One thing that will be crucial is who will best adapt to the new situation. Veteran teams are the ones with the most edge, as most see their experience as the decisive factor. LeBron James is at the top of that list. The man is in his 17th season, and it isn’t crazy to assume this may be the final year of having a clear shot at the title. LeBron still hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down, but he is 35 – his best years are most certainly behind him.
If it doesn’t end the way LeBron is hoping, it will be even harder to deal with missed opportunities that he had. Especially when it wasn’t on him. Say what you want about James, but he had some finals appearances where he was on his A-game but lacked support from his teammates. It wasn’t always the case, and some of those series are blown out of proportion, but there were undoubtedly ones when you even felt sorry for the guy.
That brings me to the 2015 finals series, the first clash between the Cavs and the Warriors. It was supposed to be the real battle between LeBron and Kyrie on one side, and Splash Brothers on the other. It ended up being LeBron against the world type of series, as Kyrie went down in the ECF. The Cavs were also missing Kevin Love, whose shoulder was injured by Kelly Olynyk in the first round of the playoffs.
Fans were disappointed, to say the least. None expected the series to be close, as the Cavs simply lost too much. Then came LeBron James, and put up a fantastic performance, making it the series.
The King was able to take it to six games, with his second-best player being who? Timofey Mozgov? J.R. Smith? Matthew Dellavedova? Whoever you pick, he didn’t have the second-best-guy quality. But James worked with what he had at the time.
He finished the series averaging 35.8/13.8/8.8. His shot was off throughout the whole series, but it didn’t come as a surprise. What do you expect a guy to shoot when he is the only viable offensive option. Over six games, he shot .398 from the floor. However, It doesn’t belittle his efforts. LeBron was great. The problem is, no one else wasn’t.
The most significant testimony to it can be found under the advanced stats, more precisely – offensive net rating column. While LeBron was on the court, the offensive rating of the Cavaliers was 100.7. When James was off the court, the Cavaliers offensive rating was 48.9! Let me clarify if you’re not familiar with these stats; when LeBron was playing, Cleveland was estimated to score 100.7 points per 100 possessions. When he was on the bench, 51.8 less.
Keep in mind James was on the court for 274 out of 298 minutes. So in 24 minutes, James was on the bench, Cavs offense was cut in half. And it doesn’t come as a surprise when you see the numbers I got for you next. J.R., Dellavedova, Jones, and Shumpert went 0/21 without LBJ on the floor. Wow! I remember them struggling, but not to this extent.
LeBron became the first player to lead both teams in all major categories. The series also stands toe-to-toe with Michael Jordan’s best. Back in 1993, Jordan scored 38.4% of Bulls’ points in the finals. James was responsible for 38.3% of Cleveland’s points vs. the Dubs.
It’s the ultimate testimony to one-man show the series was. LeBron did everything he could, but none of his teammates backed him up. This time, he has Anthony Davis on his side. It’s a great option to have for one of his final pushes for the NBA championship.