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Is LeBron James an overrated defender?

LeBron has been seriously underachieving on the defensive end this season.
LeBron's 2018 Playoff run was legendary; In that same season, the Cavs traded half of their roster — "We got a f--king squad now"

LeBron James with the Cleveland Cavaliers

The Cleveland Cavaliers' lack of defense has been a hot topic in NBA circles all season. The Cavs rank in the bottom half of the league in just about every statistic or metric humanly possible. Cleveland is 30th in points allowed per possession -- dead last in the league for a team expected to contend for a fourth straight NBA Finals appearance.

The Cavs are coasting

The narrative around the team is that they are coasting. It is about how little the Cavaliers care about the regular season. They have not been all that focused on the regular season in each of the last three years and still made the Finals. However, bad habits can often ingrain into the team's identity, and the situation is getting worse.

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One of the reasons they have been so average is simple, but it will sound so far-fetched that you won't believe it is the truth. LeBron James — widely renowned as the best player in the NBA, a positionless, all-around freak we have all grown to admire —is one of the worst defenders in the NBA this season.

Stats are not in favor of LeBron James

Out of all players who played more than 15 minutes per game, James ranks the 13th worst in Defensive Rating with a scary 112.9. As bad as his rating is, he still ranks above fellow Cavs, Derrick Rose, and Kevin Love. James currently sits with 0.0 total defensive win shares, meaning that he literally has not made any difference to improve Cleveland's porous defense. LeBron ranks in the bottom 50 of the entire league, behind notable defensive turnstiles like Enes Kanter and 37-year-old Jamal Crawford.

According to NBA stats, James leads the entire league in total opponent points in the paint, currently ahead of Devin Booker and James Harden by a sizable margin. He is also second-worst in opponents' second-chance points, ranking just behind Pacers forward Thaddeus Young. It has been clear, for whatever reason — age or his rumored Cavs departure — that he has not been putting the same effort in on the defensive end that we are used to seeing.

At this point, the only thing standing between the Cavaliers, LeBron, and another NBA finals is their defense. The Cavs still have 35 more games in the regular season to figure out things defensively, and while this switch in their mindset actually might happen, if it doesn't, we might see them miss the NBA Finals for the first time after LeBron made his return to Cleveland.

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