Let's Play A Game: Letrue Or Lefalse
It's that time of year again. And no, I don't mean the holiday season. It's that time of year where everyone starts panicking about the struggling and seemingly indifferent Cavaliers, albeit no one could have predicted it would have come this early. It's like Christmas in July. The Cavaliers sweated out a win in Madison Square Garden the Monday night to even their record at 7-7. They're still not technically in the playoffs. And of course, they have the worst defensive rating in the entire league. But this isn't a column about the Cavaliers struggles. I think we can all agree that the greatest part about the Cavaliers' regular season swoons over the last few years has been the media onslaught that follows. Let's face it, the time of the year where the Cavaliers struggle is the time of year where the media goes a bit whackadoodle. It's the time of year when Lebron James turns his social media game up to level 11, and we all scramble to analyze and dissect every tweet and statement the man makes. And In case you just happened to just tune in, Lebron has posted and said some pretty precarious things over the last week and a half. As a result it's time to get to work. Let's analyze some of the things Lebron has said over the past few weeks in a game I like to call: Letruth or Lefalse.
1. "I'm in win mode still" via B/R Magazine
The Cavaliers have lost to these teams so far this year: Magic, Nets, Pelicans, Knicks, Pacers, Rockets, Hawks
The Cavaliers have beaten these teams: Celtics, Bucks x2, Bulls, Wizards, Mavericks, Knicks
What we can learn from these splits is that when the game gets a little bigger, and the competition is a viable threat, the Cavaliers step up their game. They beat the Bucks twice, quieting Giannis' coming out party. They handled the Wizards after they came out publicly claiming the Cavaliers wanted no part of them in the playoffs. They beat the extra motivated Knicks after Lebron's divisive Dennis Smith- Frank Ntilikina comments. And they beat the Celtics and all their brand new toys on opening night. This team is still perfectly capable of rolling through the Eastern Conference. And have you seen Lebron play this year? He's as unstoppable as ever. Duh he's still in win mode. This one's easy peasy.
2. "It's been a while since I've had that clear-cut guy(Isaiah Thomas) who can get guys involved but also score at the same time, but it's fine. It's something that our team will make an adjustment to." - Via B/R Magazine
Hmmmm... who was that guy who played point guard last year for the Cavaliers? What is his name? Didn't he hit some gigantic shot bringing Cleveland its lone championship? Ahhhh, Kyrie Irving. That's it. Well, he certainly had the scoring part down pat. Arguably (when both are completely healthy) Thomas and Irving are somewhat similar scorers, though one would have certainly have to give Irving the edge. The real question is, is there a discernible difference between Irving and Thomas' distribution ability? Assist wise, Thomas and Irving have been even over the last few years. During his three seasons with Lebron, Irving averaged 5.3 assists per game, while Thomas over his last two seasons (both all star appearances) has averaged 6.1 assists per game. So there's no discernible difference there. However, last season Irving scored 21.4% of the time out of isolation plays at 1.12 PPP, while Thomas only scored 9.4% of his buckets out of isolation plays at the exact same clip (1.12 PPP). That means Thomas' game comes with more ball movement, which at the very least will lead to more hockey assists. At the same time, Irving has improved his fluidity this year. And his usage rate is nearly identical to Thomas' last year. So I guess the actual real question is, do you trust that Tyron Lue can use Isaiah in a similar manner to the way Brad Stevens used him last year because that's the only way he'll be as effective. My guess is no, he won't, and as a result Lebron's point is void.
3. "The Knicks passed on a really good one (Dennis Smith Jr.), and Dallas got the diamond in the rough. He should be a Knick. That's going to make some headlines, but he should be a Knick. Dallas is definitely, I know they're excited that he didn't go there."
Essentially, was choosing Frank Ntlikina over Dennis Smith Jr. with the 8th pick the right choice? Ntlikina has been a lot better than anyone could have imagined. Clearly he's got talent, especially on the defensive end. He didn't record six steals on Monday night against the Cavaliers for no reason. He has length and energy. And it's not everyday a player comes along who can bottle up the Beard like this:
However, Smith Jr. clearly has the higher ceiling, and that's already very evident, even just 15 games into the season. Frank is very limited offensively right now. He doesn't show a lot of explosiveness. He's not a great shooter and he doesn't get to the rack. In fact, he's only taken eight shots all year from 10ft or closer the entire year. Yeah, that's right. Eight. Smith Jr. on other hand, well, he can already do things like this:
4. "You're welcome.. 👑of NY"
Lebron officially declared himself the king of New York with this Instagram post. But is he? Well, we can look at this from two perspectives, current and historical. Let's start with historical. Of opposing players who have played 15 or more games in Madison Square Garden only one player has a better average game score than Lebron James. Can you guess who? It's kind of obvious.
Jordan's game score average of 23.2 in 31 contests slightly outdoes Lebron's 22.7 average in 25 contests. Not to mention, the Knicks have been a debauchery for almost the entirety of Lebron's career, only making the playoffs four times in fifteen seasons. And just so you know, the Knicks made the playoffs ten times in fifteen seasons during Jordan's career. And I don't think I'm biased when I say those 90's Knicks teams were a lot better than any of the 21st century Knicks teams. Jordan is the victor. Also, just for reference, no Knicks player's game score average at home ranks in the top 30 of all time home game score averages. So I'm just going to go ahead and declare that no Knick holds the honor as king of MSG.
Now that we've put history to bed, who owns MSG now? In retort to Lebron's comments, Enes Kanter has declared Kristaps Porzingis, the NBA's third leading scorer, the king. He is certainly having an awesome season, but does he really own MSG? He only holds a 13.6 game score average lifetime at MSG, which is no where close to good enough. However, this year he's improved emphatically on that effort averaging a 22.5 game score at home which ranks 7th in the entire league. Not too bad. Unfortunately it's just not good enough. Lebron cranked out 23.8 game score average on Monday night, and continued his onslaught at MSG. That combined with his lifetime game score average, and his dagger Monday night gives him the crown. Porzingis may be coming, but for now King James owns MSG.