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Would You Want the Rest of LeBron’s Career or the Rest of Durant’s Career?

Posted by Neil Paine on October 7, 2010

Lots of interesting material in the NBA's annual GM survey this week, but I want to focus on one particular item:

"Kevin Durant (56 percent) was voted as the top player GMs would sign to start an NBA franchise."

You can write this off as LeBron James backlash if you want (the GMs also predicted James wouldn't win the 2011 MVP -- though I actually happen to agree there), but 68% of GMs said James was the game's best small forward right now, so I don't think that's it.

Instead, they're essentially saying that LeBron is better now, but they would prefer the total value added by the rest of Durant's career (he's age 22 this season) over the value from the rest of LeBron's career (he'll be 26 this year). Is this the rational choice? Are those extra four years going to push KD's expected rest-of-career value over James', or should you side with LeBron because of his superior track record thus far (and, hence, greater expected peak production)?

Let's break this down quickly using the Simple Projection System. For minutes, let's assume Durant plays just as much as James did from ages 22-25, then assign each minutes according to the career paths of those who were similarly productive at a young age:

Age Minutes
26 3000
27 3000
28 2900
29 2750
30 2750
31 2650
32 2650
33 2600
34 2600
35 2400
36 2200
37 2100
38 2000
39 2000

Running everything through the SPS method, we get these projections for each season:

James Durant
Year Age MP WS Age MP WS
2011 26 3000 18.4 22 3190 12.8
2012 27 3000 18.3 23 3027 12.7
2013 28 2900 17.4 24 3054 12.9
2014 29 2750 16.2 25 2966 12.4
2015 30 2750 16.0 26 3000 12.5
2016 31 2650 15.1 27 3000 12.4
2017 32 2650 14.8 28 2900 11.8
2018 33 2600 14.2 29 2750 11.1
2019 34 2600 13.8 30 2750 10.9
2020 35 2400 12.5 31 2650 10.4
2021 36 2200 11.1 32 2650 10.2
2022 37 2100 10.3 33 2600 9.8
2023 38 2000 9.5 34 2600 9.6
2024 39 2000 9.2 35 2400 8.7
2025 40 0 0.0 36 2200 7.8
2026 41 0 0.0 37 2100 7.3
2027 42 0 0.0 38 2000 6.8
2028 43 0 0.0 39 2000 6.6
Total 196.9 186.6

The SPS is very simplistic, but it's useful to establish a baseline in cases like this. And according to that baseline projection, you should still prefer to have the remainder of LeBron James' career over the remainder of Kevin Durant's, even though Durant is four years younger.


64 Responses to “Would You Want the Rest of LeBron’s Career or the Rest of Durant’s Career?”

  1. P Middy Says:

    Scoring and rebounding are roughly equal, though so far LeBron has surpassed KD in both. His passing ability has to put LeBron ahead of KD at this point. Where GMs probably see the difference is that KD's contract is much less expensive than LeBron's. And given KD's comments (he said he would've signed a 10 year deal with the Thunder if he could have), he seems more likely to concede some stuff at the bargaining table for security.

  2. AHL Says:

    The question wasn't who would you choose to win more games. The question was who would you choose to start an NBA franchise. Considering their personalities, age, marketability, profits (season tickets and playoffs and salaries), and current media projection, I think it's fine Durant got the slight edge.

  3. Ben Says:

    So Durant has best season by far at age 21?

  4. Neil Paine Says:

    The numbers are heavily regressed to the mean for both players. James' are more in line with his past performance because he has a longer, better track record -- we can be more certain of his performance going forward than Durant's.

    And somehow I don't think anyone's worried about LeBron's ability to sell tickets. The public may hate him now, but they'll still pay a lot of money to see him play.

  5. Luke Says:

    I'd still take Kobe... (Kidding!)

  6. P Middy Says:

    AHL - winning is a huge part of marketability and profit. It's a huge part of how many season tickets you sell, how much crap you sell, and how much national TV you get. Just ask the Cavs!

  7. EJ Says:

    The question was who would they start a franchise on, and that's easy to answer, Durant. Lebron is the better player, but after what Lebron did this summer, or what he has done over the past 2 years, I wouldn't take him over Durant, dude's been a total douche, and not able to win the title with the best record for 2 straight years. KD is deffinitely a better leader and more mature. Dude would never dump his team on national TV like that attention whore Lebron, I think he's a very very good player, I'm not hating or racist, like he ridiculously claimed, and there's nothing wrong with his decision, but the way he did it, and the way he's been acting is just stupid.

  8. P Middy Says:

    Yeah, plus the way he (depending on who you hear it from) forced the organization to kowtow to him and his posse. I definitely think it's the personality stuff that is making Durant the pick for the GMs.

