LeBron James is one of the best all-around players the game of basketball has seen – he can do it all in terms of scoring, facilitating, rebounding, and defending. His versatility allows the Heat to play virtually any style they want, especially their potent small-ball, “position-less” attack with James guarding power forwards, centers, or whoever else requires attention. This all goes back to his off-the-charts basketball IQ.
LeBron has deservedly received many accolades for his tremendous basketball smarts. Gregg Popovich recently, when addressing the media, quipped that “[James] doesn’t need any of you to tell him anything. He knows more than all of you put together.” James has been praised by fellow teammates for knowing how to play every position on the floor, be it anything from point guard to center, and directing his teammates on where to be on the court offensively and defensively.
We all recognize the benefits of having such exquisite basketball knowledge. LeBron can score at will, yet see the court and find teammates akin to Jason Kidd. He has the rare ability to make his teammates better and involved in all facets of the game – he is the consummate unselfish superstar. However, LeBron’s unselfishness – due to his great basketball IQ – has sometimes shown itself to be a curse in these 2013 playoffs against elite opponents like the Indiana Pacers and San Antonio Spurs. The great importance he puts on getting struggling starts like Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh involved in the offense often takes away from his own rhythm and his team’s performance. His tendency to spread the wealth, to hunt for the “best” shot in the floor in his mind, sometimes takes away from the fact that a LeBron James, wherever it comes from, is actually the best shot available to his team. For example, in perhaps the most controversial play of Game 1 between Miami and San Antonio, James passed the ball to an open Chris Bosh beyond the 3 point arc with just over a minute left in the game and the Heat down by four. Though Chris Bosh is one of the best midrange and corner shooters in the league, the particular shot he took and missed in this crucial possession was from a position where he is not nearly as efficient. Had LeBron put his head down and just drove to the hoop, a la Kobe Bryant, the Miami Heat might have had a better outcome.
Through the first three games of the Finals, LeBron’s tendency to get his teammates involved seemed to take himself out of rhythm and made him rather ineffective (relative to his normal standards, of course) when his team needed him most, similar to what happened in the Heat’s loss to the Dallas Mavericks in the 2011 NBA Finals. LeBron, over the past two years, has matured and improved tremendously in his ability to know when to distribute and when to take over the game by scoring himself. He did, however, find a good rhythm and aggressiveness in Game 4, which, along with the resurgence of Wade and Bosh, resulted in a Miami Heat win; his ability to find the appropriate balance between scoring and facilitating for the rest of the series will be crucial to the Heat’s chances.