Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press
LeBron James is pursuing his 10th NBA Finals appearance and fourth championship, his first with the Los Angeles Lakers and teammate Anthony Davis.
James has played with some great players through his stints with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Miami Heat. How does Davis stack up? Is he the best big man James has ever had since joining the NBA in 2003? Is he James’ best teammate altogether?
Davis may not have a title on his resume (check back in about a month), but his individual talent and ability to complement James to near perfection positions the Lakers forward/center as the ideal partner.
The Big Men
James made his first NBA Finals appearance in 2007, a four-game sweep by Tim Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs. In the middle was 7’3″ center Zydrunas Ilgauskas.
“The fact that he got Cleveland to the Finals during his first go-around there is probably more of a miracle than anything else he accomplished in his career,” an Eastern Conference executive said.
The second-leading scorer on the squad was Larry Hughes (14.9 points per game), followed by Ilgauskas (11.9) and then Drew Gooden (11.1).
“Z is a cult hero [in Cleveland],” a former Western Conference executive said. “If he played now, he’d be a perennial All-Star.”
Beyond a bit of sentimental value for Ilgauskas, the heart of the debate is Davis vs. Chris Bosh and Kevin Love.
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“I don’t even think it’s close. AD is way better than any of those guys,” the Eastern Conference executive said. “Bosh and Love are really good players, but AD is at another level.”
“Bosh was strong, but AD has nearly realized [his] MVP potential,” Andre’ Snellings of ESPN said. “When factoring in fit, I might say Davis is the best partner at any position LeBron ever had.”
Bosh’s best individual season with James and the Heat was the 2010-11 campaign, when he averaged 18.7 points and 8.3 rebounds per game, but his efficiency and shot-blocking improved in later seasons as his scoring and rebounding dipped.
“AD is better than Bosh, but Bosh was a beast,” the former Western Conference executive said.
Through the 2019-20 regular season, Davis averaged 26.1 points and 9.3 rebounds. His 3.2 assists, 2.3 blocks and 1.5 steals per game were higher than Bosh and Love contributed in any one season.
“Davis is more talented,” a current Western Conference executive said. “Bosh is closest in terms of size, length and athleticism, mixed with shooting touch and rim protection—but Davis is a different class.”
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Despite his championship earned in 2016 with Jam