  9. Charles Says:

    The question I'd ask is whether the GMs' belief is reasonable. If you want to be able to call the entire 09-10 season a fluke for Durant, you have to be looking at season performance as individual data points; otherwise, we have a considerable amount of evidence that he's now a 15 to 18 win shares player. If you're considering a season to be a single point, though, we only have 3 points (of differently weighted relevance) on Durant. Considering this, very divergent projections can be equally reasonable. In fact, a lot of people think Durant will be the best player in the NBA in 11-12, or even this year. That makes the decision pretty easy. Assuming scouts are better at player projection than Marcel the Monkey, I'll concede this one to the NBA front offices. If there were piles of evidence on the matter, like with Kobe vs. LeBron, I'd just say they were being bullheaded; but you have to admit that it's fairly reasonable to think that Durant will have more value.

  10. P Middy Says:

    Well, there's no doubt Durant will have more impressive stats going forward. Definitely the #1 fantasy guy for the next 5 years (unless John Wall's got more than I think). Whether that makes him a better player . . .

  11. Anon Says:

    "The question was who would they start a franchise on, and that's easy to answer, Durant. Lebron is the better player, but after what Lebron did this summer, or what he has done over the past 2 years, I wouldn't take him over Durant, dude's been a total douche, and not able to win the title with the best record for 2 straight years. KD is deffinitely a better leader and more mature. Dude would never dump his team on national TV like that attention whore Lebron, I think he's a very very good player, I'm not hating or racist, like he ridiculously claimed, and there's nothing wrong with his decision, but the way he did it, and the way he's been acting is just stupid."

    Equally stupid is downing LeBron for "not winning" then picking a player over him that hasn't even been out of the first round.

    @ 18 I think the point here is that a PROVEN commodity is better than an unproven one. You know what kind of production you're getting with LeBron; Durant is a bit of a mystery. And given the careers given above it seems Bron is the better bet. Of course nothing is set in stone, but you still have to use the info at your disposal.

  12. Greyberger Says:

    Optics and manageability are probably factors that GMs consider. Durant, signing with his team and signaling a Duncan-esque willingness to commit, or LBJ with his posse and his own brand to sell and his opinions on front-office matters?

    As for known quantities vs. mysteries, we are always getting suckered into pining for the potential GOAT when the reigning GOAT is still in his prime. That said I think Durant is here to stay and an improvement on 09-10 is at least as likely as him backsliding. His game is especially seductive because for all the hype about how our 'stars' are all great jumpshooters, we haven't truly had a superstar of the long shot since Jordan.

  13. Neil Paine Says:

    OK, I can see how the willingness to stay with your team can push Durant's expected value higher than James'. I was assuming that your hypothetical expansion team could get the entire remaining career of either star, but based on what we saw this summer, the chance that KD would stay with you his entire career seems much higher than the chance of LeBron doing the same. Depending on the probabilities of losing each, you could easily say Durant's expected wins added to your team would be greater than LeBron's.

  14. Jason J Says:

    In that same pole, LeBron was the overwhelming choice of GMs as the best small forward in the league, for what it's worth. My thinking is in line with Neil's analysis here. Until I actually see some evidence that Durant can be productive enough to give you more than LeBron over the rest of their careers, I have to hedge to Bron.

    On court value will supersede marketing, and Durant being happy with OKC right now is as much of a guarantee of him staying there his whole career as LeBron's promise to bring a ring to Cleveland was. Nobody doubted LeBron at age 21, just like nobody doubts KD now. Nothing is promised. Take the better player. If you think Durant will develop into the more valuable player, that's fine.

    Oh, and we know LeBron's got a world class frame and is tough to injure. You've got to wonder how long Durant can last as a super high usage slasher with that Tayshawn frame.

  15. Nick Says:

    I think it would depend on what I already had on my team. If my team could compete for the championship right now or in the next couple years, I'd take LeBron in a heartbeat over Durant. If my team doesn't have the pieces to compete anytime soon (which is arguably the entire league except for the Lakers, Celtics, Magic and Heat), I'd take Durant to build around and ride out the storm (the storm in this case is the tail-end of Kobe's superstar days and LeBron's prime, which really hasn't even started yet).

    On the other hand, there are a lot of teams in the league who would become on instant contender if they had LeBron. So maybe that's the way to go regardless.

  16. Charles Says:

    "@ 18 I think the point here is that a PROVEN commodity is better than an unproven one. You know what kind of production you're getting with LeBron; Durant is a bit of a mystery. And given the careers given above it seems Bron is the better bet. Of course nothing is set in stone, but you still have to use the info at your disposal."

    Your point here seems to be that SPS, and similar methods, should hold a significant amount of weight in predicting Durant's performance, and so its predictions (much lower than the also-reasonable alternative based on the eyeball test) influence the distribution of Durant's value. There are a lot of reasons to discount SPS for Durant in comparison with its usefulness for other players. His youth means that the in-game information we have for him takes up a lower percentage of his evaluation (with more going to just watching him play). His early career is unduly influenced by terrible coaching, and we've seen extraordinary things from him in every game that similarity scores don't count -- playoffs, the world championship, and college. With similarity scores, there are always players who have career paths that aren't similar to what we've seen before -- Ichiro is a good example in baseball. Predictive basketball statistics have already been wrong about Durant; and that method of assessing him continues to give the normal amount of credence to his performance over the first year and a half of his career, which is clearly wrong at this point.

