Should you select Lebron James for your fantasy basketball lineup?
Is Lebron James worth drafting for your fantasy-basketball roster? The game’s biggest all-around statistical star has plenty to offer for the right team, but a number of factors suggest that snagging James might not be your best bet. Here a few things to consider before committing your fantasy fate to the shoulders of King James:
1. Paying Extra for Reputation
As great as Lebron James’ numbers are, they’re generally not worth quite as much as someone in your league will be willing to pay to obtain. Lebron’s name recognition and casual-fan appeal mean that he’s likely to be overbid on in many leagues.
If you’ve done your homework, then you’ll know how to spend your budget wiser, as great buys always appear. So for Lebron, there’s no need to take the bait. Let the fanboys do the chasing and overspending. Meanwhile, you’ll get better bang for your buck elsewhere.
2. The Day of Rest
A glance at Lebron James’ year-by-year stats shows that, despite losing only about half of a season to various injuries over the years, James still never plays in all 82 games. As he ages, Heat coach Eric Spoelstra has found occasions to rest James, often near the end of a season when playoff spots have been decided.
When one realizes that the staggered nature of a typical teams NBA schedule means that some teams can play two or even three more games than others in a given calendar week, it can create a situation where Lebron might not even take the court late in your fantasy season, just when you need him most.
As happened late in the 2013-14 season, you might find yourself in a situation where you play Lebron in a given week – perhaps even a playoff week in your league — then discover too late that he’s not going to play. “DNP – Coach’s Decision”. Heck of a way to lose a league, should it occur, and it’s a small but non-zero risk you’ll have to endure if you have Lebron on your team.
3. Not Much More Statistical Upside
While Lebron possesses that magical extra gear that allows him to drive a team down a stretch run while putting up numbers that are better than his already impressive standards, will that improvement be enough to overcome the greater percentage improvements being put up by players elsewhere?
Here’s one of the hidden truths of Lebron James in the fantasy-basketball realm: Teams that own him are often destined for middle-of-the-pack finishes. That’s because he’s generally consistent over time, and that the teams that due well in fantasy hoops are those which take a chance on lesser players, then enjoy the fruits of those players bursting out in a major way.
For instance, let’s look at Sacramento’s Isaiah Thomas. When Thomas moved into the starting lineup in 2013-14, he went from 13.9 to 20.7 PPG, 4.0 to 6.4 APG, 2.0 to 3.0 RBG and so on. By and large Thomas is the same player; he just gets more minutes… and deservedly so. But fantasy owners wise enough to snag Thomas enjoyed what is about a 40%, across-the-board uptick compared to Thomas’s 2012-13 numbers.
Nowhere in this nor any adjacent universe can Lebron James improve his already gaudy numbers by another 40% — and remember, if you’ve got James in an auction leagues, he’s already a big chunk of your budget. Welcome to the middle of the pack.
4. No Way to Cover an Extended Injury, Should One Occur
Injuries are the ban of any fantasy-hoops GM’s existence, rather remarkably reflecting real-life in that regard. While Lebron James has never truly suffered a season-ending injury, his increasing age (below) means that the odds of such an injury alos increase slowly over time.
And if that happens, and if you’ve got Lebron on your team – you’re done. Write off your investment and move on to the next season. Lebron typically costs such a high percentage of any owner’s budget that he can’t be replaced if a serious injury occur.
There’s also the fact that if you’re done for the season, you’ll be less likely to spend much time on your weekly lineups and you won’t get very much enjoyment out of the rest of your team’s lackluster performance. Take Lebron’s big numbers off virtually any fantasy team that owns him, and there’s not much left.
5. Happy 30th Soon, and Here’s Your Rocker
Despite Lebron’s fantasy physical skill and conditioning, 30 is 30. Lebron turns that magical number in December, amid the 2014-15 season, and that’s usually the point at which age-related decline becomes noticeable in any NBA player’s stats. It doesn’t mean that players can’t put up awesome seasons in their 30’s, or that such declines are automatic or uniform, but that’s the smart-money bet.
Take Kobe Bryant, for instance. His gaudiest year came at age 27, and it was at age 30 that his numbers began a slow decline that was there even before the devastating injury in late 2013. From age 30 to 34, Kobe’s points dropped about 5%, the steals by about 15%, the rebounds, close to 20%. In his prime, Kobe shot about 35% from three-point range; in recent years, it’s been more like 32%.
That overall statistical bleed happens to all NBA-ers when they reach their 30’s, and Lebron James is poised upon that precipice. Barring injury, he’s still going to put up great numbers for several more years, but it’s likely that statistical bleed will set in soon.
As awesome as Lebron James’ fantasy performance would be your team, the costs of obtaining James for your lineup, combined with his increasing age and the catastrophic effect that a James injury would have, mean there are just as many reasons to look elsewhere. There’s an old saying about having “all your eggs in one basketball,” and in fantasy-basketball terms, having King James on your roster means exactly that.