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Thursday, March 8th, 2007 at 1:45 pm  |  110 responses

Does LeBron make his teammates better? A case study

Sam Rubenstein looks at the facts

By Sam Rubenstein

Last night, with LeBron going vesuvius for 41, 8, and 7 in the land of Pistons, we WITNESSED what he his capable of being. The dominant force in the NBA today, let alone the future. He has this in him, when he goes out and gives the maximum effort. The thing is, he has admitted to coasting this season, and the 40+ night was his first of the season. I know it’s tough to be disappointed in someone for not scoring 40 more often, but we have to expect more from LeBron or else he will get by coasting for his whole career. That ain’t cool. LeBron has the talent and intelligence to put up a 35-15-10 season one day, and that’s being conservative. With the Spiderman 3 trailer making the rounds, the line fits for LeBron “With great power comes great responsibility.” He is the future of basketball and he owes it to US to take the game to a higher place. That not only means putting up bananas numbers, it also means winning and making teammates better, like all of the great ones do.

With that in mind, I thought I’d go back through his NBA career and search for an answer to the question, does LeBron make teammates better? Here is a look at some of his more notable teammates, and what the impact has been for them pre and post-Bron. I stayed away from statistics for this study, and instead relied on a more Barkley-esque approach of using sweeping generalizations. Enjoy my search for the truth.

Big Z – One of the better centers in the NBA before LeBron. He had already established himself as a capable NBA scorer, and if you can remember the pre-LeBron Cavs (I can not), he was as close to a franchise player as anyone on the team. With LeBron by his side, Z has maintained, but he hasn’t gotten any better. He is what he is, a slow plodding center in a league that’s going away from players like him. Shouldn’t the extra attention that LeBron draws give him countless one on one chances to dominate? Not happening. Verdict: Same to worse.

Carlos Boozer – He was very good in his one year with young LeBron. Then he went to Utah, started out okay until the injury bug hit, and this season he’s better than ever. Give Deron Williams credit for that, but also he only got to play with the rookie version of LeBron. Boozer should have been the certified second option to go on long playoff runs with LeBron. Too bad he stabbed a blindman in the back. The fact remains, he is better now than he was with LeBron. Verdict: LeBron made him worse.

Ricky Davis – When LeBron arrived in Cleveland, Ricky Davis was the resident scoring machine. Remember the night when Rick was a rebound away from a triple double, so he shot at his own basket? That was my favorite bad basketball moment of the 2000′s. Ricky was a scoring machine on a horrible team. Bron came and Ricky couldn’t play with him and everyone thought he was crazy going away from someone with passing skills like LeBron. Ricky went on to reinvent himself as one of the best sixth men in the NBA in Boston and he has been pretty good for the T-Wolves without doing anything to remind us that he was once one of the biggest headcases in the league. He was better pre AND post LeBron. Verdict: LeBron made him worse.

Jeff McInnis – Okay, he was defintley made better by playing with LeBron. His days in Cleveland were the best of his career other than a stretch or two with the Clippers. The Cavs probably regret losing Jeff to this day. Where is he now, by the way? Charlotte? How has his post-LeBron career been? Non-existent. Verdict: LeBron made him better.

Lee Nailon – A quality scorer wherever he goes. Lee Nailon has always been one of those guys that can score whenever he wants to. Except for when he played with the Cavs. What happened? Verdict: LeBron made him worse.

Darius Miles – A lost cause either way, although he had his moments with Portland when he wasn’t, you know being Darius Miles. If Tim Thomas were a bigger disappointment, he’d be D Miles. LeBron is exonerated for this one. Let’s move on.

Eric Williams – Jason Kidd made him as good as he could be. It’s slightly unfair to judge that version of him against another. He was better with Cleveland than he was with Toronto, we’ll give him that. Verdict: LeBron made him better.

Drew Gooden – This is LeBron’s finest work. Drew was a promising talent with Orlando, but T-Mac couldn’t make him into a regular force. Now, with LeBron, Drew scores plenty of garbage buckets and collects a healthy share of rebounds. He is not your ideal second best player on a great team, but LeBron has turned him into someone with superstar numbers. Verdict: LeBron made him better.

Sideshow, Pavlovic, Newble – These are the LeBronnenites. This is what Danny Ferry, Jim Paxson, and Dan Gilbert have given him to work with. Good luck. And whatever happened to Ira Newble? He looked like Benzino and he played hard enough. Is he still around? The fact that any of these guys play reguarly on an NBA team is a testament to LeBron James being a superstar. Varaejo goes after rebounds and plays aggressive defense, and those guys will always have a job, but I’m still crediting LeBron with making him and NBA player. Verdict: LeBron makes them better.