  17. EJ Says:

    I was downing Lebron for not winning a title, when he had the best record for 2 straight years, OKC was supposed to suck last year, but they got in the playoffs in the tougher west, and won 2 games against the Lakers. KD played pretty bad against LA, but Lebron quit against the Celtics.

  18. P Middy Says:

    Nothing says "I quit" like 29 points, 19 rebounds, 10 points, 3 steals, and 1 block in the last game of the series. I mean seriously. Why even take him off the bench at that point?

  19. Neil Paine Says:

    # 17 - Remember, there was a 35% probability Cleveland wouldn't win the title the past 2 years just by random chance alone:

    So even if he didn't quit, or the elbow injury wasn't worse than anyone knew, or he wasn't losing to spite Delonte West -- whatever happened in those Boston games -- there was still greater than a 1/3 chance we'd be sitting here having this conversation about him not delivering a title the past 2 seasons just due to the inherent uncertainty of sport.

    #14 - Great point about injuries and player frames, Jason. I'd like to look at some point how a player's height/weight influences his probability of a major injury at some point in his career... The difficulty, though, would be finding accurate beginning-of-career weight figures. We have weights listed, but it's not clear whether they apply to the player currently, or as a rookie, or what. For someone like LeBron, who added a lot of muscle since he was a 19-year-old, it makes a big difference.

  20. Anon Says:

    P Middy is on point with his posts as usual.

    And EJ, how are you gong to talk about LeBron solely in terms of what his entire team does ("he should won the chip" "he won 60 games) then talk about KD's team in your comparison of the two players?

    @ 16 You brought up good points, I'm just not as quick to put Durant over LeBron as the guy I would start my team with when he still has one brilliant season to go by. It wasnt that long ago that Durant was still a very good but not great player (he became more interested in defense just this past season) and LBJ has done what Durant has done in 2010 for many seasons in addition to great playoff production. Gotta go with the proven player here, although I'm definitely a fan of Durant and hope he keeps putting up incredible seasons.

  21. EJ Says:

    Lebron quit, or he didn't really try or care. He just played so passive, his entire team sucked pretty bad against Boston, but he's supposed to be the leader and carry them. He didn't play near to what he's capable of. Lebron is once in a generation type of playe, yet I would take Reggie Miller over him in the 4th anyday.

  22. Jason J Says:

    If getting a 27-29-10 triple double while completely locking down the other team's best scorer (Paul Pierce) despite having an injury to his shooting arm didn't qualify as carrying his team... I don't even know how to finish that sentence. Short of shooting lasers from his eyes and reversing the rotation of the earth, he had as superhuman of a performance as Christopher Reeves ever did.

    Sure he didn't shoot well and had a ton of turnovers, but considering his injury and the fact that he was playing against an incredible playoff defense, working to get to the line and get his teammates involved is the opposite of quitting.

    I just ran a quick check and don't see any playoff triple doubles for Kobe or Wade. Ever. Jordan only had one since 1991. So it's not exactly an easy feat.

  23. Leroy Smith Says:

    EJ, if you could sprinkle some rationality in that over the top emotional argument on behalf of Durant, I might agree with you.

    Look folks, production is what you should build your team on not lack of douchieness. I'm sorry that James is bad person, but passing and skill aside I would still take him over Durant. I love KD's game and I love his personality, but his physique will catch up to him. This is a rough league and James is built like a tank, has more speed, and agility than KD.

    If the GMs were choosing for Mr. Congeniality, then I would be with them. But this is the NBA.

  24. Basketball Court Says:

    I can't wait for the regular season to start. KD, Bron, Kobe... its going to be awesome.

  25. John Kenney Says:

    Perhaps that is what the model spits out. Regardless, if you could provide me a bet that Kevin Durant has a better season at age 26 than Lebron does at age 35 (your projections shows them being equal) I would absolutely take that bet in an instant.

  26. Anon Says:

    Yeah EJ, LeBron has to win games single-handedly alright. That's what all the greats do; MJ before 91, Kobe from 03 to 09, Wade post 06 all won multiple rings without any help. Man LeBron should've taken a page from Wade in 2010; going one on five in the Celtics series and beating Boston in five. Why can't Bron do that?

  27. EJ Says:

    Lebron had the best record for 2 straight years. Sure MJ's teams were better and Kobe's, but Bron's team was pretty good too. And if you watched how Lebron played at the end of game 6, you can tell he quit. And game 5 was worse. Lebron is better than KD, but I'd take KD over Bron if I started a franchise. Lebron needs to prove me wrong.

