Nets FA Targets: LeBron James

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LeBron James

Age: 25

Height: 6-8

Position: SF

Key 2009-10 Stats: 29.7 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 8.6 apg, 50.3% fg%, 31.1 PER

What to Like About LeBron James: I almost feel silly writing this. What hasn’t been said about the most unbelievable physical specimen we’ve ever seen in the NBA? His combination of size, power, quickness, finishing ability, ballhandling ability, court vision, and awareness is unparalleled in NBA history. Only Magic Johnson is in the same boat. He and Oscar Robertson are the only two players in NBA history who have averaged a 27-7-7 in their first seven seasons, and Oscar did it in a much faster-paced NBA forty years ago. His career PER of 26.9 is second only to Michael Jordan, and LeBron has had a 31.7 and 31.1 PER in the past two years. He shot an unreal 73.3% at the rim last year (first among players with at least six attempts per game, second only to Dwight Howard among players with at least four) and his three-point shot has become an important facet of his game. He can rebound on both sides of the floor, he can pass at an elite level, he can play on or off the ball, and his ability to simultaneously heighten the play of his teammates while completely taking a basketball game is a once-in-a-generation talent. Off the court, his star status will pique the interest of other all-star players and bring mass interest and relevance to a team coming off a 70-loss season. His friendship with Jay-Z and envy of Mikhail Prokhorov’s money are also two key factors. He can completely turn around a once-destitute franchise. Oh, and he hasn’t even hit his prime yet. He is, as we all know, the can’t-miss complete package of 2010.

What Not to Like About LeBron James: Just ask any Lakers fan what they think about LeBron James and this section would write itself. He’s never won a ring. He’s a classless, stats-obsessed, me-first choke artist who piles up pretty highlights but lacks the killer instinct to take his team to the highest level. Now, while I don’t believe any of that to be true (except for the factual “he’s never won a ring” part), there’s a point to be made about the LeBron spectacle. Everything in basketball for the past two years has been leading to this. Teams have frantically cut cap space in order to be able to take a crack at King James. He relishes in this courtship. He demands the attention. He’s obsessed with it, to a fault. Dennis did a great piece about this earlier in the summer – he basically demanded that LeBron shut up and stop this ridiculous game. In the global arena of the Tri-State area, he may have trouble gearing his focus to the basketball court. Basketball-wise, you could make a case that he’s still got a shaky mid-range jumper – he shot only 32.2% from 10-15 feet last year (well below the league average) and 40% from 16-23 feet (barely league average). Also, for a guy with his immense size and quickness, his lack of any post game is alarming, and it’s something he needs to work on going forward. Obviously, that’s nitpicking when we’re talking about the best basketball player in the world. But it is something to think about.

Around the web on James: Free agency meetings started yesterday, and all sources indicate that LeBron came away impressed with the Nets. Chad Ford reported a source that called the meeting “tremendous.” Dave D’Allessandro commented that James was “blown away.” Avery Johnson also said he believed it went well.

Also, I would be remiss not to include this quote from Brian Scalabrine:

I can tell you where LeBron should go. If I’m LeBron, I’m going to New Jersey. They’ve got a solid center and room for two guys. They’ve got a point guard and they just drafted a pretty good forward. With signing another big name like Bosh, Boozer, or Stoudemire, they’ve already got a very good big man and the new rookie who’s very good, you have a team that can contend for a championship. And don’t forget Courtney Lee, who’s been to the Finals before and done well. If I’m him, I’m going there.

Naturally, it’s Brian Scalabrine, but still. Strong statement. I love that guy.

The Bottom Line from this Blogger: Negative criticism aside, this is the guy that we’ve been waiting for. The guy that we’ve been making moves for. The guy that a half-dozen teams have systematically destroyed their rosters for two years for. If we don’t get LeBron James, no matter what we get, it will be a letdown. I get that he is not unworthy of criticism. Yeah, he threw up a stinker in game 5 this year against the Celtics. Whatever. I hope when people are looking at LeBron’s pedigree, they remember his triple-double when no one else showed up two nights later. How he carried 25-win teams without him night in and night out for the past six years. How he single-handedly destroyed the Detroit Pistons with 25 straight in the 4th quarter & overtime in 2007. His ability to carry a team to the NBA Finals with Larry Hughes as his second option. The fact is that he’s been the face of the NBA for the past seven years for a reason. He is the present and the future of basketball.

LeBron James has the opportunity to define a brand new legacy, both for himself and the Nets. In coming to Newark (and eventually Brooklyn), LeBron would forever be the face of a franchise desperately seeking revival. He would have the opportunity to team up with arguably the second-best center in the NBA, a non-“LeBron all-star” point guard, and quite possibly another maximum contract free agent – not to mention the most athletic power forward to come out of the draft in years. Off the court, LeBron would be teamed up with the newest, richest, most intriguing owner in the NBA and the most critically & commercially successful hip hop mogul in the world. If LeBron has aspirations of billions, there are no better ownership options anywhere. Besides those factors, he would never be considered second-tier on his own franchise. Jason Kidd and Julius Erving are two great Nets in the franchise’s lore, but both would be relegated to smaller chapters of the Nets history books instantly. He would have the opportunity to completely rewrite Nets history (and NBA history) as we know it. If LeBron James signs with the Nets, he instantly becomes the most important figure in Nets history. The legend that follows is his to write.

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