Much has been made about how LeBron James has carried this Cleveland Cavaliers team into the 2018 NBA Finals. And this was put on full display in the 2018 Eastern Conference Finals against the Boston Celtics.
He scored 35 points, grabbed 15 rebounds, and dished out nine assists as Cleveland triumphed 87-79 in Game 7 at TD Garden. Many picked the Celtics to win, given that they had home court and a more-complete game. But in the end, LeBron got solid contributions from key role players and this was enough to advance.
“I know I get a lot of the headlines – win, lose or draw, whatever the case may be,” LeBron said after the game. “But in order to be successful, it’s a team game. I learned that from when I first started picking up a basketball to play organized basketball at age 9.”
Basketball does take five players to win. And LeBron has some solid NBA teammates. But the numbers show that LeBron is carrying his team at a historic level.
LeBron lays claim to 44% of Cleveland’s win shares in the 2018 playoffs. This is the fifth-highest percentage in history for a player who’s led their team to the NBA Finals. It’s the highest percentage since the ABA and NBA merged in 1976.
Here are both graphs that show the all-time win shares percentage among players who went to the Finals:
After Merger (First Graph) & Before Merger (Second Graph)
Has LeBron Carried a Finals Team More than Anybody Else?
But putting two and two together, it’s clear that LeBron has put Cleveland on his back. And few gave this unheralded roster a chance to make the 2018 NBA Finals.
Last year was easier for LeBron, because he could hand the keys to Kyrie Irving for long spells. However, Irving left in the offseason, and Kevin Love, the third option, is only averaging 13.9 points on 38.8% shooting.
What Happened to Cleveland’s Roster?
Cleveland entered this year with an overhauled roster after falling to the Warriors in five games. But most of the players didn’t pan out, including Jae Crowder and Isaiah Thomas, who came over from the Boston Celtics in the Irving trade. Irving requested a trade, with many indications that he wanted to be the man on his own team.
The Cavs made yet another questionable move when they flipped Thomas and Crowder for George Hill, Larry Nance Jr., Jordan Clarkson.
Hill has been a solid starting point guard. But Nance and Clarkson only played a combined 17 minutes in the Game 7 win over Boston, and Hood didn’t get off the bench.
Nance, Clarkson, and Hood could pay dividends next year. Plus, Cleveland netted the No. 8 overall pick in the Irving trade. But none of that is helping in the postseason.
Who can LeBron Rely on Against the Warriors?
LeBron may not have Irving to carry the offense. But he does have a few players who can give him a prayer against Golden State’s loaded roster.
Love hasn’t been great in the playoffs. But he has been an All-Star caliber player throughout most of his career. And he averaged 24.0 points and 12.5 rebounds in two contests against the Warriors this season.
Cleveland has other players who are capable of stepping up too. Kyle Korver is one of the league’s best three-point shooters and burned the Celtics many times coming off screens.
Jeff Green has played up to the potential he’s always offered over his career. And Tristan Thompson is still capable of dominating the glass.
Overall, this team is a far cry from the Warriors quartet of Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, Draymond Green, and Klay Thompson. Their bench is also outmatched by the Warriors’ reserves, who are among the league’s best.
But Cleveland will still do their best to make this a contest. And you can bet on all the 2018 NBA Finals action here at GTBets.