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2015 NBA Playoffs

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Really, you don't think the West is extremely tough right now?

Lots of great Cs in the conversation for the top 5 or so, but I have Lebron ahead of all of them. He dominates in more areas of the game. However, if any C is in the conversation to be better than Lebron, he's in the conversation to be beter than Michael.

If you are asking me if I think the league is unbalanced, then the answer is yes. But is the West tough just because the East is worse than it has been since I started watching basketball in the early 80s? It is very hard to compare based on raw stats due to rule changes and improvements in athletic training, modern medicine and the fact that for a portion of time some of the best players in basketball history played in the ABA or even overseas for at least part of their prime like Sabonis and to a lesser extent, Ming.

If Jordan played in this era of touch flagrants and no hand-checks, I can say with confidence that he would average over 40 points per game in his prime years. I also believe Jordan to be a better lockdown defender than LBJ, who is a tremendous off-ball gambler much like Pippen was. I don't even like comparing Jordan and LBJ because LBJ is much more like Magic, much like Shaq was like Wilt--just more muscle due to improvements in strength and speed training over the years. Those who think of Shaq as being just a bully or fat only saw him after he left Orlando.

Centers can't dominate a game like LBJ . . . yeah, because they don't dribble the clock down to 5 half of their possessions before taking it to the rim, jacking up a 3 or dishing off a teammate to shoot with 1.5 seconds left on the clock.

Hard to compare a Wilt to anyone if you want to talk about dominance. It isn't talked about much, but he had some of his very best games against Russell who is considered a top-five defender of all-time regardless of position. And over a long period of time, it is hard to compare anyone to Kareem in terms of performing at an elite level for a long period of time. Kareem played against 15/25 best centers of all-time(well over half, if you buy this top 25 list), some in their prime and some before/after. Wilt, Lanier, Artis, Walton, Parrish, Hakeem, Ewing, Malone, Unseld, Cowens, Reed, Thurmond, Hayes . . . even guys like Sikma and our very own Laimbeer were tougher than almost anyone in the NBA today to square off against.

LBJ has squared off against 10/25 best SF over his career according to this list: McGrady, Anthony, Durant, Pierce, Hill (post-injury), Carter, Iggy, Gay, George, Deng.

Something that is dismissed way too fast is the Bird vs LBJ debate over best SF of all-time. Say what you want about athletic talent, Bird was a dominant player--a threpeat MVP--at arguably the most athletically demanding position on the court. Want to talk versatility? In separate years, Bird averaged 29.9 PTS, 11 REB, 7.6 AST, 2.0 STL and 1.2 BLK. Like LBJ, he played a good portion of his career without a true PG and the offense basically ran through him. Larry turned the ball over a bit less than LBJ as well. This was a guy who took a big portion of his shots from 18' and beyond as a high usage player and he averaged just shy of 50% shooting over his career. Post game? Outstanding--great foot work, almost unblockable fadeaway, baby hooks, up and under as well. Speaking of shooting, he was shooting over 40% from 3pt when it was uncommon to do so . . . to go along with making 88.6% of his career FT. Defensively, Bird was underrated due to his sharp physical decline--this is a guy who made a few all-defensive 2nd teams guarding both forward positions pretty well.

While it is a great argument as to which one was better, let's not pretend that it is only a Jordan/LBJ conversation. LBJ needs to be compared to Bird as well as Magic, Oscar, Kareem, Wilt and Russell. Basketball was played before 1992.

Bird's ELO is 2nd all-time, LBJ's is 9th.

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