As LeBron James makes his way to Milwaukee tonight, he will be doing it – still – as the best player in the NBA. That’s right. Many people think that Giannis Antetokounmpo has already taken the crown from King James. They’re horribly mistaken.
The last time we saw LeBron James in the playoffs, he dragged a team of JV-caliber players to the NBA Finals. He then put up a 51 point masterpiece in Game 1 against the greatest basketball team ever assembled.
The last time we saw Giannis Antetokounmpo in the playoffs, he had made it to the conference finals for the first time in the LeBron-less East. After jumping out to a 2-0 start, Kawhi Leonard and the Toronto Raptors shut him down, took his lunch, and ate it in front of him. Until Giannis takes another step, he’s not better than the King.
Here are three reasons why LeBron – even at 34 years old – remains a better player than Giannis.
When it comes to playmaking, these two, frankly, are not even close.
Yes, Giannis is a good playmaker, but LeBron James is one of the greatest playmakers to ever exist. And he’s gotten even better this year. This is LeBron’s first year starting at point guard, and he’s leading the league in assists.
According to a study by The Athletic last year, LeBron is also the most accurate passer in the league.
He’s going to make the right play every time and he delivers the ball on time, on target everywhere or just about everywhere he throws it — to the 3-point line or lobs at the rim or back cuts or whatever. He’s just one of the best passers I’ve been around.
Elite playmaking is even more important in the playoffs when teams tighten up their defense. Kawhi Leonard and the Raptors would’ve had a much harder time against LeBron last year. Great defenses force players to make decisions, so naturally, it’s harder to stop the greatest decision-maker in the game.
While neither player will be confused with Stephen Curry, LeBron James is a better shooter than Giannis at this point in their careers. Giannis is getting better, and he may soon pass LeBron, but for now, LeBron still trumps the Greek Freak.
Giannis makes 1.6 threes per game at a 32% clip. LeBron makes 2.2 threes per game at a 35% rate.
Giannis shoots 34% from 5-19 feet. LeBron shoots 36% in the same range.
Tack on the fact that LeBron’s 67% free throw shooting is better than Giannis’ 59%, and it’s clear that the King has a better shooting touch than his rival on the Bucks.
Giannis is no doubt a better defender than LeBron. This should be the trump card that shows Giannis’ value skyrocketing past LeBron’s.
But not this year.
LeBron is proving that he’s still a highly capable defender, another astonishing feat for the 34-year-old.
Both players rank in the top 10 in defensive win shares, with Giannis 5th and LeBron 10th.
Giannis has led Milwaukee to a league-best defensive rating; LeBron’s Lakers are tied for third.
LeBron James is a better passer and shooter than Giannis. He’s also still a highly capable defender, even if he’s no longer on the level of the Greek Freak.
Until he proves otherwise, teams have the ability to shut down Giannis in the playoffs. And unless something suddenly changes, they do not have the ability to shut down LeBron and his elite playmaking.