Through 12 regular season games, the Los Angeles Lakers hold the best defensive rating in the NBA and it’s not in spite of LeBron James.
This season, James is posting the best defensive rating he’s posted since the 2011-12 season, the same season he won both league MVP and Finals MVP. He’s attacking close outs, moving his feet well, getting back on defense and contesting shots like he hasn’t in years.
It’s been a promising starts for the 16-year veteran, but one anonymous NBA executive told Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report that he’s skeptical of how much longer James can keep this up:
“He’s playing defense—and at a high level,” the executive said. “We haven’t seen him play on that side of the ball with this level of intensity for several years. I wonder how long he’ll be able to keep it up?”
A large part of the executive’s concern is James’ age. Although he might not look like it when he goes up for dunks, James will turn 35 years old in December. That being said, the executive is confident Father Time won’t be coming for James this season:
“At some point, as we saw with Kobe, James will start to wind down physically,” the executive continued. “We don’t know when that will be, but it doesn’t look like it’s this year.”
The good news is that with the start to the season that the Lakers are enjoying (10-2), James will have the luxury of taking nights off on the defensive end — both literally and figuratively — later in the season.
James has already said he plans on playing every game he’s healthy, but in an effort to keep him as fresh as possible for what the Lakers are hoping is a deep playoff run, the training staff will likely strongly encourage him to sit out a few games. The larger the difference between the Lakers’ wins and losses column is, the easier that will be for James.
If James does sustain the level of his defense he’s playing, then obviously the Lakers nor their fans will complain, but the point is he doesn’t have to on every night in order for his team to be successful— at least not in the regular season. That alone is a good sign the Lakers are contending team.