LeBron James is still the best player in the world. That’s not debatable. He’s also 33 years old and though there are few signs of slowing down, everyone knows a decline will happen eventually.
That’s why James is planning ahead, hoping to prolong his career for as long as possible. That’s why, according to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst and Ramona Shelburne, the star forward is already looking at ways to evolve his game on his third team and at the fourth stage of his career:
The other key to this new vision for James and the Lakers is a recognition that his game will need to change as he ages over the next four years.
James, who will turn 34 in December, had studied the careers of all-time greats such as Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan and noted how they moved from the wing to the post as they approached their mid-30s. Bryant, for example, averaged 5.5 post-ups a game in his age-36 season in 2014-15 (most among guards) and 2.9 post-ups a game in his age-37 season (still fifth-most among guards).
James’ play in the post has ebbed and flowed over the past decade. He has developed his skills playing there, but has always been pulled to operating from the perimeter, where he’s more comfortable and where his teams often need him.
This shouldn’t be a surprise. James has been moving towards this direction since his Heat days and anyone can see that he’s taking care of his body now more than ever. LeBron has not been exerting the same level of effort on the defensive end in regular season games and has taken breaks mid-season to recover.
In the end, these are good things for the Lakers. They may lose them a few regular season games but with James signed on for at least three years, it’s good that the Lakers are taking the longterm approach. That’s why the team has offered only one-year contracts this summer and given them to players who can handle and pass the ball.
The Lakers are doing everything they can to ease the pressure on LeBron, something the Cavaliers were ultimately unable to do the last few seasons.