This shouldn’t surprise anyone who has followed the NBA over the last 31 years, but the numbers have been crunched, and the results are in: Of the last 62 teams that have reached the NBA Finals, the supporting casts Lebron has had rank as three of the eight worst.
This is in stark contrast to Michael Jordan, whose supporting casts were three of the top six best to reach the Finals dating back to 1985.
What metrics were used to assess supporting casts? Take it away, 538:
“Based on leverage- and minute-weighted statistical plus/minus talent for the best player’s teammates, through the conference finals.”
You could probably go through a slew of metrics and come to the same conclusions – the 2007 Cavs supporting cast that LeBron carried to the Finals was the 2nd worst to play for the Title since 1985. Cleveland was swept by the San Antonio Spurs.
This year’s Cavs? The 3rd worst supporting cast. Stephen Curry has an impressive supporting cast of Warriors: they rank 14th best. Vegas knows this is a mismatch. Only morons are picking the Cavs.
Guess which supporting cast was ranked 55th out of 62? The Heat’s 2014 supporting cast, which LeBron dragged to the Finals, only to get drubbed by the Spurs.
(The worst supporting cast to get to the Finals? The 1999 New York Knicks, where Larry Johnson – ? – was deemed the best player over Allan Houston, 36-year old Patrick Ewing, and Latrell Sprewell.)
Because I love a good LeBron-Jordan comparison – I’ve argued on my radio show that LeBron’s equal or ahead of Jordan at the age of 30 – three of Jordan’s Titles were captured with elite supporting casts; his early 90s supporting casts were less elite, ranking:
Below, I’ve listed the supporting cast ranks for LeBron’s vs Jordan’s. For fun, I’ve included the rank of the opponent’s supporting casts in an effort to see who has faced tougher teams in the Finals:
LeBron Michael Jordan:
2011 (10th vs Mavs, 58th) 1996 (1st vs Sonics, 3rd)
2012 (21st vs Thunder, 25th) 1998 (5th vs Jazz, 52nd)
2013 (39th vs Spurs, 2nd) 1997 (6th vs Jazz, 29th)
2014 (55th vs Spurs, 7th) 1992 (24th vs Blazers, 27th)
2015 (60th vs Warriors, 14th) 1993 (49th vs Suns, 26th)
2007 (61st vs Spurs, 11th) 1991 (53rd vs Lakers, 31st)
Summary: LeBron has had one very good supporting cast, two OK supporting casts, and three really, really bad ones. Jordan had three great supporting casts, two OK supporting casts, and one really bad one.
As for the teams Jordan and LeBron faced … we covered this a couple years ago, and nothing’s changed: LeBron’s faced much better teams in the Finals than Michael Jordan. That’s undeniable.