  28. Anon Says:

    Could you stop talikng about LeBron having the best record for two seasons? It was accomplished by the entire Cavs team. And before you even bring up their success during the regular season, it's pretty irrelevant when you play a playoff series where anything can happen (see Neil's remark about random chance ALONE being a significant factor for not winning titles, and that's not factoring in subpar performances by players like Mo Williams).

    Also, you have no proof he "quit". NONE. The ONLY proof you have is that he didn't play well in some games; saying he "quit" is subjective hearsay. By the way does it even matter? Wade easily played the best out of all the big stars against the Celtics defense and what did he get for it? A first-round exit in five?

    The bottom line remains that one star doesn't win it alone regardless of his own performance; see Kobe in the Finals game 7, who had subpar Oliver and SPM numbers for the game but had a ton of help from Gasol and company (not to mention cold shooting from Boston in the 2nd half). Total team production is alot more important, as well as having some luck on your side.

  29. EJ Says:

    Yes I agree with you, but watch the last 2 minutes or something of Boston vs Cavs game 6, didn't really look like Lebron or other Cavaliers tried. I don't know about that random chance, it's just something based on stats, it's not like players can be like "well there was nothing we could do", didn't OKC have 0% chance of getting to the playoffs? Anything can happen, but in basketball the players affect the outcome. I don't think you can be like "oh he just had a bad game, he's bound to have a bad game sometime, there's a 11.4% chance that'll happen". Maybe he had some bad luck and that injury bothered him some, but I don't think he gave it his all, and that's up to him to try his best.

  30. Reiny Says:

    Regarding the odten questioned loyalty factor:

    Honestly, If you are one of the two best small forwards in the league, which team would you stick to and commit lomg term and which team would you run from within the blink of an eye:

    Team A, that assembled the following squad and sticked to it since they drafted you:
    -) a 22 year old rising young point guard with a highly regarded 23 year old second year point guard.
    -) a 26 year old dfensive mindes 2-guard, that doesn't take away any of the shots you are supposed to take, with a promising, soon to be starting backup that just turned 21.
    -) a 24 year old power forward, that isn't going to take any limelight from you, while providing steady offensive and defensive numbers. With the backup being a 6-10 foreigner who just tunredn 21, but who already showed in flashes, that he can step it up a notch in the postseason when it really counts.
    -) A veteran center who may guide your current 6-11 rookie until he becomes the second coming of Chris Kaman.

    Team B:
    A Team, that surrounded you with a mix of journeymen, regular season overachievers, washed up vets and second round level draft picks. Constantly expecting you to carry that bunch of average mercenaryies to a tilte on your own. A bunch of players, with plenty of issues, that all came and went since your tenure, leaving no real chemistry or consistency from year to your.
    An organization dumb enough, to let the second best player it had ever put next to you trick them into some cheap promises just to leave without any compansion at all.
    A bunch of people whom you neither like much, nor will know if any ofthem sticks around longer than the next trading deadline.

    I wouldn't blame any player for bolting Team #2 - Doing so on national TV shows some ego-issues, but I bet KD or any many other players (maybe even MJ) would have made the decision to leave Clevemland when swichtching places with LBJ.

  31. Reiny Says:

    The Durability question is also a point where I'd go with Lebron to build a new franchise around.

    I bet that if asked in 1997 whom they'd build a new franchise around the clear choice would have been Grant Hill.

    There are a lot of similarities to Hill in 97 and KD today. (both third year in the league, both won ROY before, both showed extraoridnary stats, both were Top 3 in MVP voting, both just suffered a tough first playoff exit)

    Just ask the Orlando Magic how it turned out to build around Hill.
    So until Durant has relly proven his durability, I'd go with the frame of LBJ.

  32. Tom V Says:

    Well let's take a look at the question:

    Who would you sign to start an NBA franchise?

    That is a different question then: who would you sign to win a championship with?

    One thing to consider is: can you keep your star satisfied? As many has pointed out that Lebron is a proven quantity compared to Durant on the field, he has also demonstrated what will happen when his team can't satisfy his needs: leave. With durant we don't know that but seems a more modest guy then Lebron.

    So the situation is like this:

    Guy A demands to win right NOW above all. He is the best in the league but hasn't won a ring yet. His best years are coming and he needs to win. If not, there might be trouble. Winning right now is difficult for a new franchise: everything is new, the players, the organisation, the fanbase ... . Getting everything set up is going to cost energy and there will be mistakes. Chances are he'll get upset and demand to be traded or leave after his contract is up leaving franchise in a mess.

    Guy B is still young and seems to have to potential to become the best player in the league sometime in the future. Furthermore he seems to have patience and the time for the franchise to find its feet and to build around him.

    It is all about risks and rewards. With Lebron the rewards could be bigger, but if it doesn't work out: you are screwed. With Durant much is still up in the air and if it doesn't work out: well, too bad.

