Today is LeBron James Day on The Ringer. We figured nothing else was happening in the NBA world, so why not celebrate Bron, right? Thanks, Vlade and Vivek! Seriously, though, LeBron is having such an interesting season — on top of the most interesting career — and we wanted to look backward and forward with a collection of short posts about him. You can find all the posts here. Go ahead and make your trades. There’s only one King.
Simple hypothetical question: Team Banana Boat (Chris Paul, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, and Dwyane Wade) plus Tristan Thompson, Kyle Korver, and a replacement-level backup point guard, versus the Warriors. Seven-game series. Who ya got?
Michael Baumann: If it’s just a seven-game series and not a seven-game series after an 82-game regular season and three rounds of conference playoffs, then we’ve got Fresh Team Banana Boat Plus Korver and not Old-Ass, Broken-Down Team Banana Boat Plus Korver. That means Chris Paul can keep up with Steph Curry enough to treat him like a fraternity pledge. And LeBron, who is not only the best basketball player ever but also capable of beating up a half-ton pickup truck, can out-muscle Kevin Durant and Draymond Green. ’Nanners in six.
Jonathan Tjarks: Chris Paul is 31, LeBron and Carmelo are 32, and Wade is 35. The NBA isn’t Wild Hogs or Last Vegas. The odds of all four of those guys staying healthy over the course of the playoffs aren’t great, nor would they have the speed to corral the Warriors on defense. At this point in his career, LeBron should be one of the older players on his roster, not one of the younger ones.
Jason Concepcion: [Looks directly at Tjarks] Wade is 35 but would have access to the greatest, most cutting-edge Russian Olympic athlete PEDs on the planet. Chris Paul, four wins from a title in the twilight of his career, has a sports narrative with enough emotional juice to irrigate the hardened hearts of the referees. It would be open season on beating up Steph. LeBron is LeBron. Banana Boat in seven.
Juliet Litman: As is often the case, Draymond is the X factor. Who stays with him? LeBron has to take on KD. Chris Paul has to stay with Steph. Even if those are two wins for the Boat, neither Melo nor Wade can stay with either Klay or Dray. If they team up to stop Thompson, Green will happily burn them.
Rodger Sherman: This is an easy call for me. One of these teams has the greatest shooter in basketball history, and the other does not. I have to pick the team with Kyle Korver.
Chris Almeida: Sure, this would be great for headlines, but in this scenario, would the Cavs really improve that much? With limited touches, Old Wade likely wouldn’t be a substantial upgrade over J.R. Smith, and Carmelo very well may be a downgrade from Kevin Love on both ends of the floor. Chris Paul’s defensive prowess would make life difficult for Steph, but Curry has plenty of teammates who would happily and easily score points against aged defenders. If you don’t think the Cavs compare favorably against Golden State in the present, there’s no reason to think things would be different in this timeline.
Ryan O’Hanlon: If these were in-their-prime versions of Wade, Melo, and CP3, we know which way this discussion would tilt. So how do you make three aging superstars young again? Slim down their usage rates and put them next to the guy who’s better than everyone else.
Danny Chau: My belief in the power of friendship is stronger than my belief that no NBA team with Carmelo Anthony can ever prosper as champions.
Micah Peters: Maybe if we traversed the boundaries of space-time to the year 2011 and LeBron played off the ball, and Bully Ball Carmelo sent Draymond into an early vacation with a forearm shiver, the Boat would have a chance. Even then it’d still probably be Warriors in seven.
Haley O’Shaughnessy: Rule no. 1 of the playoffs is never count LeBron out (even in 20 years when he’s out of the league — rule no. 1 still applies). But even with that caveat, it’s still a no for the Banana Boat crew. Wade’s depreciating effect on a court can’t sustain a series, Melo’s been trapped in a Twilight Zone episode for the past five-plus years where time stands still but his game still ages, and CP3 is defined more by his health issues than his playoff performances.