As the debate rages on over where LeBron James ranks among the all-time greatest players, one aspect of that is how much help — or lack of it — he’s had. It’s been particularly true with this year’s Cleveland Cavaliers roster that underwent several changes.
The Los Angeles Lakers factored into that, sending Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. to the Cavs at the trade deadline in exchange for Channing Frye, Isaiah Thomas and a first-round pick in the 2018 Draft. The trade was thought to satisfy both teams.
But Clarkson and Nance have largely struggled in the playoffs, in particular the NBA Finals, and so too has fellow midseason acquisition Rodney Hood. Though, Hood hadn’t received many opportunities in the playoffs, until Game 3 on Wednesday night.
For as much scrutiny and criticism as the Cavaliers roster takes, Lakers legend Kobe Bryant believes some of that is unfounded.
He explained to Benjamin Hoffman of the New York Times that James has plenty of talent around him, and it can be said without it serving as a dig at his talent:
“It seems like he has some good talent to me. He’s got (Kyle) Korver who’s a great shooter, J.R. Smith who has always been a solid player — we focus on his one mistake and that tends to overshadow all the things he’s done to help them win a championship before — you’ve got Kevin Love, who was an All-Star and an Olympian; Rodney Hood, who was a 17-point scorer in the Western Conference; you’ve got Tristan (Thompson) who is back to playing like he played a few years ago. He’s got some workable pieces there. I don’t understand how, in order to talk about how great LeBron is we need to [expletive] on everybody else. That’s not O.K. Those guys have talent. I don’t buy this whole thing that he’s playing with a bunch of garbage.”
James’ critics have pointed to him not conquering the NBA until joining forces with Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh on the Miami Heat. After their run of Finals appearances, James returned to Cleveland.
He teamed up with superstar point guard Kyrie Irving and after a trade, Kevin Love. The trio led the Cavs to three straight NBA Finals appearances, going 1-2. Love missed the 2015 matchup with the Golden State Warriors, and Irving did not play after Game 1 because of a knee injury.
James and the Cavaliers earned revenge the following year but came up short in 2017. Now James, in his eighth consecutive NBA Finals, is one loss from him and Love coming up short to a loaded Warriors team once again.
No matter how the remainder of the series unfolds, there doesn’t figure to be an end to the debate over how much James’ supporting cast did. Or didn’t do.
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