- LeBron James is often regarded as one of the smartest players in the NBA when it comes to diagnosing what happens on the court.
- He showed this in the 2017 Finals against the Golden State Warriors when he watched Kyrie Irving run a play and eventually turn it over.
- On the very next play, James took the ball, ran the same exact play, and got his teammate an open basket because he had diagnosed the Warriors’ defensive game plan.
Though LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers find themselves in a familiar position, trailing the Golden State Warriors 2-0 in the NBA Finals, they have one benefit – they know what the Warriors want to do on both ends of the court.
As a result of four straight Finals matchups, both teams have little left to hide from one another. Though countering the Warriors is not an easy task, the Cavs have the benefit of having James on their team, one of the smartest players in the league.
James showed in last year’s Finals how quickly he can calculate a counter-attack to what the Warriors are doing.
The play came in the third quarter of the Cavs’ Game 4 win over the Warriors, their lone win in last year’s Finals. Kyrie Irving ran a pick-and-roll with Tristan Thompson, and the Cavs turned it over as Stephen Curry jumped the passing lane and got the ball. The Warriors went the other way and missed, and James took over. James ran the exact same play wth Thompson and it led to a corner three from J.R. Smith.
Here’s the sequence:
As Falk broke down, the first play was James observing. He sat on the elbow, directed Irving to run the pick-and-roll, and just watched. What he saw was the Warriors’ defensive scheme. They trapped Irving, forcing him to give up the ball to Thompson. Curry, sitting in the corner on Smith, came over to “tag” Thompson – that is, brush up against him to slow his roll – and ended up jumping the passing lane, getting the steal.
On the next trip down, James knew the scheme. He ran the same play with the ball now in his hands,. When James took the trap, he faked a pass to Thompson to get Curry to jump out of position, then whipped a pass to Smith for the open three.
Here’s Falk’s breakdown:
A small demonstration of LeBron’s incredible basketball IQ: 30 seconds from Game 4. pic.twitter.com/sG7L2yEaZ6
— Ben Falk (@bencfalk) June 11, 2017
The number of players who can do this, on the fly, is limited. That James was able to download the information after one possession, then come up with the counter is impressive.
The Cavs may not win the championship this year, but James’ genius is worth appreciating.
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