Steve Kerr: LeBron James is More Scottie Pippen Than Michael Jordan

Steve Kerr is a fantastic basketball analyst, and his pairing with Marv Albert on TNT and CBS (NCAA Tournament) was a stroke of genius. Kerr’s 3-year run as GM of the Phoenix Suns was decidedly less impressive – trading for Shaq was a bust and trading for Jason Richardson got them nowhere; his drafts in 2007, 2008 and 2009 were all quite bad (if I were grading them today, he’d get a D-). At any rate, Kerr joined the knee-jerk media yesterday when he went on the “Waddle and Silvy” radio show in Chicago and said that LeBron’s more Scottie Pippen than Michael Jordan.

“The irony to me is that LeBron is not Michael. LeBron is actually Scottie. He’s so similar to Scottie in that defensively he was just a monster, could guard anybody, really more of a point forward than scoring guard. Scottie always loved to distribute the ball. That’s really where LeBron’s preference is.

That’s just not true. In the NBA Finals, yes, that’s what we saw from a strangely passive and skittish LeBron. But if you look at the two previous series (and his career in Cleveland – basically, his career body of work), LeBron was the closer who wanted the last shot. Have we all forgotten how the media went berserk after his awesome series against Chicago with the “LeBron-as-Jordan” stuff? Anyway, here’s more from Kerr:

“Phil Jackson used to call Scottie a ‘sometimes shooter.’ Sometimes they would go in, sometimes they wouldn’t. That’s how it is with LeBron. He’s a great talent and a great player but you can see his flaws as a basketball player. He doesn’t have an offensive game that he can rely on: no low-post game, no mid-range jump shot so when the game really gets tough he has a hard time finding easy baskets and getting himself going. That’s what Michael did in his sleep so that’s why the comparison is wrong.”

Again – it was LeBron’s first year in Miami. He was playing for a new coach (an inexperienced one, at that). He was playing on Dwyane Wade’s team, in Dwyane Wade’s city. Then again, if he hadn’t talked about winning eight titles after arriving in South Beach, maybe everyone would have given him a pass on not winning a title in his first year in Miami.

Still, according to hoop data (assuming I’m reading these stats correctly) LeBron shot the mid-range jumper (10-15 feet) this year better than he had in his career (44%). Ditto his jumper from 16-23 feet (45%).

As a point of reference: Kobe from 10-15 feet: 51%; from 16-23 feeet: 38 %.
Kevin Durant from 10-15 feet: 46%; from 16-23 feet: 40%.
Carmelo Anthony from 10-15 feet: 36%; from 16-23 feet: 40%.

To say LeBron has “no mid-range jump shot” is a fallacy; I would agree that his low-post game needs work. Then again, we’ve seen so little of LeBron in the post, maybe it doesn’t need work so much as it needs opportunities.

But the knee-jerk reaction in the span of two weeks on LeBron has been mind-boggling – can one really go from Jordan to Pippen in the span of a month. Bill Simmons floated the idea that LeBron’s downfall began when D Wade yelled at him in game three for being passive; I maintain that the reason LeBron was passive in game three was because of the game two collapse and his fear of failing again.

Yes, this post will be resurrected next year when the Heat win the title (assuming there’s a season).

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