LeBron James Step Aside?

Last week, the 2015-2016 NBA General Manager survey was released, in which each of the league’s GMs were asked a series of questions about NBA players and coaches. One of the more surprising answers was to the question “If you were starting a franchise today and could sign any player, who would it be?”

For the first time since 2011, a player not named LeBron James earned the distinction, with Anthony Davis taking home 86.2% of the votes. In last year’s survey, LeBron tallied 50% of the votes with AD getting 25%. The year before, LeBron dominated the poll, taking 89.7% of all votes. That’s how quickly the deck is shuffled in the NBA.

But is Davis worthy of the accolade? Obviously the question skews in his favor given his age – he likely has another decade and a half to look forward to, and at only 22 years old, is still at least four years from reaching his prime – compared to LeBron at 30 years old who probably has fewer than ten years left in the league, and even less of his prime ahead of him.

Comparing the two players in their third seasons in the league, it’s easy to see why GMs are hopping on the AD hype train.

 

PER

 

PPG

 

APG

 

RPG

 

BPG

LeBron James

28.1

31.4

6.6

7.0

.7

Anthony Davis

30.9

24.4

2.2

10.2

2.9

Davis posted the league’s best player efficiency rating last season, the highest since the 2012-13 season set by, you guessed it, LeBron. The two players play different positions, and thus, entirely different roles, but the numbers illustrate a superstar trajectory for Davis; one that could possibly last into the 2030 NBA season. Davis looks poised to be the league’s best player once the cyborg that is LBJ finally succumbs to his human limits.

However, there is that whole thing where LeBron is an absolute other-worldly NBA talent, combining a basketball IQ and a level of athleticism the likes of which we’ve never seen before. LeBron will likely make the conference finals for at least the next five years, bare minimum, with a legitimate shot at making the finals each year. It’s impossible to ignore AD’s upside, but if you’re an NBA GM, that’s the kind of job security you could only dream of.

After a slow start last season, LeBron returned to form later in the year, after a two-week hiatus in Miami. Before his break, the Cavs were a disappointing 19-20, but finished the season 34-9, with LeBron averaging 24.5 points, 48.5% shooting, six rebounds, and seven assists per game through April.

It’s clear at this point that LBJ is comfortable pacing himself and his team throughout the season, taking the long-view instead of pursuing MVP trophies and personal accolades like he did in Miami. Interestingly enough, though, while the grand majority of GMs selected Davis as their franchise pick going forward, 39.7% of them still predicted LeBron would win this year’s MVP award (compared to 25% for Davis). So while GMs acknowledge Davis’s potential going forward, many obviously still believe LeBron won’t be relinquishing his crown any time soon.

The future is here in the NBA. Make no mistake, just as the stars of yesteryear like Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett make their farewell tours, LeBron will eventually do the same, and the up-and-comers of today will take up the mantle.

Whether you’d take the long, promising road ahead for a guy like Anthony Davis or the super-human now of LeBron is a subjective matter, but it’s surprising that more than 86% of GMs – executives who earn their keep on a yearly basis – would turn their nose up at what is essentially a punched ticket to the conference finals with LeBron.

Davis’s upside and longevity ahead is certainly encouraging, but won’t serve as much consolation when you’re watching from home, out of a job, because you banked on the The Brow over the ‘Bron.

photos via Wikimedia.org/llananba