  33. kkopi27 Says:

    Reiny, doing well over a certain period of time isn't exactly a predictor of injuries.
    As for the frame, the two most durable players in NBA history were rather skinny, so that's definitely not a good argument.

    Personally I believe both LBJ and KD will age well, KD because skill and length aren't going anywhere with age, LeBron because he'll still be bigger and stronger than anyone playing his position.

  34. P Middy Says:

    Until KD starting missing games, I think it's premature to think his frame is an issue. He's missed 10 games in 3 years. 2 in his rookie year and 8 in his sophomore year. He played all 82 last year, when his usage was highest out of all three. That has him playing 96% of the games on the schedule.

    LeBron's missed 26 games over 7 years. That has him playing 95% of the games on the schedule.

    The other thing I've noticed is despite being thin, Durant is still pretty huge. When he goes to dunk the ball, people to get out of his way. At 6'9 - 230, that's still a whole lot of man coming right at you.

  35. Anon Says:

    Without turning this into a philosophy board EJ, chance does happen in sports. A LOT. Winning titles is very much a function of luck, not just having the best talent and realizing it's potential.

    Of course, some hate using luck as one the reasons why their favorite team wins or loses. Not to mention that whenever teams lose, it's just way too easy to find the "face" of the team and make him the scapegoat...but it's irrational. If LeBron's teammates played a bit better while LeBron gives you the same production, the Cavs win and we're not talking about LeBron "quitting"; we'll call it a "gutsy, clutch performance" instead. If Kobe's teammates play a little worse in game 7 of the Finals while Kobe gives you the same production, Kobe goes from "the MVP, the best in the league (from the media's perspective), the clutch performer" to "a failure, a choke artist, a washed-up legend" just like that. The fickleness of fans is seen all the time in sports, and it's has NO basis in reason.

  36. P Middy Says:

    People hate accepting how much of life is random chance. That's why we have god, religion, magic, conspiracy theories, cosmetology, and gambling.

  37. EJ Says:

    I don't think random chance really affects basketball, it's the players that execute, they can't just randomly throw the ball somewhere and hope that it goes in. Chance isn't the same thing as luck.

  38. Jason J Says:

    To to the topic of random chance influencing the outcome of a season, you don't have to look any further than injuries to see that this is undoubtedly true.

    In 1987 the Lakers won the title while Larry Bird was dealing with a bad back, Kevin McHale was playing on a broken foot, and Walton's feet / ankles were so messed up he couldn't stay on the court. Injuries took away any chance of Boston winning. Chance. Luck. Call it what you want.

    In 1988 the Lakers won the title thanks to taking games 6 & 7 by a combined 4 points while Isiah Thomas was limping around on a badly sprained ankle. Prior to Isiah's injury the Lakers were down 3 games to 2. LA becomes the dominant team of the 80's thanks to back to back Finals series where opponent injuries played a key role in their victories. Chance. Luck. Magic is now considered to be better than Bird and the Lakers better than the Celts, but had McHale and Isiah's ankles held up, LA could have easily lost in '87 and '88. Bird would have won 4 titles and Magic 3. NBA history was quite possibly altered dramatically by hairline fractures and pulled tendons.

    In 1989 the Pistons won the title while Magic Johnson (75 minutes total in 4 games) and Byron Scott (not a single minute) missed almost the entire finals with quad and ankle injuries. Chance. Luck.

    In 1990 in the EC Finals, the Pistons beat the Bulls in 7 games, and Scottie Pippen played a horrible game 7 because he was suffering from a migraine (actually he didn't think he could play but Jordan basically forced him to according to Halberstam's MJ bio). Chance. Luck.

    In 1991 the Lakers lost James Worthy, whom no Bull was able to cover in the post, to injuries in game 4 and Byron Scott to in injuries in game 5 in the Finals. Chance. Luck.

    That's 5 straight seasons where an injury to 1 or more significant players had a direct impact on the finals winner. Now could any or all of those teams have won regardless of injuries? Maybe. But the truth is that health is an uncontrollable factor that can have a determinant impact on a series.

  39. Anon Says:

    "I don't think random chance really affects basketball, it's the players that execute, they can't just randomly throw the ball somewhere and hope that it goes in. Chance isn't the same thing as luck."

    Of course it is. Sometimes Ray Allen can execute his mechanics properly and the ball simply doesn't go into the rim when he shoots it. Passes thrown by Steve Nash that are right on the money aren't always caught even by the surest hands on his team. These things happen ALL the time in basketball, sometimes do you what you have to do and not EVERYTHING goes your way. Same can be said about the rest of sports. Obviously you work hard to reduce luck being a factor in these things, but it plays a significant role all the way to a championship.

