The Difference Between an MVP and an All-Star
Brandon Roy is an All-Star (or at least he should be as of Thursday night when the All-Star reserves are announced); LeBron James is an MVP-level player.
James leads the NBA in fourth quarter scoring and this was the 17th time this season that he scored at least 10 points in the fourth quarter. Not coincidentally, this was
Obviously, one cannot make a comprehensive player evaluation based on a one game snapshot--but this game provides a classic example of the difference between an MVP-level player and an All-Star. Further evidence to reinforce this point can be found by looking at the numbers that James and Roy have put up this season; it is easy to see that what happened on Wednesday was a fairly normal night for both players. James scored and rebounded a bit more than usual and had fewer assists, while
James: 30.1 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 7.2 apg
One of the things that made Michael Jordan great is that he relentlessly attacked his weaknesses. As his college teammate Kenny Smith told me, "...the things that used to be his deficiencies became his strengths as his career went on, which is incredible. In college, he wasn't a great ballhandler, he wasn't a great outside shooter; he was good. Then those things became his strengths in the NBA--his ballhandling ability and his outside jump shot and his turnaround jumpers and his shot on the baseline and pull-up jumpers. That is just a testament to how hard he worked." LeBron James is transforming his game in a very similar fashion. I covered some of the earliest games in his rookie season and I've covered many of his games since then, including almost all of his home playoff games. When James first came into the league he had no idea how to play good NBA defense and the form on his outside shot was terrible--he almost always drifted to the side, backwards or both. He has so much talent that sometimes he makes those shots anyway but then-Cavs Coach Paul Silas instructed James to try to take off and land from the same spot when he shot a jumper. Current assistant coach Chris Jent continues to work with James on this and other shooting fundamentals and when James shoots jumpers in warmups he has great form. During games there is sometimes slippage but it is obvious that James is working to correct this and that is what makes it possible for him to get hot from three point range from time to time. Once he incorporates those fundamentals into his shooting routine all the time his three point percentage (and free throw percentage) will go up.
James has also made strides defensively. There were signs of this in last year's playoffs, when he guarded Chauncey Billups on key possessions. On Sunday, James guarded Kobe Bryant down the stretch. James wants the challenge of guarding the best player on the opposing team--which is significant in its own right--and he is performing better and better at that end of the court. This is very important because it sets a good tone for the entire team and fits in perfectly with the way that Coach Mike Brown wants the Cavs to play. When the best player on a team accepts the challenge defensively, everyone else falls in line.
posted by David Friedman @ 5:27 AM