One Defensive Stat Shows LeBron is Either Getting Lazy or Declining


This NBA season has created a plethora of questions and has created as much speculation as recent memory can document, but the mystery everyone is trying to solve right now is what is wrong with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Yes, the most common answer is the team’s defense, but could one of the biggest reasons be the defense ofLeBron James? Actually, yes.

When discussing the atrocious play of the Cavaliers on Monday’s edition of The Jump it was pointed out LeBron’s real defensive plus-minus numbers are indeed terrible:

Currently, LeBron is tied at 31st in the rankings, which goes without saying is shockingly bad for a player that many claimed has been snubbed out of multiple Defensive Player of the Year awards. Real plus-minus (RPM) is an opaque ESPN created-stat (like QBR for quarterbacks) and so you must take their numbers in that context.

ESPN explains the stat as the following:

"“Player’s estimated on-court impact on team performance, measured in net point differential per 100 offensive and defensive possessions. RPM takes into account teammates, opponents, coaches and additional factors”"

Since returning to Cleveland, he has never ranked outside the top five in the category. That is a long fall to 31st.

These numbers beg the question of whether this is just a random drop, whether he is in decline in his 15th season, or whether lack of effort is becoming a real thing. The effort, or lack thereof, from The King was pointed out on the telecast against Houston (losing by 32 points) on Saturday by Jeff Van Gundy.

What is not surprising is just earlier this month he was already getting defensive (pun intended) about the poor play on defense:

What LeBron fails to realize is he literally is not guarding anyone! But instead appears to be daydreaming on defense.

Whatever happened to the old LeBron always looking to make SportsCenter‘s Top 10 plays?

If this is just an issue of LeBron not caring, or giving up knowing he is a part of a poor defensive squad it should send off warning signals to all possible suitors this summer.

Now, the Cavaliers issues go far beyond the defensive struggles of LeBron, a team doesn’t give up 115 per game since the start of the New Year because of one player. But, he is the de facto leader of his hometown team and is the one that receives all off the praises when they are riding high. The effort starts and ends with LeBron James.