  40. Yago Colas Says:

    P Middy, lovin' your take on all this, but I'm not clear on how cosmetology reflects people's discomfort with chance in our lives ... :-)

  41. Kel Says:

    I think longevity comes into play here. LeBron relies much more heavily on his physicality than Durant. Durant is more versatile, and has a variety of weapons in his offensive arsenal. I also think he is a better team defender. LeBron is good off-the-ball, but 1-on-1 gets beat. Anyways, LeBron basically bullies his way to the hole, and has not developed a reliable jump-shot. Durant has length, but he won't lose that. When he gets older, he'll be able to make up for lost strength, power, agility, quickness, etc, with craftiness like Kobe.

    Plus Durant can be effective with the ball in his hands, or off the ball like Ray Allen with the Celtics. LeBron has to have the ball in his hands. When he breaks down, what will he have to fall back on? He's skilled, but Durant I think is moreso. LeBron wouldn't be the player he is if he wasn't a superior physical specimen. The guy's a freak of nature. When he slows down, what does he have left? Because of their style of play, I think Durant will be able to be productive much longer than LeBron. I really don't think LeBron will be able keep it up when he's in his thirties like a Kobe, Steve Nash, or Ray Allen. If he loses a step, his main advantage is gone.

  42. Jason J Says:

    Kel - That's an interesting take. I don't really know what LeBron will become when he slows down, but he's certainly big enough to transition to the power forward (I was hoping to see him go to a team that would use him in this capacity more right now actually). With a little work on his post game he could play a Karl Malone type of pick and roll / pick and pop game and defend that position as well. While his shot is mediocre for a 2/3, he certainly has more range than most 4s.

  43. P Middy Says:

    Nice catch Yago. Can I fake it and say the ladies ain't trying to leave it chance they snag a handsome hunk?

  44. Neil Paine Says:

    In fairness, Dennis Rodman probably could have used a good cosmetologist:

    Actually, check that, there isn't a cosmetologist on the planet that could have worked with that.

  45. OrlandoFred Says:

    Lebron's a loser.

    I still can't believe he's trying to use the "Poor Little Black Man" routine when he's one of the richest most famous men in the world.

    What a dickhead.

    I hope he loses all of his endorsements, because he deserves to.

  46. Anon Says:

    Kel, LeBron is a great all-around defender and is also great moving without the ball. You must not ACTUALLY watch him play...and with the way he's able to set up everyone around him for easy baskets I would want him to have the ball in his hands too.

    Jason J alluded to him using his frame more in the post ad he gets older, and I think that's exactly he will do when he slows down. Right now though he's simply faster, stronger, and BETTER than anyone else out there. And he's gotta milk it if he, Wade and Bosh want to win titles.

  47. P Middy Says:

    Don't hold your breath Orlando Fred. ESPN poll shows that 33% of the country already is back to liking LeBron and the big three. Another 27% only dislikes them because they think too much hype was given too soon. I.E. when they start winning (which they will do) roughly 60% of the country will be back to liking Bron and company. My guess is by All Star break Orlando and Cleveland fans will be the only ones left with a grudge. The endorsement are coming flooding in.

    Oh, and by the way, LeBron was asked if he thought "RACE" was an issue. He said it was. Race is always an issue, as is obvious by your blatantly ignorant comment. He didn't say it was RACISM. Those are two different things. A subtlety you're probably in no position to understand.

  48. Neil Paine Says:

    #45 - I can't believe I'm actually responding to that, but:

    A. The reporter brought up race, not James. When asked if it was "a factor" in the backlash, he said it was. And guess what? Race is always a factor in America.

    B. Furthermore, the evidence was on James' side!

    Until someone can legitimately explain why there was an apparent racial divide in the reaction to James' decision, how can it possibly be out of bounds to suggest race was a factor there?

  49. Neil Paine Says:

    Nice, Middy. Great minds think alike.

  50. Yago Colas Says:

    Neil and Middy, It's mind boggling to me that such a modest claim on Lebron's part, in response to a direct question, should generate such outrage. It's like the white nation's unconscious doth protest too much. Not to mention, it's as though we are incapable of conceiving that more than one factor can simultaneously be involved in determining an outcome (i.e. race AND other variables).

    I wrote a little about it here:

  51. BSK Says:

    It also depends on what the "goal" is. If my franchise is simply trying to get one championship, that might require a very different response than if my franchise was trying to be profitable in the long haul. Looking simply at career WS isn't enough. Would you rather have a guy playing 100 years with 2WS or a guy play 5 years with a 20WS? Obviously, those are extreme examples, but it demonstrates that career WS isn't necessarily the best measure. Sure, the first guy adds more in aggregate, but does he really do anything useful for your team in that century of playing? I would go with LeBron. LeBron likely guarantees that your team is an elite title contender for at least 4 to 5 years. Durant likely guarantees that your team is a playoff participant for a decade. Personally, I'd prefer the former scenario, though I am still thinking with "fan" glasses. An owner may care more about consistent success to keep butts in the seats and all that. So, before we can answer the question, we have to determine what the ultimate goal is. I think LeBron gives a team a better shot of winning at least one championship. I go with him.

