LeBron James's supporting casts: Are current Cavs his worst Finals squad?
The Warriors took a 2–0 lead in the NBA Finals with a 110–77 win over the Cavaliers on Sunday. Golden State is now +48 through the first two games of the series, marking the most lopsided two-game start in Finals history.
While LeBron James has not been at his best (or most efficient) in the series, his supporting cast has also largely struggled as the Warriors' role players have thrived. For the third straight Finals, James's team simply looks overwhelmed by the talent on the opposing team.
Aged veteran Richard Jefferson was Cleveland’s second-best player in Game 2, while Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love have been a disaster defensively. Meanwhile, three pointers from the likes of J.R. Smith and Channing Frye have disappeared in the face of the Warriors' ferocious defense.
Earlier in the playoffs, Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said James looked fresh in the playoffs because he was receiving the most help he's ever had. With that in mind, and LeBron in danger of dropping to 2–5 in the Finals (including a couple one-sided series), here's a look at some data comparing teams LeBron took to the championship round.
The 2013 Heat had the highest net rating of any of LeBron's Finals teams. The 2011 Heat are second, though they lost to Dallas in the championship round. This year's Cavs had a higher rating than LeBron's first championship season.
LeBron's latter-era Cavs teams compare favorably in Value Over Replacement Player with the Heat, except for 2011, when Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade were closer to their solo incarnates. Here we can see the sum total of the VORP of the 10 players with the highest minutes played (besides LeBron) during the regular season.
Don't sleep on the 2011 Heat! This graph is the sum total of Win Shares on the roster of everyone except LeBron. The 2013 Heat had a massive 27-game win streak, but this year's Cavs teammates weren't far behind in Win Shares. (*The 2012 Heat total has been multiplied to reflect an 82-game season.)
The Big Three
You can see how LeBron clearly took control of his Miami teams later in his tenure there. Take a look at this graph, which shows the combined total of LeBron's Big Three teammates' playoff VORP, Win Shares, Player Efficiency Rating and Points Per Game. (*This year's Cavs teams stats are as of the start of the Finals.)
What does this all mean? Ultimately, the teams LeBron has taken to the Finals in each of the last six seasons have been mostly great. (We'll call the 2007 Cavs very good.) If anything, James's struggles in the Finals should be a reflection of the better teams he's faced. We'll save those charts for later.
All stats via Basketball Reference.