Eric Snow – He was younger before he showed up in Cleveland. Can’t rally judge his fall off based on anything LeBron does. He should never have been starting for this team. Verdict: Father time made him worse.

Larry Hughes – Oh. This is a problem. Injuries got to him, but seriously snap out of it Larry. His signing was supposed to mark the dawn od a new Jordan and Pippen regime. Larry was an All-Star with the Wizards two years ago. He was the key to the team, even with Gilbert Arenas there. Since coming to Cleveland, he seems to be getting worse every day. If LeBron is getting doubled and tripled, Larry should be able to destroy anyone that tries to guard him. And he should be playing the passing lanes and among the league leaders in steals at all times like he was in Washington. None of this has happened. Verdict: LeBron makes him worse, and that is his biggest failure.

Flip Murray – Had a brief rennaisannce last season hitting big shots for the Cavs, but he was better with Seattle. Then again, he’s playing for another Flip and he’s not as good for the Pistons as he was for the Cavs. Verdict: Push.

Donyell Marshall – He was much better in Toronto. Pretty good in Golden State and Utah. Donyell has been better everywhere than with LeBron. Put it this way, people used to think he looked like Ludacris. Now they say he looks like Bubs. If that’s not falling off, I don’t know what is.

Damon Jones – He was once an elite shot maker, the third option on a Heat team that went to the seventh game of the Eastern Conference Finals. He was funny and likeable as Shaq’s sidekick with personailty. Now, he’s the most annoying personality in the NBA and if you surveyed fans, they’d like to punch him in the face more than any other player. Verdict: LeBron had ruined his life.

The conclusion is that LeBron is going to have to score 40 a lot more for the Cavs to make noise in the playoffs. The supporting cast is not going to take the pressure off him. He tried to make them better by reeling in his own game earlier this season, but that wasn’t working. It’s going to be Bron against the world in the playoffs again.

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  • See Bee Fore

    first!

  • http://slamonline.com Lazy Lew

    sloppy seconds!NO ONE can make Damon Jones better. not LeBron, not Jordan, not even God. elite shot maker? right…

  • Calvin Byrd

    Been saying it for years… the term “makes teammates better” is overrated

  • Chris

    you weren’t kidding about the sweeping generalizations. There are so many other factors you didn’t even consider. Like experience, when boozer played with bron, he was a 1st/2nd year player so it’s logical to assume he’d be better now just as matter of natural progession, same with Gooden, sure he’s better now, but he’s also more experienced. Also you didn’t factor in coaching, some of these guys played under Paul silas, and some played for mike brown which would affect their productivity with cleveland, i’m sure there’s a bunch of other factors that you missed other than LeBron

  • http://slamonline.com Lazy Lew

    ALSO, what ever happened to D-Miles? I would really appreciate an update

  • Reggie Evans

    Only Steve Nash makes his teammates better. They stink.

  • mdshuai

    D-Miles had a season ending (big surprise there) knee surgery I think it was over in Portland. And if the teams smart they dump him and pick up oh, I don’t know, I’d take Damon Jones over that worthless sack of crap. I’d take Sir Charles back in the shape he’s in now rather than see Miles play in a Blazer’s uniform again. Dude is the biggest disappointment in the league, and no one should ever want anything to do with him. Does the bitterness show through clearly? I thought it might.

  • http://mybleedingfingertips.blogspot.com/ Max Airington

    Calvin Byrd for President.

  • Vitor

    Sam, Varejão has always been the same player he is nowadays. A guy who always gives his best efforts, never runs out of energy and will fight for every ball. Sure, he could be a better offensive player, but I don’t think Lebron is the only reason he’s in the NBA. Remember, he was one of the best players here in Brazil and played for an European powerhouse in Barcelona. Tell me one NBA team that wouldn’t like to have an all hustle fan favortie like him an i’ll agree that he’s only valuable as long as he’s playing with Lebron.

  • oliver

    so there we have it – Lebron sucks

  • oliver

    oh and my biggest dissapointment in the league is gerald Wallace ‘the next Jordan’ the next pippen……i could go on- wat did he do? not a whole lot- hes a decent player but not a superstar- oh and Juanny Wags too- wanted him to be great- but he isn’t…at all

  • http://myspace.com/bodiebarnett jbn74sb

    There are (at least) 2 ways that a great player makes other players better. The first is the Magic Johnson way, where one player learns the strengths and weaknesses of his teammates, and plays in such a way to capitalize on the strengths and help to hide the weaknesses. The end result is not only increased performance, but also increased confidence, which in turns leads to even more increased performance. Steve Nash (at least on offense, he plays worse D that I do) is today’s example of such a player. The second way is in the mode of Michael Jordan, a player so individaully great that the other team’s extreme focus on him necessitates decreased focus on his teammates. The end result here is that the other players get better by default, because the other team does not focus on them. Many people (including the media) thereby conclude that the star player must have made his teammates better, when the real cause was the focus of the defense. Shaq is today’s example.

