One NBA talent evaluator no longer seems to be too high on Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James.
The Athletic’s Seth Partnow put James in the second tier of his pre-postseason tiers.
“I first wrote about the possibility of LeBron James entering the decline phase of his career more than seven years ago,” Partnow wrote. “That season’s championship later, I’ve been a little squeamish about making that call again. But I think it’s time. This isn’t said out of malice or denigration of James’ career. It’s just a fact that every player eventually gets old. While some age more gracefully than others, they all eventually age out of Top Tier status.”
Partnow argued that James’ defense has slipped in recent years, and he believes that the flashes of greatness the NBA’s all-time leading scorer currently shows are just stretches, and they may not be sustainable for an entire season into a playoff run.
“On some level, it’s a measure of James’ greatness (for my money, he is one of three plausible candidates for GOAT status alongside Michael Jordan and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, but this isn’t the place for that debate) that I have to spend this much time explaining why I think a 38-year old is nearer the bottom than the top of the Top 10 in the league in terms of current championship-level impact,” Partnow wrote.
It’s certainly an interesting take, especially when one considers how well James has played this season when he’s been healthy.
The four-time champion is averaging 29.0 points, 8.4 rebounds and 6.8 assists per game in the 2022-23 campaign while shooting 50.2 percent from the field and 30.9 percent from beyond the arc.
While his 3-point percentage is the lowest it’s been since the 2015-16 season (ironically, he won an NBA title with the Cleveland Cavaliers that season), James’ other numbers are on par with what he’s done throughout his career.
He’s averaging the fifth-highest points per game total of his career this season, and he’s also averaging his most rebounds per game since his first season with the Lakers.
The argument against James is more about his health than it is his production, as he’s missed more games over the past few seasons than he did in any season of his career prior to coming to Los Angeles.
Partnow mentioned James’ declining ratio of free-throw to field-goal attempts as another reason to show that he’s declining, though it should be noted that James is still putting up impressive scoring numbers without taking as many foul shots.
There are certainly a ton of talented players in the NBA, but Partnow may be jumping the gun on James’ decline, especially since the Lakers are now back in the mix for the No. 6 seed in the Western Conference.
The 19-time All-Star is aging, but he’s still playing at an extremely high level. He will look to prove the critics wrong by leading the Lakers to an NBA title this season.
With just two more games left on their regular season schedule, the Lakers are in seventh place in the West. Wednesday’s loss to the Los Angeles Clippers pushed the Lakers to one full game back of the sixth seed.