Thursday, January 31, 2008

Who can guard LeBron James?

So I watched last night's game, and then ended up in a conversation with Justin. How on earth do you stop LeBron these days?

Not only is he the strongest player in the NBA, and one of the quickest, he now has a jump shot to boot. So, you can't sag off him, because he'll hit the 15-20 footer with decent regularity. You can't press him, because he'll blow right by you (notice how good he is at turning sideways to get past defenders to avoid the foul?). You can't double him, because he'll find a way to get the ball to Ilgauskas or Boobie, who have a decent enough chance at scoring. So what do you do?

Which led us to realize what makes LeBron so good. And so outstanding. His go-to shot is a LAYUP. A Layup! As Justin points out, MJ and Kobe have the stick-it fadeaway. Duncan has the bankshot. Shaq (used to have) the dropstep. Magic could always find the open guy. And Bird had the dagger three. LeBron just sticks his head down and gets to the rim -- while still being able to do ALL the other things.

I think that alone makes the Cavs a dangerous playoff team, that plus the fact that LeBron is playing shutdown defense on an opposing team's star right now. Two games in a row, he's defended Kobe and Roy impeccably down the stretch -- forcing them into tough fadeaways.

So, the question in the title. Who can guard him? Shawn Marion is athletic and can bother him, but LeBron's just a touch quicker and more explosive. Wade is just too small. Kobe used to be able to, but now that Kobe's losing a bit of weight as he gets older (which is smart) LeBron can just overpower him. Tayshaun? Please, not after cowering under each of LeBron's thunder dunks last year. Bruce Bowen tries, but ultimately, aside from running the "stick my foot under LeBron" play, he can't rely on just letting LeBron have the midrange J anymore. And we know LeBron can post him. The best we could come up with is Josh Howard -- he's athletic and long -- but he also is prone to fade away on D for periods of time.

Ultimately, that's what would make this team so deadly with just one more star -- someone to knock down the shot when teams collapse on LeBron (like they have to). But, that said, it makes me think Kidd might not be the answer, since he's not a dead-eye shooter. I'd still prefer Bibby, on balance (and would vastly prefer his contract). But, it might not be the worst thing (given the Cavs' current chemistry and overall team defense) to make a small move for a Jarrett Jack-type PG and then make a big splash this summer with the ~30M of expiring contracts we'll have. Lots of good shooters out there next summer (here's looking at you, Juan Carlos Navarro). And, if the Suns don't win, you have to figure they'll blow things up (Shawn Marion, anyone?)

1 comment:

Justin said...

I think Lamar could cover Lebron in the post, but would have trouble covering on drives. Lamar is long but not quite as quick as Lebron, but would make a decent defender I think.

Also, in a game of 1-on-1, I'd love to see Lebron vs. KG. That would be fascinating.