  52. BSK Says:

    Neil, Middy, and Yago-

    Thanks for standing up to such blatant ignorance. There is no doubt that race played a huge factor in the response to LeBron. I think it had an impact in ways that haven't been discussed.

    At the risk of being TOO anecdotal, I have noticed major differences in how whites and PoCs follow sports. I attended a high school with was majority black and Hispanic and have lived solely in diverse urban areas, so this is where my experience base is. White folks live and die for their teams and players in a way that I don't really see from PoCs. There seems to be a different sense of loyalty. I have a few reasons for why I think this might be, but that would be too far gone into conjecture. Regardless, I don't think most black folks have the same undying loyalty when it comes to sports. White folks will buy jerseys and shirts and hats for their favorite team and wear only that. Black folks will often buy jerseys of their favorite players regardless of what team they are on or will rock hats from a style element that transcends any type of team loyalty. I mean, LeBron is a kid from Akron who loves the Yankees. How loyal was he REALLY to Ohio sports? Probably not as much as white Ohio-ans were or wanted him to be. I think black fans, likewise, loved LeBron and didn't really care where he played. Which is why you saw a very different reaction. White folks took it personally because it seemed to offend their sense of loyalty in sports. Black folks didn't care that much because they just want to see the dude play.

    Note: I'm not holding one approach above another. Just commenting on the differences I've observed. I may be DEAD wrong. But, it is an interesting difference I've noticed, which may have played into both LeBron's handling of the situation and the different response from black and white America.

  53. BSK Says:

    And, yes, I realize there is more than white and black Americans, but I just focused on that difference because A) it's the one I'm most familiar with and B) it is the groups most relevant to this issue.

  54. Anon Says:

    BSK, good point about career longevity in WS vs. a player who is more dominant during his peak years. I think this was a topic in another blog post where it was shown that players with shorter but more dominant careers during their peak years help their squads win more championships.

    As for the issue of race, the fact that an athlete that was accused for two counts of rape (Ben Roethlisberger) has a higher Q-score in the white community than LeBron shows how race is still VERY much a factor in today's society.

  55. Neil Paine Says:

    Right, Anon, here was that post:

    After some tweaking to make the career shapes of each player type more obviously different, I found that the superstar-peak guy with the shorter career delivered more titles in a 20-year span than the good player with a long, consistent career.

    However, I'm not sure how that changes when you've got two guys with superstar-level peaks (one being GOAT-level).

    Btw, here's a poll based on this post, since I forgot to include one here last week:

  56. BSK Says:


    Good point. The situation I posited is not analogous to a Durant/LeBron debate. I was more just getting at the fact that career WS probably isn't the best way to decide such a debate. Now, should Durant ascend to a LeBron or near-LeBron level and maintain that for another half-decade, I see why you go with him. But if he remains a notch below LeBron, I'm not sure how much longer one has him makes a difference.

  57. P Middy Says:

    Yeah, great point about Rothlesberger vs. LeBron. Speaks to how much of an issue gender still is in this country, let alone race.

  58. Jason J Says:

    BSK & P Middy - Great stuff in these comments.

  59. BSK Says:

    Jason J-

    I'm just glad that there is an audience for honest and frank conversations for this topic and others like it. We won't always see eye to eye, but the fact we can have a conversation here that has been completely absent from the national dialogue is encouraging and depressing all at the same time. Just glad to contribute and participate.

  60. Larry Rod Says:

    I dont think we can fairly assess KD's career vs. Lebron's for now. LBJ has a more proven and established career now compared to Durant's "one season" wonder. Not saying that Durant has no great future ahead of him, but he got one good season under his belt. I remember when Michael Redd was a hot comodity in the NBA after one great season then he got injured and he is done, Ray Allen was like that also but after being stuck with a bad Bucks team all those prime years he was considered as a disappointment also until he got traded to the Celtics and became a legit champion. KD is just in the door steps of his career, so the jury is still out on him. Maybe he will be an elite NBA star or just fall aside after a few years still remains to be seen. LBJ is past that he has shown already that he can take a team to the NBA finals albeit he didn't win it all the fact that he can take the team there solidify his status as an elite players. LBJ right now are at par with the Barkley's, Malone's, Ewing's and Stockton's of the NBA those who carried their teams far enough but never won it all. Durant is not in this level yet and to early to say he could make it there.

  61. AYC Says:

    People are just hating because the "Decision" was such a disaster. Lebron is clearly the better player, thanks to his Magic/Bird level passing; Durant has never shown that kind of ability. High volume scorers who don't pass much typically don't win championships (Gervin, 'Nique, Dantley, King, Melo, AI)

    Also, as several others have pointed out, LBJ has a proven track record of dominance that KD can't (yet) match, and it's not as if Durant is so much younger. Let's notforget that KD played horribly in OKC's 1st round exit this year.

