After watching the Miami Heat take on the Boston Celtics in what has turned out to be a thrilling seven-game series, one thing has become very clear: Lebron James is damned near taking on the Celtics by himself. At this point, he has got to be asking himself, “Did I really leave Cleveland for this!?!” Given how the series (and virtually the entire playoffs) have played out for the Heat, the team is looking eerily similar to the high school junior varsity—er, wait, I mean the Cleveland Cavaliers—that Lebron backpacked to the Finals in 2007.
With the crying velociraptor Chris Bosh being sidelined most of the playoffs, and with Dwayne Wade being about as successful as a kid learning to color in the first halves of most games, Lebron might as well take on the Celtics one-on-five. He certainly did not leave Cleveland and become one of the most hated athletes in a generation for this. Let’s compare Lebron’s former Finals team to his current one and see which team might have been more competent.
2007 – Larry Hughes (14.9 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 3.7 APG)
2012 — Mario Chalmers (11.7 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 3.7 APG)
This comparison is an interesting one, as both players have similar statistics. However, it is how they come about those stats and what they give to the dynamic of their teams. Hughes was the definition of a scoring guard, once averaging as many as 22.7 PPG, and although he was on the decline at this point in his career, he still was a manageable player who could create shots for himself or for others. Chalmers, on the other hand, gets most of his looks off of open shots created by kickouts from James or Wade, and he rarely is able to size his man up and create his own shot.
2007 – Sasha Pavlovic (9.0 PPG, 2.4 RPG, 1.6 APG)
2012 – Dwayne Wade (22.9 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 6.2 APG)
This matchup is not even close. Burt Reynolds said it best in the The Longest Yard, declaring it a “Superstar vs. Half a Star.” Wade already has a championship, is the focal point of the offense and is capable of scoring 30 points, getting 10 rebounds, or 10 assists on any given night. Pavlovic, on the other hand, can, well … look like Anakin Skywalker from the Star Wars Trilogy. This one isn’t even close.
2007 – Lebron James (25.1 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 8.0 APG)
2012 – Lebron James (30.8 PPG, 9.5 RPG, 5.3 APG)
Looking at James’ statistics for both playoff runs, it becomes clear which team was more effective. 2007 Lebron averaged fewer points and rebounds than 2012 Lebron, but almost three more assists per game. Lebron has to do more scoring and rebounding this postseason to be successful, and his assists are down because his team simply isn’t giving him any help. Jay-Z said numbers don’t lie, and this proves it. In 2007, Lebron had to do less for a team that many argue was nowhere near the same talent class as his 2012 squad. For that reason …
Advantage: Lebron 2007
2007 – Drew Gooden (11.1 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 1.1 APG)
2012 – Chris Bosh (13.9 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 2.1 APG)
The power-forward matchup brings about some interesting points. Granted, Bosh has been injured and has missed nine games so far in the playoffs, but when he has been on the court, he has not been that much more effective than Gooden. Bosh is a perennial All-Star who certainly is no slouch, having carried the dismal Raptors on his back, while Gooden is a role player at best, having his best season in 2009 averaging close to 15 points and 10 rebounds. Bosh is a perimeter-oriented big, oftentimes hovering about 15 feet after setting pick-and-pops for Wade or James, while Gooden is a banger who sacrifices his body for rebounds and easy buckets at the rim. Given that Bosh might have a greater set of skills, he has not performed in these playoffs, while Gooden gave everything he had every night, even if it did produce (slightly) lesser statistics.
2007 – Zydrunas Ilgauskas (11.9 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 1.6 APG)
2012 – Joel Anthony (3.4 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 0.1 APG)
Ilgauskas was a very competent center with solid averages throughout the 2007 playoff run. Those stats were not a mirage, either, as Ilgauskas has been an All-Star even after battling the injury bug for so many years. Anthony, on the other hand, might as well be playing volleyball. The man is a complete nonfactor on offense and gets out-rebounded by every other member in the Heat’s starting five. Don’t give me that “big body” crap, either, because Eddy Curry’s fat ass has been parked on the bench all playoffs.
2007 – Eric Snow (1.7 ppg, 1.5 rpg, 1.5 apg), Anderson Varejao (4.1 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 0.7 apg), Donyell Marshall (3.5 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 0.3 apg)
2012 – Udonis Haslem (5.4 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 0.7 apg), Shane Battier (5.4 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 1.4 apg), Mike Miller (5.2 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 0.9 apg)
The bench matchup is not very close at all. First, looking at the 2007 bench squad, Eric Snow simply bought front-row tickets to the Lebron show; Varejao was a quality big off the bench but was limited offensively at that point in his career; and Donyell Marshall’s days of 12 3-pointers in a game were looooong over. The Heat, on the other hand, had quality reserves in Haslem (who was a starter on the Heat’s last title run), a crafty veteran in Battier and a Mr. Do-It-All in Miller.
Advantage: Haslem, Battier, Miller
After evaluating the positions, players, and statistics, one might certainly question why Lebron left Cleveland in the first place. The Big Three of James, Wade, and Bosh hasn’t panned out to date, leaving many questioning if the three should be broken up should they not win the title this year. One thing is for sure: Lebron’s team for this 2012 playoff run might seem better on paper, but a closer look yields something much different. Had Lebron stayed in Cleveland and recruited harder to get other players to join him, would he have a championship? That question cannot be answered, but if he hopes to win a championship this year, things need to change, and fast. If not, the team is in trouble, as the other members of the Heat seem to simply be enjoying their popcorn in the VIP section of the Lebron Show.