LeBron James continues his incredible career as he enters year 20. The 18-time All-Star is somehow one of the most impactful players on the court at nearly 38 years old. However, father time remains undefeated. Will this be the year that James begins his inevitable descent?
Top NBA Players 2022-23: #7 LeBron James
A Tough Time in 2021
The Los Angeles Lakers came into the 2021-22 season with high expectations. Adding future Hall of Famer Russell Westbrook to the dynamic duo of James and Anthony Davis didn’t work out as planned, however. The team never gelled, and injuries kept them from competing in a loaded Western Conference.
Despite the team’s lack of success, James was great in the 56 games that he played. He averaged over 30 points per game for the season, an extraordinary feat for anyone, let alone a 37-year-old. James also improved his free throw shooting, rebounding, stealing, and blocking numbers from the year before. His three-point percentage dipped a bit to just under 36%. However, James attempted a career-high eight triples per game in ‘21-22.
Another noteworthy stat is James’ minutes played last season. Although the 37.2 per game is lower than his career average of 38.2, this was the most usage per game that James has seen since 2017-18, the last season in which James played all 82 games. While James clearly has more left in his tank, he has begun to miss time with injuries over the last few years. If he’s going to make it through a full season, these minutes per game will have to go down.
Offseason and Preseason
The Lakers haven’t done much this offseason to improve their chances at a title run. Patrick Beverley and Dennis Schroder add backcourt depth to a team that may be without Westbrook by season’s end. James has looked great so far in the preseason, making athletic plays on the defensive end, setting up teammates with halfcourt alley-oops, and generally looking like the LeBron that we’ve all come to expect.
Rumors continue to swirl around Westbrook’s future with the team. He has been rumored to be part of a potential trade package with the Indiana Pacers for Myles Turner and Buddy Hield. For now, the Lakers will start the season with the team they’ve constructed. We will see if this group can mesh early on or if more moves will be made.
LeBron James 2022-23 Outlook
The biggest concerns surrounding James’ success in the coming season are his health and his teammates’ offense. If he can avoid a major injury, we can expect LeBron to keep pace with the production of the last few years. At least 25 points, seven rebounds, and seven assists per game. If the Lakers can improve from beyond the arc as a team, those assist numbers could rise. Los Angeles shot 34.7% from three last year, 22nd in the NBA. Beverly is a career 38% shooter in this department, but other additions Schroeder and Lonnie Walker IV, shoot below 35% for their career. It’s known league-wide that James flourishes when surrounded by shooters, but the Lakers have been unable to add much shooting depth. With or without a Westbrook trade, expect this team to make a few moves before the trade deadline to better accommodate James’ game offensively.
Another major concern for James this season will be the health of his teammates. Davis has played in only 76 games over the past two seasons. This franchise was built around James and Davis being the cornerstones. Davis being unavailable for long periods this year would again put added strain on James throughout the regular season. To a lesser extent, team chemistry and Westbrook’s ability to adjust to a new role are also early-season concerns.
The Last Word on LeBron James
If James stays healthy this season, he will become the all-time leading scorer in the history of the NBA. By matching his assist totals from each of the last two seasons, he’ll surpass Magic Johnson, Mark Jackson, and Steve Nash for fourth all-time in assists. We can expect both of these records to be broken and a few others throughout the season. That being said, we are far from the LeBron farewell tour. James will continue to be a top-ten NBA talent and will again be in the MVP conversation at year’s end.