Is this the year LeBron loses his throne as the best in the NBA?



The 2018-19 Los Angeles Lakers haven’t lived up to the hype so far. They aren’t necessarily awful at 14-9, but since they have an undisputed top five player of all time in his prime in LeBron James, shouldn’t they be better? According to plus minus, the Lakers are better with LeBron off the court. So many fans are starting to wonder if LeBron is not as good as the many say he is. He has been secretly overrated in many categories for a while now. For example, his defense in the regular season has been very low effort and messy for the past few years because of the popular approach of superstars taking defensive possessions off to conserve energy for offense. Players like James Harden have often been criticized for this, but for some reason LeBron gets a pass. So is this the year that LeBron loses his coveted title of best basketball player on the planet?

If a case for the best in the world is to be made for someone other than the guy who has held that spot since around 2010, that someone else has to be pretty good. The first player that comes to mind is once in a lifetime talent and notorious villain, Kevin Durant. KD is widely considered to be a better scorer than LeBron with his superior shot, deadlier handles, and seven foot height. Durant is also a better defender than LeBron, being the second most versatile in the league behind his teammate, Draymond Green. However, Durant might not even be the best player on his team as point guard. Stephen Curry has been having a monster start to the season. Capped off by a recent 51 point performance, Steph was leading the league in scoring before his injury and has just as many rings as LeBron. Yet, both of KD and Steph as players have the same knock on them that holds them back: Their team is too good. With teammates like Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Demarcus Cousins, and Andre Iguodala, both players’ stats are deflated and it becomes harder to figure out how good either Steph or KD would be if they switched places with LeBron.

On less stacked teams there is young superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Greek born athletic marvel is the current favorite for MVP at only 23 and his team is poised for making a splash in the east with a deep roster and a great new coach in former coach of the year, Mike Budenholzer. Staying in the east, the guy who might become the best in the world by the end of the year still would not be the best in the U.S. After a controversial trade from San Antonio, there were tons of question marks around Kawhi Leonard, but so far, he has not missed a stride and is looking near Jordan-esque. Kawhi is probably the best perimeter defender the NBA has ever seen and is a premier shot creator, shooter, and slasher. Kawhi has also been far better at dismantling the big-4 Warriors than LeBron has.

Do not be surprised if by the season’s end LeBron stays at the top though. He is still a generational playmaker, near supernatural athlete, and is in possession of an off the charts basketball IQ. After all, they do call him the King for a reason.