Free Agent Playbook, Part 8: LeBron James (1 of 2)

Posted: July 2, 2010 by The Cheap Seat Fan in NBA
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All the planets in the solar system revolve around the sun. The NBA free agent universe, the role of the Sun is being played by LeBron Raymone James. His decision is what every team in the League, and the sports world at large, is depending and waiting on. The reigning MVP is the catalyst in the biggest offseason in NBA history and per his usual moves since his sophomore year at St. Vincent-St. Mary’s HS in Akron, they are monumental. I’ve broken down all the primary players on the market, but now the focus switches to the King of Ohio. In part 1 of 2, I’ll break down what LeBron brings to both the court and city of his next landing point.

We Are All Witnessing a new level of free agent hype, here's the #1 reason why.

LeBron James

The Basics: Small Forward, 25 years old, 6’8, 250 lbs

The Numbers: 29.7 PPG, 8.6 APG, 7.3 RPG, 1.7 SPG (2010); 23.7 PPG, 7 APG, 7 RPG, 1.7 SPG (Career); 2x MVP, 6x All-Star, 4x All-NBA, 2x All-Defense

On Court

Offensive Summary: It’s hard where to start in assessing James offensive abilities, as it is a combination of skills that haven’t been seen in such a way before. As an athlete, his size and speed combination has never been utilized in the NBA before so completely. His offensive game matured at an incredibly early age, averaging 27.2 PPG in just his second season at 19. His scoring output is based in driving to the basket and finishing near the rim. His incredible athleticism allows him to out run similarly sized players and overwhelm smaller ones by powering past them to the hoop. He has developed a mid range shot and is an average 3 point shooter. He also spends a good amount of time at the free throw line and finishes on 74% lifetime.

For as good of a scorer he is, he is diverse in his abilities with the ball in his hands. He can be just as dangerous of a distributor as he is scorer, multiplying his worth. He has outstanding court vision and gets the ball to teammates in places for them to easily score. At times this has been an almost detrimental skill and though process for James, as he passes on shots that are looked for him to take as lead scorer. He projected as more Magic Johnson playmaker than Michael Jordan finisher entering the league, and lays somewhere in between thus far, which are both a credit and a controversy to him.

LBJ's distribution skills are what separate him from many top tier scoring threats.

Defensive Summary: LBJ is a great complimentary defender, meaning he is more of a disruptor over a lock down on ball defender. There are better perimeter and post defenders than James; however he is far from absent on the defensive end of the court. Since entering the league he has played the ball far above average, leading to many break away points off passing lane steals. In recent years he has become an excellent backside shot blocker over the top, meaning he cleans up on bad shots produced by other defenders. He is among the league leaders in blocks for non-centers.

Overall, his unique skill set places him in position to lead several different offensive approaches. By having dominant post player he can lead to easy man-to-man points by drawing multiple defenders towards him on the double team and passing out to the post. In a similar fashion, he can also run an offense centered on him attacking the rim as primary scorer and being surrounded by shooters who take advantage of looks drawn by his penetration. Finally, an up tempo, on the break style attack, that lets him utilize his speed and play making, could be overwhelming.

Off Court

Off the court his value is just as great on the court, where he touches virtually every media market just by his presence alone. He is among the upper tier of all professional athletes in the world in notability and name value, and raises attendance figures wherever he plays. Since he joined the Cleveland, he has sent both their franchise value and revenues skyrocketing, bring in $80 million annually in revenue. His membership adds instantly increased national visuability and increased sales of all merchandise associated with him. His jersey has been second to Kobe Bryant’s in sales the last few seasons and with the potential rush to grab both his new number (he is switching to 6 in 2010-11) and potentially new team, could push him to the top of the list.

As a player and personality, no one matches James' potential in the NBA.

It’s hard to believe that he could stand to make a bigger media difference than he already does by moving to a larger market such as New York, Chicago, Los Angeles or Dallas, but potentially he could. A move to the East Coast puts him on the time schedule with the majority of nation’s center of media programming focus in Eastern Standard Time. The scope and exposure of his advertising campaigns could shoot up the charts in the New York area, the largest population base in the US. Los Angeles would offer virtually the same exposure, even with the Clippers. The legend of Michael Jordan looms in over the Chicago Bulls image still and putting another off the charts player in that uniform would bring Jordan levels of attention, and accompanying funds, back to the area with a LBJ led Bulls. And there should be no doubt that Marc Cuban would pour every penny he has (save for his fines account) to promote James in Texas.

There are many talents whose services come at a high price, yet produce returns on the investment. However, landing LeBron is an investment that can change the entire fortunes of a team, a fan base and financial landscape for a city. This is what separates him from the impact of luring Dwyane Wade or Chris Bosh to come lift your team to a few more wins and a trophy. LeBron can bring both of those as well with the right situation. However he can bring an empire surrounding him that will change the entire image and atmosphere around your team as well. While there are no promises about who will win what, bringing LeBron to town guarantees a championship at the bank, as well as brings into the fold the one of the only players equipped to succeed Mr. Bryant as a dynasty builder (he’s only 25, Mike didn’t win his first until he was 27 and did pretty well in his 30s). It’s no wonder the world revolves around his will. He’s crafted it that way, on the court and off.

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