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LeBron James averaged 27.3 points, 8.7 rebounds and 8.0 assists with a 59.6% real shot percentage (TS%) for the Los Angeles Lakers. Even five years ago, it would have seemed like a first-team All-NBA line first-hand.
In fact, this would have been the case during most seasons.
But 2018-19 has not been most seasons. Not only is the series of 11 consecutive picks from LeBron's first team threatened, but the honors of the second team do not give the impression of being a lock, especially since the Lakers are charging him a minute restriction.
If the real plus-minus (RPM) of ESPN made the decisions, he would be the first forward of the second team. He is sixth overall and just behind Paul George (No. 1 overall) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (No. 5) among the strikers once removed Anthony Davis, who played 96% of his minutes in the center. Jacob Goldstein's (PIPM) plus-minus record places LeBron in 13th overall, behind Giannis (# 1), Kevin Durant (# 2) and George (# 3).
If you sort all players with at least 250 minutes by the average of their ranks in 10 generic indicators (RPM, PIPM, box plus-minus, win actions per minute and a game score per minute, plus cumulative variations), Auditor LeBron ranked 13th and 4th in the attackers. Again, he trails behind Giannis (No. 1 overall), George (No. 5) and Durant (No. 6).
And in this exercise, Kawhi Leonard (No. 16), Blake Griffin (No. 18) and Pascal Siakam (No. 19) are all on his heels.
Tony Avelar / Associated Press
Each named striker up here plays in a team with a higher winning percentage than the Lakers related to the lottery.
But that's not how well All-NBA teams are selected. Some voters may still give weight to LeBron's legacy and his near-triple-double-double averages.
Even that might not be enough. Take the example of John Schuhmann of NBA.com, and note that the other four members of the roundtable agreed that the sequence of LeBron's first team would end as follows:
"In the current state of things, I would have four strikers – Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kevin Durant, Paul George and Kawhi Leonard – in front of James on my NBA ballot. And it seems doubtful that James, with the Lakers playing the rope and the other four attackers who all contribute (at both ends of the ground) to much better teams can replace any of them in the last month of the season. "
For the first time in more than a decade, LeBron does not have the numbers, narrative or success of the team to claim the status of one of the top two forwards in the NBA.
Giannis is MVP's favorite bet, according to OddsShark. NBA's MVP Award Tracker Basketball Reference gives him a 52% chance of getting this honor (James Harden is second with 20.7%). It is an absolute lock for the first team with an average of 27.0 points, 12.6 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 1.4 blocks and 1.3 interception on a Milwaukee Bucks outfit reaching the best record of the league.
Then there is George, who is third in MVP and seventh on the tracker. In February, Damian Lillard, the Portland Trail Blazers point guard, approved him for the biggest individual prize in the game:
Evan Turner and Damian Lillard support Paul George in support of MVP: https://t.co/vAtLhPOPwY
Lillard shared that feeling right after George lost 47 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists in a Oklahoma City Thunder victory over his Blazers. Since then, it has cooled a bit, but its net score of 18.9 points for 100 possessions remains the best among the players in rotation, according to Glass cleaning.
The points scored by George's match – 28.2 points, 8.2 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 2.3 flights with a gap of 58.6% – fall a bit behind LeBron's, but he was a man this season. Tote numbers such as RPM and PIPM also do a good job illustrating how much better he has been in defense.
And, of course, if Giannis and George are first, that's all. This is the end of the series.
Durant can steal that second spot ahead of George, but that seems almost impossible for LeBron to do. Again, the 34-year-old might actually be closer to third team recognition than winning first place.
Given the improbability of such a jump, we will probably see the end of a series that has not received enough attention. Dirk Nowitzki, Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan and LeBron himself were the top five most useful player votes was not on the first team. Tobey Maguire gave us Emo Spider-Man and the very first iPhone released that year.
In those 11 seasons, LeBron averaged 27.3 points, 7.6 rebounds, 7.5 rebounds and 1.6 steals with a 60.4% TS. These are remarkable numbers for anyone in a season; LeBron kept them for more than ten years.
His 258.7 wins on the replacement player (replacement player value multiplied by 2.7) during this extended turn over the 179 won by second place Chris Paul. In fact, the gap between LeBron and CP3 was about the same as the separation between CP3 and Kyle Lowry (eighth) (97.7).
Karl Malone is the only other player in NBA history to have eleven consecutive selections from the first NBA team, and he has never been more dominant than throughout his series. From 1988-89 to 1998-99, the legend of Utah Jazz racked up 194.9 wins against a substitute, just ahead of Michael Jordan's 189.8. Jordan has of course missed a bit of time playing baseball.
Throw in LeBron's four MVPs, eight consecutive appearances at the finals, three leagues and a scorer title, and this is arguably the most extended segment of NBA individual basketball.
This season will almost certainly end the series, but it should also give us an opportunity to reflect on these 11 years of domination.
Unless otherwise stated, stats courtesy of Basketball reference and precision in games before March 13th.