    LeBron has the ability to be both – so far, he falls into the Shaq mode.

  • J

    I thought I just hated Damon Jones because he’s Damnon Jones but now I know it’s really Lebron’s fault.

  • paige

    thank you for this post, it’s exactly what i’ve been waiting for. i honestly believe that the one major down-fall of bron is exactly what you were talking about: he doesn’t make teammates better. sure he may forever dominate the regular season stats and his sheer individual dominance might single-handedly push the cavs part way through the play-offs but i can’t see the cavs winning a championship with him anytime soon…i’m going out on a whim here but we’ll just have to wait and see.

  • http://myspace.com/bodiebarnett jbn74sb

    Also known as going out on a limb.

  • http://mybleedingfingertips.blogspot.com/ Max Airington

    It’s still not fair to say that one guy is better at”making teammates better”. It’s based on the assumption that everyone progresses equally or that they all possess the ability to improve.

  • Myung

    “Now, he’s the most annoying personality in the NBA and if you surveyed fans, they’d like to punch him in the face more than any other player.” I love this quote. I disagree with only slightly. I’d put Boris Diaw at #1, then Damon Jones as #1B. You know what’s strange though? When I watched him crap his pants in the 3 point shoot out, I almost felt sorry for him. Like, all these years, he’s been AT the All Star Weekend but never IN it. Now that he finally had made it, he screws up his shot at shocking the world and in a strange twist, instead of rejoicing in his misery, I felt sympathy for him. Then, I remembered the red suit he wore the year before and order was restored. I wouldn’t mind punching him.

  • holla boi

    can we have this conversation about kobe? lol

  • …J..R…

    injuries and larry hughes ruined larry hughes. and damon jones….. what do you even say?

  • http://myspace.com/bodiebarnett jbn74sb

    Holla Boi – take a look at the stats of the guys Kobe has played with. And take a look at his career assist numbers. “lol”.

  • Troy Dallas

    “gerald Wallace…wat did he do? not a whole lot- hes a decent player but not a superstar”

    Gerald Wallace is a lot better than you think, but then again, good players on sh*tty teams dont really get a lot of credit.

  • Bryant Reeves

    The only way do this is to compare the records of his team when he’s playing and when he isn’t (you could do the same thing for each of his team mates’ stats as well). Also, if Lebron wasn’t in Cleveland I wouldn’t be surprised if it was the Kansas City Cavs right now…

  • IrvBX

    lebron started ruining jones life after he dunked on him

  • Calvin Byrd

    so who makes Lebron better. Can we say that Shannon Brown makes teammates better since Lebron is having a better year this season?

  • Dan

    Byrd brings up an extremely interesting point that is more than note-worthy: who makes teammates “better”? Does Steve Nash make his teammates truly better? That is debatable. If “better” means providing an abundance of scoring opportunities, then yes he does. But, if it means allowing a player to develop an all-around game that transforms him into a higher class baller, then no he does not. It is hard to say what means better. Jordan did not make Pipppen better, Pippen made himself better by consciously playing second fiddle to Jordan. I truly cannot think of one player who makes any of his teammates better, looking at a player’s overall game. LeBron makes himself better, and carries his team every year. He can do it all, and if you call that making his teammates worse then so be it. You truly cannot expect a player of LeBron’s calibre to put up 35-15-10, AND make any other individual better. It is impossible. If a player has such a multi-faceted game, it does not allow teammate(s) to do much else expect play a supporting role, and often spectate. It is part of the problem with having a player such as LeBron as the face of a franchise; although the pros clearly out-way the cons, you will never see Larry Hughes have a break-out year in Cleveland unless LBJ goes down injured, or he substantially lowers his numbers. So, according to Sam, LBJ makes players worse. Well I have a question Sam: what do you expect?!?!?!

  • http://slamonline.com Sam Rubenstein

    I don’t know anymore. I’m confused. It made sense when I started.

  • Jason

    This article is kind of silly. I mean, some of these examples are ridiculous. Lee Nailon? Darius Miles? I wouldn’t put too much stock in how these players played during their short time with Lebron compared to how they play without him. And several were past their prime (if they ever had one) after they started playing with Lebron.

    Anyway, I’m not sure if he makes his teammates better (whatever that means), but he does make the team better. He doesn’t really have much talent around him. Without Lebron, they’d be pretty awful.

  • http://slamonline.com Russ Bengtson

    I wonder who’s the best at making his teammates bitter? Probably Alonzo Mourning.

