“You’re just witnessing greatness,” Indiana Pacers center Myles Turner said on the “Run Your Race” podcast on September 12. “F*** you mean? … One of the smartest m************ I have ever played against. “His influence on the game is crazy. His vision — people don’t talk about his vision enough.”
James became the NBA’s all-time leading scorer last season, surpassing Lakers legend Kareem-Abdul Jabar. But James also ranks fourth on the all-time assists leaderboard after jumping three spots last season, putting a real number to his passing ability.
“He doesn’t have to score to be effective,” Turner said. “That’s why he’s able to be in the league as old as he is today bro he sees things before it happens.”
James could have a difficult time climbing higher on the list: he has 1,081 fewer assists than Chris Paul who not only sits in third but is also still active. Expected to play a significant role if not start for the Golden State Warriors, Paul will add to his totals as James well, likely keeping both in their current spots on the list.
While James dished out a career-high 684 assists in 2019-20, he has averaged 358 assists per season over the last three campaigns. Passing Paul, let alone catching up to Jason Kidd who sits in the No. 2 spot.
Turner also described a moment when James put his IQ on display.
As he moves into the latter stages of his career and injuries pile up, and with the scoring title already in hand, perhaps James transitions into even more of a pass-first player.
He seems to be getting a helping hand from Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka.
Lakers Easing Burden on LeBron James
“The thing is, now that he’s coming toward the end of a career, his game is not coming toward the end of his productivity,” former Lakers star A.C. Green said via YouTube’s “Scoop B Selects” with host, Brandon “Scoop B” Robinson on August 8.
“I’m also happy that Rob Pelinka is bringing the resources around to help lighten the load a little bit where he doesn’t have to feel he’s got to carry that torch and baton every single game.”
Pelinka’s latest move, signing Jarred Vanderbilt to a four-year, $46 million contract should certainly lighten the defensive burden even further. Meanwhile, free agent addition Gabe Vincent is thought to be a “seamless fit” alongside James with his ability to set the table as a playmaker or shoot from long distance with efficiency playing off the ball.
Lakers Have Maintained Roster Flexibility
Russell was re-signed on a two-year, $36 million contract. But there is a belief that he is a prime trade candidate closer to the deadline, especially with Vincent around, Austin Reaves set to be “featured” by head coach Darvin Ham, and James having the ball in his hands as much as he does.
Russell is fully bought into what Ham is selling for the group, and they are said to still be high on his fit with this group.
But Pelinka has shown he will be aggressive when the opportunity arises.