“A Game Within a Game: How NBA Stars Rest During Games” by Spencer Younghttps://t.co/rLRocW03lC
— LakerTom (@LakerTom) September 5, 2021
IN 2018, WITH no second superstar to ease his Herculean workload, LeBron James played all 82 games for the first time in his career, while also leading the league in minutes.
His feats transcended conventional wisdom regarding players in their 15th season. While he was still in Miami, it was widely assumed that, as he aged, he would spend less time as a ball-handler, play less minutes per game, and reside more often in post to conserve his body. Unfortunately, the Cleveland Cavaliers, particularly after Kyrie Irving was traded to Boston, never gave James that opportunity. He lacked a star guard, Kevin Love was oft-injured, and many of the team’s role players were highly inconsistent throughout 2018.
So how did LeBron, without an elite roster around him, conserve his energy to the point that he had arguably his best playoff run ever in 2018, while carrying one of the largest workloads in NBA history?
The answer was simple: walking.
According to Second Spectrum data, LeBron spent 74.4% of his time on the court walking, and his average speed on the court was 3.85 miles per hour. His defense, in the regular season, was very poor — that was another explanation for how he conserved energy during the regular season.
But, in the playoffs, LeBron was no longer a defensive liability, flipping the proverbial “switch” to become above-average on that end of the court. Interestingly, that was despite him becoming even slower in the postseason, at an average speed of 3.69 mph while walking 78.7% of the time.
In other words, the game’s best player mastered the art of picking his spots.
He doesn’t burn energy when it’s unnecessary, and he knows when to defer to his teammates.
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