  • http://slamonline.com Russ Bengtson

    I think some players can make their teammates better. Take Jason Kidd, for example. If you get open, if you run the floor, he finds you. Which, if you’re smart, inspires you to run the floor more and get open more. Which gets you better shots and increases your confidence. Doesn’t that technically make you a better player? Wasn’t Keith Van Horn (for example) a better player with Kidd than he was with Stephon Marbury?

  • Myung

    “Player x makes the other players better” = The team is winning more ball games. They should just say, “The player makes his team better,” not “Player x makes the other players better.” I mean, anyone who’s played a little organized basketball knows that a lot of people make other people better. If someone sets effective picks, he makes a shooter better. If someone is an adept passer, he makes it easier for his teammates to score. If someone is a good shot blocker, he makes a great help defender. But just because those other guys make their teammates better doesn’t really make his TEAM better. I’m sure if KG or T-Mac won a couple of rings the past few seasons (the same can be said about Dominique Wilkins and Chuck), people might say, “They made their teammates better.” I’m with all you guys who don’t really like the phrase (Calvin, Max, etc). It’s a pretty ridiculous phrase.

  • jonny

    the guys kobe plays with? yes ur right smush parker and sasha and evans would be freakin allstars if it werent for kobe

  • Myung

    I don’t know if Kidd made his teammates better than Marbury did. I just think he’s a better passer or more to the point, he’s less selfish. Instead of saying he made his teammates better, I’d probably say, “He made his teammates HAPPIER” or “He was a less self-centered.” I probably wouldn’t say, “He made his teammates better.” Just one man’s opinion.

  • http://slamonline.com Russ Bengtson

    Happier teammates are better teammates. At least that’s what Confucius told me back when we had wood shop together.

  • http://slamonline.com Russ Bengtson

    Or maybe that was Phil Jackson. It was a long time ago.

  • Patrick

    i hope nobody thinks lebron vs. the world in the playoffs is a bad thing.

  • http://slamonline.com Ryan Jones

    Sam, your logic is non-existent. OK, actually that’s not fair, since I only skimmed your column, but, to echo a lot of what’s already been said, here’s my thought: The phrase “makes teammates better” should be rephrased “makes teammates’ jobs easier,” which I think is a vastly more accurate description of what guys like Magic, Bird, Nash, whoever do. Really good players, particularly really good passers, make their teammates’ jobs easier because, generally speaking, they give their teammates easier shots, which statistically makes those players better (they shoot a higher percentage, they score more, etc). Sometimes LeBron does this — and I think he’s inarguably more CAPABLE of doing this than the vast majority of players in the League — sometimes he does not. But the question of how much better (or worse) he’s made individual players has a lot more to do with the coach, the system, the opponents and, most importantly, those players’ own (often declining) ability than it does with any one teammate, LeBron or anyone else. That’s what I think, and since I’m always right, you have to agree. You’re welcome.

  • http://www.bcbarbershop.com Ben Couch

    Wow … Ryan coming with the heat. I actually remember Van Horn having his best statistical year alongside Marbs on the Nets …

  • H to the izzo

    A single player can’t really make a teammate physically better but they can make them look better,for example say Steve Nash’s ability to draw a crowd and dish can make easier buckets for other players and a higher fg% so the player that gets the easy pass and shot they have to work less to get their points so thier game seems fairly effortless and the media loves someone taking high percentage shots and a lot of them,if they had not had that Steve Nash or Kidd they would be scoring less and a lower fg% hasn’t that player made his teamates SEEM better?And Scorers do not make other players better that should be obvious

  • Matt

    ^^ COSIGN.

  • SchW

    They are all a bunch of bi***ez. Larry just cannot make an open shot even if he tries all day and Damon can´t create his own shot. It was good for him while he was in miami and shaq passed him the ball out of the paint if he was doubled, or wade passed the ball when he penetrated and the guy guarding damon helped with wade because they tried to put at least one guy on shaq all the time. open shot…..boom. easy as that. But it aint over till the fat lady signs. We gonna all see in the playoffs when the shit really hits the fan…..Maybe they are still cruising and the rest of the squad just needs a little more time to get in the rythm than Lebron. We all starts clicing it will be another story.

  • Mike

    Yug are right i would like to punch Damon Jones is the face, the guy annoys the fuck out of me.

  • Mike

    You*

  • http://slamonline.com Ben Osborne

    Couch: Keith’s best year was when Cassell was PG and the Nets first option every time down the court was KVH on the block.
    Everyone: from today’s NBA News email…”LeBron James has either scored or assisted on 43 percent of his team’s field goals this season, the highest percentage for any NBA player.”

  • http://www.bcbarbershop.com Ben Couch

    I stand corrected. Good stat you got there, btw. Word to the league office.

