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Five NBA players better than LeBron James in specific aspects

LeBron James GOAT
Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports

Widely considered one of the top-two players in NBA history, LeBron James has been an immense talent since his arrival in 2003.

The big picture: While James might be seen as one of, if not the, most well-rounded player in NBA history, here are five players that either were or are better than him in certain facets of the game.

Bombs Away: When James first arrived in the league, his incredible athleticism allowed him to get to the rim at will. Because of this, he never really had to develop an outside shot until his 30s, when NBA teams began placing a premium on three-point shooting.

Even though James has been increasing the amount of three-pointers he’s taken, he’s still hitting them at a slightly below-average rate (34%). That number pales in comparison to the following:

  • Stephen Curry: 43.5%
  • Steve Nash: 42.7%
  • Klay Thompson: 41.9%
  • Ray Allen: 40%
  • Reggie Miller: 39.5%

Considering James’ history shooting the three, it’s unlikely that he will end up as an elite shooter. The best-case scenario is for James to become an average to above-average shooter from three, hitting anywhere between 35 and 37% of his attempts.

Dropping Dimes: Apart from scoring on different spots of the court at will, James also has incredible vision, finding and threading a pass through the smallest of spaces. As such, his coaches let him run to offense, as evidenced by his 31.53 usage percentage, which is sixth all-time. He also leads the NBA in assists this season.

Yet, he is only 19th (36.35%) in assist percentage behind names like:

  • John Stockton: 50.2%
  • Chris Paul: 45.7%
  • John Wall: 42.4%
  • Russell Westbrook: 42.4%
  • Magic Johnson: 40.9%

Assist percentage is a rough estimate of the percentage of field goals a player assisted on. It is important to note that James is the only non-guard in the top-20. Regardless, his passing and his vision makes it that much more impressive that he almost has 10,000 assists in his career.

Defense wins Championships: Because of James’ incredible workload as the offensive fulcrum on most, if not all, his teams, an aspect of his game has to suffer. For James, that is on the defensive end. As a result, he has accumulated 69.8 defensive win shares (DWS), good for 18th all-time.

To put it simply, DWS is defined as the amount of wins a player produces based on his defensive ability. With that in mind, his DWS falls way short of players like:

  • Bill Russell: 133.64 DWS
  • Tim Duncan: 106.34 DWS
  • Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: 94.49 DWS
  • Hakeem Olajuwon: 94.47 DWS
  • Wilt Chamberlain: 93.92 DWS

That said, there’s hope for James. Over the past five seasons (this season notwithstanding), James has averaged about 3.1 DWS. If he continues to average at least 2.1 DWS until his age-40 season, that will put James at 80.32 DWS, just past San Antonio Spurs legend David Robinson (80.14) for 10th all-time.

The bottom line

Although there are players better than LeBron at different aspects of the game, it is arguable that there is no other player that has had such an all-around impact as LeBron. Perhaps the only player that that could be said about is Michael Jordan, who was known to be an offensive machine as well as a defensive presence.

Nevertheless, LeBron’s continued success makes it that much easier to consider him one of the greatest to ever play.