.1 assists a game, well above his career average of 7. He poured in 12 more dimes against the Warriors last night … the 5th time this season LeBron had over 12 assists.
LeBron’s career high in assists was in 2017/18 when he averaged 9.1/game, played in all 82 games and lead the Cavs to the NBA Finals for the 3rd straight year … as a 35 year old. LeBron is 37 this season and if he keeps it up, will be the oldest player ever to average double-digits assists. The ageless wonder John Stockton averaged 8.7 assists/game as a 37-year old in 2000/2001, but Stockton was never asked to do what LeBron does night-in and night-out. Here are some of LeBron’s early-season box scores.
|11/1||@ DAL (W)||39 pts, 12 reb, 16 ast, 4 stl|
|10/25||vs UTA (W)||32 pts, 7 reb, 10 ast, 1 stl|
|11/5||@ CHI (W)||30 pts, 10 reb, 11 ast, 2 stl|
By looking at these lines, could you tell he’s in year 17? Not only is he still performing at a very high rate, LeBron’s actually changed the way he plays a bit to become Playmaker LeBron. If LeBron is able to keep the assists around 10 or 11 and get his points per game around 25, he’s going to be the MVP of the league. Sure, Harden will score more points and Giannis might have some crazy stats … but they don’t impact the win column quite like a healthy LeBron, even in year 17.
The Lakers are primed for a good season and hopefully followed by a deep playoff run. If the Washed King and The Brow are healthy come playoff time, we could be seeing a parade by Staples Center for the first time since 2010.