  • Reggie Evans

    Best at making his teammates butter.

  • http://slamonline.com Ryan Jones

    Ben coming with the motherf*cking stats! Sam doesn’t even know how to spell “stats.”

  • DBlizzy!

    Sam I hate to break it to you player but you wasted a chunk of your life writing this post and i feel bad for you, but moreso for myself for wasting a chunk of my life reading it.

    Your premise was good, but there are way too many factors that you overlooked that I won’t get into. But there is no way that LeBron can average 30 a game and then everyone on his team increase their scoring too. Obviously if he’s doing a lot of scoring, assisting and bounding, then the people playing with him, their scoring assist and rebound numbers will go down as a result. That doesn’t mean that he made them worse, just that their roles have changed.

  • DBlizzy!

    Who’s the best at making their teammates want to b*tch slap them? I’ll go with Ron Ron.

  • http://idunkonthem.blogspot.com/ albie1kenobi

    poor online editor’s getting blasted at his own spot. i for one commend you for this entry. it was an entertaining read, regardless of how valid it is. also props for at least putting this up so people like us have a space to discuss, which is a good thing because plenty of commentators have very valid points (Dan made the strongest argument first, and even Myung had to throw in his 2 cents twice, not to mention Osborne coming in with probably the best stat for this post)

  • Tom Jackson

    Russ, I think Zo has modestly said he’s honored to be among the top 5.

  • valdez22

    lebron james is the best in the nba he’s a playmaker when the game is’nt going wright he takes it in his own hands hes like another mj hes alot way better than kobe bryant!!!!!!

  • Simon

    nice comments commentary by albie1kenobi

  • Bill Biehl

    Boozer is a back stabbing b*tch

  • C

    The whole “make teammates better” theme hit mainstream when the media was trying to deny Kobe the MVP award. It went like this: “well, he’s the best player in the league, BUT the MVP is really about who makes their teammates better.” Too bad the statistics didn’t support this at all.

    But you don’t have to go to 82games.com to know that Lebron, whether its his coach’s fault or his own, plays in a style that makes his teammates worse- just watch the games. Their offense consists of him pounding the ball, isolating, with 3 teammates standing around, and only 1 teammate cutting. I don’t see anyone, other than hustle players excelling in this structure.

  • jimmy

    c’mon now…all the “makes other player better” guys have better players to make better. magic (the ultimate makes everyone better guy, and i’m the ultimate magic fan) had kareem & big game james (plus great role players too) to make better. nash has matrix and amare to make better. bird had mchale, parrish (plus great role players…RIP DJ) to make better. jordan had pippen and horace grant/dennis rodman to make better. steve kerr was a great shooter before he joined the bulls…did mj really make him better? it’s unfair to say lebron’s making players worse. z is aging and was never really athletic to begin with…donyell seems old enough to be lebron’s dad…darius is a brittle, inconsistent dunking machine…ricky davis isn’t really better playing second (or is it third?) fiddle to KG than he was with lebron…larry hughes had one great year, and about six inconsistent ones. this articles sucks.

  • AS12

    hey, i didnt remember what weird players lebron used to play with! therefore alone it was a good post.
    and i dont have to do much else at work right now…

  • Tariq

    By the way, people always bring up Steve Nash as an example of someone who “makes his teammates better”, but I find that too simplistic. He undoubtedly does that with the Suns, but is it accurate to say that that’s one of his characteristics, like Ray Allen’s jumpshot or Webber’s post passing, which could both exist in a vacuum?

    Sorry, I’m not being very articulate, but my point is that if Nash simply “makes his teammates better”, why is Nash himself so much better with the Suns than he was with Dallas? I mean, he was an all-star as a Mav, but by no means a lock for a spot, sort of in the Ray-Ray or Paul Pierce zone. Now we’re talking about the possibility of three consecutive MVPs! That’s a huge jump which can’t be rationalized by Nash just developing at Pheonix, since he was, what, 30 when he joined the Suns?

    I think it’s just a matter of 15,920 factors coming together,most important of which is the system. And I’m not just talking about Nash or even about basketball per se. This exists in all sports. People used to say that if a striker succeeds in Serie A, he’ll kill in any other league, because Serie A is so defensive. Well, two words disprove that theory: Andrii Shevchenko. Also, look at Ronaldinho and Thierry Henry with their clubs (Barca, Arsenal) and with their countries (Brazil, France). Hell, that even applies to me: The stupid people I play football (soccer) games here in Exeter don’t utilize my vastly superior intelligence, passing and goalscoring ability. I demand a trade to my old team!

  • DEVILb0y

    The way LBJ can make his teamates better is by being a threat night in and nigh out that would force the double team and open up the game for his teamates just like Kobe vs. phx last year they never know what he was gonna do and that made the defense play on edge and tentative…and it [aid dividends for his teamates..

