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Charley Rosen: Scouting LeBron James

Feb 15, 2011 – 3:23 PM
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Charley Rosen

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Over the course of the NBA's entire 65-year history, there has never been a perfect player.

Oscar Robertson couldn't fly. Jerry West played infinitely better when the Lakers lost in the Finals than he did when they finally won. Wilt Chamberlain was a miserable free-throw shooter. Pete Maravich was arguably the worst defender to ever play in the league. Magic Johnson had a severely flawed jumper. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was all finesse and no power. Kobe Bryant's relatively small hands impede his ball-handling in heavy traffic. Michael Jordan couldn't shoot with his left foot. And so on.

No surprise, then, that LeBron James likewise falls short of perfection.

Here are the ups and down of the self-proclaimed Chosen One's game.

Pros

Charley Rosen's Close Look

With 15 books about basketball and a longtime column at FOX Sports to his credit, Charley Rosen is bringing his talents to NBA FanHouse for a weekly look at some of the NBA's most intriguing matchups.

Previously:
Feb. 10: Has D-Rose Passed D-Will?
Feb. 1: Championship Odds for NBA Contenders
Jan 26: NBA's Most Over/Underrated
Jan. 19: Knicks Should Nix Pursuit of Melo
Jan. 12: Wall, Cousins Have Flash and Flaws
Jan. 6: Trade Makes Magic Better, Not Elite
Dec. 29: What's Wrong With the Lakers?
LBJ is a once in a generation combination of superlative speed (up-and-down the court), quickness (within a more proscribed area), strength, size, and skills. The only player who can compare with this combo was Magic, who was much more of a facilitator than a point-maker.

LeBron is an irresistible finisher in a crowd of hostile big men.

Because of his power, he can't be derailed when he attacks the hoop. Hence his proclivity for hard-driving 3-point plays, as well as his career average of nearly nine trips to the stripe per game.

James has superb court vision to go with on-target passwork.

He also exerts all-out hustle on offense-to-defense transitions. Because LeBron never gives up on a play, his blocks of what-would-have-been breakaway layups could fill a highlight show.

The multiplicity of his release-points off his in-the-lane floaters and flippers make these shots virtually unblockable.

His crossover dribbles -- going right-to-left or vice versa -- are quick, tight, and cover lots of ground.

He uses his body to great advantage (especially his shoulders) to protect his shot-release in close quarters.

LBJ can play tough defense on big, powerful opponents-like Paul Pierce.

When he's in a zone, his effective shooting range is unlimited.

Cons

His jump shots are extremely erratic, particularly when he pulls up going left and is compelled to bring the ball across his body to initiate his release.

Too many shots -- from both near and far -- are forced.

He hasn't learned that one player, no matter how great he might be, can't win a championship by himself. Instead, he dominates the ball too frequently. This was most recently demonstrated in the last half of the fourth quarter in Miami's loss to Boston on Sunday. It was Cleveland redux.

Opponents with any kind of quickness can routinely blow past LBJ's flat-footed defense.

LeBron's apologists insist that his failure to win a championship with the Cavs was strictly the fault of his inferior supporting cast. However, it should be recalled that during his tenure in Cleveland the respective additions of Ricky Davis, Damon Jones, Lucious Harris, Larry Hughes, Wally Szczerbiak, Joe Smith, Delonte West, Ben Wallace, Zydrunis Ilguaskas, and Mo Williams were all universally hailed as being the perfect compliments to LBJ's game. In fact, James does not make his teammates better -- which was the focus of Magic's game plan.

LBJ's ability to deliver in the clutch remains suspect. Remember how listlessly he played in the final games of last spring's playoff series against Boston? And what about the ultra-crucial free-throw he misfired in the closing seconds of last Sunday's ultra-crucial game against the Celtics?

LeBron's over-the-top arrogance and ignorant off-the-cuff remarks underline the absence of championship rings in his possession.

In sum, there's no doubt that James is a truly great player, but thus far his primary greatness is more a function of his numbers than of his ability to lift a team to the top of the league.
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