  62. Yago Colas Says:

    Some of this discussion but even more so the general media backlash to the decision (and "The Decision") rests on some really dodgy assumptions. The one I'm currently fascinated by is two fold, and I think it goes something like this:

    1) the measure of an individual in a team sport is the number of championships won by teams that individual played for
    2) the measure of an individual in team sports who has played on championship teams is the crappiness of the players around him.

    I know that my statistically adept friends, if so inclined, could come up with a fun formula to actually show us who the greatest player ever was (something like: number of championships won - HOF probability of teammates on each of those championship teams x infinity). I'm not statistically adept, but I thought I'd throw this out there in case anybody really wants to have a go. I wonder how some of the legends who figure in these age-old arguments: Russell, Chamberlain, Jabbar, Magic, Bird, Jordan, Kobe, Shaq, etc would fare.

  63. Dave Says:

    Cool question: Lebron vs. KD for the future of the franchise.

    Lots of dimensions of intangibles, and I don't want to go Lebron a dog who gave up and couldn't carry his team when it counted or is he a possible GOAT dragged down by the rest of his team? I've seen that hashed to death.

    But, just by the numbers, just assuming that win shares actually represent the full contribution to winning (and that's a working assumption for this specific analysis, not a general claim about the value of win shares), who would you want?

    Given the projections as presented, it's a no-brainer: James not only has more total win shares, but much higher peaks, meaning championships are more likely (At least according to the study Neil references in comment #55).

    But how are those projections?
    When I looked at the projections for the future, I thought "is it really reasonable that KD will never again come within 25% of his 21-year-old output"? (Rick Barry's career sort of has the shape of the projected KD career--peak of 14.4 at 22, next best 12.7)
    I looked for all the guys who played a lot of minutes at young ages (19, 20) to see if they had a better season after 21 than they did at 19, 20 or 21, and most did.

    I looked for all the guys who had a huge season by age 24 (24 was semi-randomly chosen as what I thought would be a pre-peak age; by "huge season" I picked 13 WS or better). There were 67 such seasons. Among them, the following guys had better seasons after age 24 than before:
    Moses Malone
    Kobe Bryant
    D. Robinson

    On the other hand, the following guys had their best season by age 24:
    Roy (1 year)
    Kareem (best season at 24)
    Jordan (best season at 24)
    Archibald (best season at 24)
    Penny Hardaway (best season at 24)
    Rick Barry (best season at 22--a reasonable comp for the KD projection)
    Grant Hill (best season at 24)
    Mcadoo (best season at 23, 2nd best at 22)
    Neil Johnston (best season at 24)
    Paul Arizin (best season at 23)
    McGrady (best season at 23)
    Jimmy Jones (best season at 24)
    Spencer Haywood (best season at 20 in ABA, never came close in NBA)
    Gilmore (best season at 22 in ABA)

    Dwight Howard
    Paul (best season at 23)

    Those last three, of course, may well put up better seasons in the future.
    But looking at the list I saw that a lot of these guys were putting up their best (in terms of WS) at 24 or 23, including top contenders for GOAT Jordan and Abdul Jabbar. And James had more WS at 24 than at 25.

    That made me wonder about what the peak year is. We keep saying that James, at 25, is going into his prime. But what is the peak? There must be a post on this somewhere, but I did a quick and dirty query to get an estimate--I picked all the seasons with WS >= 16. And I picked the best season of each man on the list:

    Age of best season (in WS)
    Kareem 24
    Wilt 27
    Jordan 24
    Robertson 25
    James 24
    Robinson 28
    Gilmore 22
    S. O'Neal 27
    Garnett 27
    Johnston 24
    Paul 23
    Hawkins 25
    Duncan 25
    McAdoo 23
    Erving 25
    Nowitzki 27
    Barkley 26
    Russell 29
    Haywood 20
    West 27
    Karl Malone 33
    Magic 30
    Bellamy 22
    Jimmy Jones 24
    McGrady 23
    Arizin 23
    Durant 21
    Z. Beatty 31
    Mean age of best season: 25.32142857
    Median age of best season: 25
    Mode age of best season: 24

    The guys who played a lot when they were young (19,20,21) usually had better seasons later in their career. And it looks like the really great players peak in their early to mid 20s.
    And that makes me wonder: is it possible that James is already past his peak, while KD still will reach higher in the next 2-3 years?
    History suggests that players playing at the highest level peak at 24 or 25

  64. huevonkiller Says:

    Is James past "his" peak?

    Maybe, but his peak is a different level. Neil suggests an off-peak for James is 18 Win Shares, still well above what Durant has done, and probably will do in the future. LeBron has Jordan numbers, he went to Miami for rings not because any player exists with better stats. He's 25 years old, age is irrelevant still.