  • http://www.myspace.com/russellkeewatin Chief

    The only player that LeBron should have made better was Larry Hughes. Then they would have been a force in the regular season and Post. What happens to Cleveland when LeBron get’s injured? They have nothing in place for that. I see a wannabe dynasty with absolutly no fore thought, just “we’ll Draft him and he’ll do it all for us like MJ”. Let’s not look at at the fact that HE Carried his high school team. Let’s not look at the fact that he never went to college. LIKE MJ did and he only hit one big shot at the finals. He was good, but he became better every year. LeBron has almost peaked. What is Cleveland going to do. I’m a little drunk writing this but I think this is the Truph. Yes i spelt it with a ph, “play wit it”.

  • Boyd

    No one makes there team mates ‘better.’ All a player can do is allow team mates to play to their maximum POTENTIAL. Or, he can make them play well below what they are capable of. Nash doesn’t make Raja Bell a better player, he just allows him to get off the shots he’s comfortable with, which allows us to see how many points Raja would(and does) average given the perfect environment. Same goes for the point about J-Kidd and KVH. Players like Marbury cause players to play below their potential, by playing streetball, not basketball. I doubt nashty spends every practice tutoring his guards on how to make a J, he just allows them the opportunity to do their job on court. I am completely right about this, and therefore I will not entertain any counter arguments.

  • niQ

    the ppl who REALLY make their teams better are the point guards… steve nash.. jason kidd.. chris paul.. up-and-coming deron williams (who deserves alota MIP status.. but kevin martin seems to be taking it)… and if u look back.. it was iverson who brought his crap team to the playoffs… face it. WHO did he have that was good ?.. no one.. he had.. what… ratliff? snow?.. todd mccologh?… *srhugs.. its actually incredible how far they went

  • Bill Biehl

    If steve nash doesnt win the MVP award again this year, i will loose all respect for the MVP award. It’s not that i agree with giving him the MVP, i beleive there are better players, but what is he doing this year that he hasnt done the last two years? If anything, Nashty is better this year, so wouldnt that mean he is going to get the trophy again? You would think that, but odds are we are going to be surprised with a different player because someone’s idea of an MVP is going to change.

  • http://slamonline.com Ryan Jones

    niQ, are you saying that a guy like Shaq doesn’t make his teammates better?

  • Redrum

    ok, making teammates better has 3 main factors : scoring, passing, implementing the offense. those factors are interelated. if you can score in bunches, the defense adapts on you. if you have the ability to pass, you create opportunities for your teamates. HOWEVER, passing is not enough, even assists might not be indicative of making teammates better. quality passing that implements the offense and makes it run smoother is even more important. a good passer is not only assessed by his ability to make a safe, quality pass, but a pass to the correct person the correct moment. such a pass might not be directly translated to an assist, but it makes the offense active. now lets the the case study of lebron. he is a great scorer, has the skills and court vision for good passing , BUT, his passes not always make the offense run better, he does not pass within the offense structure (at least not always). Kobe on the other hand, has the same skills, BUT his passes are always within the offense context (possibly because of a better offense desing, and better coaching). Wade is similar with Kobe. Same with Nash, who migh not score as much, but he does score with easy, but his passing is immaculate both in terms of quality passing AND running the offense passing. Lately, Dirk has been starting to get it, and has upped his assists AS WELL as his passing within the offense skills.

  • Redrum

    sorry about my bad english, I was quickly writting from work…

  • bigmike407

    This is where the problem lies: Lebron makes some people better, but not everyone. Face it though, some dudes will never be better than what they already are. Damon Jones? A streaky shooter who swaps clothes with Craig Sager. Larry Hughes? Great in DC, seemed like a good look to play with Lebron, but he couldn’t do it with AI, so he won’t do it with Lebron. Plus he seems like he misses his bro still. Big Z? A dominant center pre-Lebron, now just an injury-prone big guy who can still get some buckets. Danny Ferry should have kept Jeff McInnis. Daniel Gibson and Eric Snow are not the answer on the 1 spot. Cleveland’s main problem is that they have no 2nd scorer, which is what you would expect Hughes to be, but it seems like he has struggled to fit the role. Yeah Boozer left, and he may have stabbed the owner in the back. Get over it. The NBA is a business, and these dudes, other than a select few like KG, are mercenaries who sell themselves to the highest bidder. Also, whenever Lebron’s contract is up, he’s going to the Brooklyn Nets to play for his homie Jay-Z anyway. So all your Cavs jerseys will soon be throwbacks in a minute.

