Fantasy Basketball Profiles: 3. LeBron James
The 2017-18 NBA season is fast approaching, and thus so is fantasy basketball season.
As part of our preseason fantasy coverage here at Off the Glass, I’ll be profiling my top five overall players for 2017-18 season.
Without any further ado, here is No. 3
3. LeBron James
Sometimes it’s nice to know what you’re going to get. From a fantasy basketball perspective, James is that. Since his rookie season in 2003-04, he has averaged over 25 points with at least six assists and six rebounds per game each season, while averaging at least seven rebounds per game in 10 of those campaigns.
The trade centered around Kyrie Irving and Isiah Thomas should not impact James all that much. Thomas’ usage rate last year (34.0 percent) was higher that Irving’s (30.8 percent), but his hip injury is set to sideline him into the regular season and how he will look when he returns is a question.
James set career-highs in assists (8.7) and rebounds (8.6) per game last season, while turning around a downward trend from beyond the arc (36.3 percent) with an improved overall field goal percentage (54.8 percent). There is one concern though, as James’ free throw rate fell off to 67.4 percent last year. As much as he goes to the line (7.2 times per game in 2016-17), that lack of proficiency can hurt fantasy owners in leagues where free throw percentage is a category.
With Irving gone, and particularly to start the season assuming Thomas is out, James will be the clear center of the Cavaliers’ offense. In each of the final three seasons of his first stint in Cleveland, his usage rate was no less than 33.5 percent. Going back a little further, his usage rate was at least that 33.5 percent mark in four of five seasons before James “took his talents to South Beach.” It’s easy to see something similar this year, at least while Thomas is sidelined.
Even with the NBA making adjustments to limit back-to-back games and teams playing four games in five nights, it’s safe to assume James will sit out a handful of games for rest purposes this year. But there just aren’t enough black marks here to prevent fantasy owners from using a top-five pick in drafts, even as James approaches 33 years old with the extra wear-and-tear of annual deep playoff runs on his body.