Long Live the King: Why LeBron is still the most valuable asset in the NBA

Bill Simmon’s annual NBA trade value column ended this year with a big surprise: Lebron James finished in second place for the first time in 9 years. The new King? None other than the future face of the league, Anthony Davis. Simmons raises some interesting points, most notably the fact that Lebron has very few historical parallels that succeeded with his career minutes played. On the flipside, Anthony Davis is not just knocking at the door of stardom, but at the tender age of 22, has a legitimate chance to place himself amongst basketball’s best players of all time. Like Simmons, I’ll be shocked if he doesn’t win any MVP’s.

While the idea of having the next Lebron is tantalizing, I feel that many are forgetting that the PRESENT Lebron is still indescribably amazing. With the Durant saga in full bloom following James’ recent return to Cleveland, the movement of players in the NBA has never felt so fluid. Nevermind what Philadelphia is doing, there is no time like the present to go for the prize. With that in mind, I wanted to do a fun little excercise where I look at the other 28 teams and decide, would they rather trade their starting PF for Davis or SF for Lebron? Which player would make your team the best it can be THIS year? At the end, I feel that I can get a better sense of how valuable each player is currently.

Golden State Warriors: James

Right off the bat, we come across a tough decision. This is a team with not many weaknesses, ranking first in both offensive and defensive rating. I can’t decide which is more terrifying: a Steph-Davis pick and roll or a HORNS set for LeBron with the Splash Bros at the corners. Therefore, it really comes down to the players they each displace. To me, Draymond Green is making a case for Defensive Player of the year, while they have a timeshare between Barnes and Iggy (or Lebron Lite) going on.

Atlanta Hawks: James

This one is a bit easier. James would do well on the most on the most unselfish team in the league, and many of Davis’ talents are already covered by Paul Millsap.

Memphis: James

Lebron would stop the merry go-around of Small Forwards since Gay left, while AD would have to change his game, as he currently occupies the same real estate as Marc Gasol

Houston: James

Let’s break it down into the Holy Trinity of Dork Elvis

Threes: James, which may seem unfair, but he has set up more 3’s for Kevin Love than Davis has for his entire team.

Layups/Dunks: Davis, who has eclipsed Lebron as the most terrifying driver in the game.

Fouls: James, who has 115 more free throw attempts currently.

Portland Trail Blazers. LA Clippers. James. James. Next.

San Antonio Spurs. Davis.

Imagining Timmy being replaced by his heir apparent for the next two decades gives me all sorts of warm fuzzies inside. Plus, they already have the kingslayer.

Dallas Mavericks. James.

If they ever want even an average defence to compliment their world beating offence, they really need to shore up their 6th worst 3pt% allowed. Getting Rondo wasn’t enough, but Lebron would do wonders.

Toronto Raptors: James

The second best player in isolation (behind Harden) for the team with the fourth most isolation-heavy offence.

Chicago Bulls: James

With Taj Gibson as their fourth best big, Davis would be redundant. Defensively, James and Butler would be the modern day equivalent of Jordan and Pippen. According to Michael Erler, that was their strength all along, anyways.

Washington: Davis

Not sure about this pick, I’m just not a big Nene fan. Could be convinced otherwise, but I don’t like the idea of Wall spotting up for a Lebron penetration. It wouldn’t work as well as it does with Kyrie.

Oklahoma City Thunder: Davis

Would Sam Presti even accept a Durant-James trade?

Phoenix: James

I’m still amazed PJ Tucker starts for a contender.

Milwaukee: Davis

I had to check to make sure Ilyasova was still starting for them.

Miami: James

Now this would be an interesting scenario.

Utah: Davis. Hayward is still their best overall player.

Boston: James

Indiana: James. But only for this year.

Charlotte: Davis

And after this point, it doesn’t really matter anyways. So we end up with 13:6 in Lebron’s favor, but also 9 out of the top 10 teams. I don’t think anyone would argue Lebron is more valuable than Davis at this point, but even if Lebron drops off a cliff in 3 years, with the way superstars are moving around these days, the value of having Davis really depends on where your team is on the winning spectrum.

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