  • dez

    A superstar can only make ppl better when his teammates actually have talent, and are coming into their own/peaking.
    No superstar has managed to turn a complete chump into a consistently productive NBA player.
    And for the team to have success, ALL the players have to be productive. Which rarely happens, there are about 4 teams right now in the L where this is happening.

  • Myung

    HGH makes players better.

  • nastruthomas

    terrible article altogether. irrelevant information, irrelevant players mentioned. poor attempts at bill simmons type humor. haterade is flowing about lebron. did i mention the irrelevance of the opinion? if you can’t “remember” the pre-lebron cavaliers, then why are you wasting our time with unsubstantiated opinions about a subject which you know nothing about, a subject which is the title of your article?

  • Myung

    maybe i’m missing something here, but didn’t sam write this with tongue firmly inbedded in cheek? or maybe i didn’t take it seriously enough?

  • Zeni

    basically Damon Jones should just go back to Miami, they’d win another championship! They could trade Williams for him!

  • Calvin Byrd

    I see jason kidds name in a lot of comments. if he’s one of the top “makes his teammates better” player then why are the Nets, with carter and kidd, having such a hard time in the weak east division?

    Does Shaq make teammates better? Shaq never won anything until jackson and riles coached him. He was on a team with van exel, horry, eddie jones, rick fox, ceballos, kobe, magic and still got swept in the playoffs by the jazz.

  • sl balla

    anyone can hit the open 3 every once in a while
    (damon jones)-not consistent, they said he was in a shooting slump, well hes been in one ever since he left the heat

  • jimmy

    damon jones in a slump ever since he left the heat? he was in a slump before he played for the heat too! shaq is good at creating open 3′s for his guards due to the attention he gets down low. the only thing jason kapono was known for before this season was looking incredibly stupid in a headband. now he’s one of the league’s premier 3 point shooters. there are a lot of good shooters in the league…but it’s harder to shoot when you have a man in your face. shaq helps take that man and put him in his (shaq’s) face, freeing up his 3 point shooters.

  • mark

    I think some of y’all are missing the point. Steve Nash makes his team better – each one of them individually is better because he gets them the ball in their sweet spots. He puts them in a position to score and his style of play is contagious where they all make the extra pass. Dude he even made Tim Thomas look like he was playing hard.
    Even KB8 makes the players on his team better players. You can say it is the triangle — but playing with Kobe these guys are playing well. Luke alton is playing like way above his talent level and Smush is the starting PG – name any other team he could start for ?
    You can make them better the Magic/Bird/Nash way — by recognizing their strengths and helping them play to those strengths or the Jordan/KB8 way — relentlessly hound them so much that they fear failure – and they are inspired to perform.

    Lebron does neither.

  • http://yahoo.com DP(Devontae Palmer)

    bottom line: Lebron needs help. play wit it.

  • http://yahoo.com DP(Devontae Palmer)

    bottom line: Lebron needs help. play wit it.

  • Harlem_World

    Of course you can make your teammates better. When Magic left the lakers through the tragic ‘announcement’ the teams fg% dropped 10%. That is incredible. The story behind that stat is that magic created alot of easy scores for his teammates, improving their efficiency, confidence and stats – ultimately making them better.

  • Harlem_World

    Damon Jones is, was and will forever be the worst player in league history to be mistaken for ‘credible’. He is awful. There is nobody, since the retirement of Rick Fox, I would rather beatdown in the NBA.

  • dez

    Oooh, good call, Harlem_World. Rick Fox deserved a beatdown like nobody else. Good thing Jackie Christie’s husband was around.

  • FLUXLAND

    You calle that a case study? Wow. For what grade? 4 or 5? That was horrible. I won’t even put the effort into eleborating why it was horrible. It only makes me wonder how you got your job at SLAM. I suppose having an outrageous opinion with a weak-ass argument to back it up is all you need.

  • Boyd

    Has no-one read my earlier post? There is no need to have this discussion! Just look to that post for the answer. (mark also hit on the same thing)

  • http://www.yahoo.com duhh

    duhh.lebron is good
    yall is dumb

  • Harlem_World

    In the context of this conversation, of course you can make your teammates better. When it comes round to contract re-negotiation, what do you think the first thing an agent sells to ownership is? If Raja Bell was averaging 8ppg pre-nash and now averages 15ppg (haven’t checked his numbers, i’m just using as an example), you don’t think nash made him better? Good players improve average/poor players stats. No question.

  • Bleek

    You would never even think about this topic with D-Wade. The two arent really close right now. Lets stop giving LeBron his “chosen” status and let him work for it.

  • galo

    forget bron, the hype must go to Andre Iguodala now. Can you spell “t-h-e n-e-x-t p-i-p-p-e-n”? (who cares about the next jordan anyway :)

  • young bron

    lebron is the best in the game

  • Bryant Reeves

    BOYD – does your argument mean that no one can play above their potential? How do you measure potential, anyway? Do you assign a number? What metric do you use? Potential is a fancy way of saying you have no idea what someone is capable of.

  • http://aol.com Apollo

    That is total bullshit!!!!!!!!!!LeBron isn’t the supreme leader of the Cavaliers club!!!!!!!!!!!Y does it have 2 b him who ruined these guys!!!!!!????????May b it was the coaches!!!!!!Y does it have 2 b LeBron?!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • http://www.sammyissocool.piczo.com bs on you

    lebron averages 5 assists a night , so u can say he makes his team a bit better. but for the amount of time that he handles the ball, he should be averaging like 8 or 9 assists a night

  • Benedict

    How about Tim Duncan? He made Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker and Bruce Bowen better. He deserves to be at least in the top 10 of this NBA’s “people-who-make-teammates-better” list.

  • http://www.sammyissocool.piczo.com bs on you

    id say chris bosh

  • Taylorredsox

    LMAO, Lebron ruined Damon’s LIFE!!! Probably one of the funniest things I’ve read in a while. You should do this for Kobe and T-Mac and see what lives they’ve ruined.

  • Boyd

    OK, Bryant Reeves, some players can make their team mates play to the maximum of their capabilities. How about that? Is that good enough? No players make their team mates better, some just allow them to play the best they are capable of. What has the word ‘potential’ ever done to you? Did someone once tell you you had it?

  • RedRum

    agree with Boyd. as I said, 3 factors (scoring, passing, implementig the offense) are important. I also agree that Timmy-D is up there with the best in doing that.

  • scott

    Good stuff here, how about a players ability to lead? Forget stats for the moment and consider a players ability to get his teammates to fall in line, play cohesively and become a better unit. ie chemistry, we’ve seen many a talented team crumble, and many underrated teams overachieve. What it comes down to is does the player have the leadership skills, and personal skills to get the best out of their teammates. Magic, Jordan, Russell are all prime examples of making their teams better than the sum of their parts (which was quite a lot to start with).

    James is still young, he’ll get there eventually.

  • klaus

    35-15-10 you got to be kidding… Drew Gooden “superstar” numbers…. Sam Rubenstein be real !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • louie

    i think that lebron dont really make his teammates better. larry hughes was a fine example. everytime james is injured, hughes creates good figures like 20-5-5. also, i dont think ilgauskas remained stable. he used to be sort of an allstar player but right now, he’s roughly making it to 12 pts. gooden sorta improved because james passes assists him a lot, unlike ilgauskas, whom they alwawys set-up isolated post plays. it’s true that the cavs wouldn’t be as good as they are now. but it the conclusion stays. although lebron makes his team a better team, he doesn’t make better teammates…

  • Redrum

    scott, what you just said fall into my “implementing the offense” factor. I am a wiseguy, arent I;))

  • http://nba.com/heat Jamal

    Lazy Lew says:
    sloppy seconds!NO ONE can make Damon Jones better. not LeBron, not Jordan, not even God. elite shot maker? right

    False shaq did when dj was here in the mia

  • http://slamonline.com squeaky#7

    Of course he does! Every team has to have a star to really energize the team. Like D-Wade and the Heat, or T-Mac and the Rockets.

  • Ike

    Its obvious. But he can only motivate his teammates and give them a good shot. If the players don’t hit the shot then there is nothing you can do about that.

  • Redrum

    Ike, that was my point… he does not give them good shots, his passing is not within the offense

  • KBDShabazz

    There is another element to the whole makes teammates better equation other than making their jobs easier by settign them up and drawing the defense’s attention. There is a leadership element. MJ always demanded more out of his teammates, and you simply couldn’t play with him if you didn’t eleveate your game. With the Bulls he also could carry his teammates through tough stretches, instilling confidence and putting the team in position to to make that next step, when otherwise they might crumble, steady the ship so to speak. With the wizards Jordan couldn’t carry the team all by himself when things went bad. Iverson did the same thing in Philly’s playoff years and he’s doing the same thing right now in denver. Sam is right about Bron having to carry the Cavs, but he has to carry them, not leave them behind while he goes for 40 and a tripple double each night.

  • Martin

    Wow, so many mistakes, biases, and missing information/factors in the “evaluations”

  • Anson

    SCREW LEBRON, T-Mac rules!!!!!

  • Anson

    Last(Hopefully)

  • Glenn

    I’ll make all of you better by reading this.

  • Tsiry

    LeBron truly dominates… HIS OWN TEAM! He makes his stats better, period.

  • chris

    lebron is the best player in the nba
    he carries his team
    who cares if he makes his teammates better, he makes his team better which is all that matters

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