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Sports Betting Will LeBron become the greatest scorer of all time?

Discussion in 'Sports Betting Forum | Sportsbook Forum' started by Hman, Mar 6, 2019.

  1. Hman

    Hman Guest

    Will LeBron become the greatest scorer of all time?


    Will LeBron James eventually become the NBA's all-time leading scorer?

    James is 13 points away from passing Michael Jordan for fourth place on the career scoring list, trailing a trio of players who finished their careers with the Los Angeles Lakers: Kobe Bryant (fewer than 1,400 points away), Karl Malone (still more than 4,600 points away) and all-time leader Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (a little more than 6,100 points away).

    Given James is just 34 years old, he should have plenty of time left to pursue the three players ahead of him and possibly become the league's leading scorer. What kind of scoring can we expect from him in future seasons, and what are his chances of catching Abdul-Jabbar to become the GOAT scorer? Let's take a look with the help of my SCHOENE projection system.

    How well can LeBron be expected to score?

    Here's an amazing stat: James' 27.4 points per 36 minutes so far this season are tied with his 2009-10 average -- when he won the second of his four MVP trophies -- for the best mark of his career. While James has done an amazing job of staving off the effects of aging, this is mostly a function of playing for the fourth-fastest team in term of possessions per game in a league that has sped up as a whole. Per 100 team possessions, James' 35.3 points are his fourth-lowest career mark, according to Basketball-Reference.com, and down more than a point from last season (36.4).

    Based on the typical aging curve for players, SCHOENE projects a bigger dip next season to 32.2 points per 100 possessions, followed by gradually progressing decline from there:

    Projected Scoring Per 100 Possessions

    POINTS PER 100​
    How much can LeBron be expected to play?

    Besides slowing down in terms of scoring productivity, James also figures to spend less time on the court as he continues into his mid-30s and beyond. His 35.7 minutes per game this season are his second-lowest ever, after James led the league in this category during his final two seasons in Cleveland.

    To help project James' future, let's use multiple-season MVPs who retired after the ABA-NBA merger as a comparison group. I also omitted Magic Johnson due to his early retirement.

    The remaining eight players (Abdul-Jabbar, Jordan, Malone, Larry Bird, Tim Duncan, Julius Erving, Moses Malone and Steve Nash) averaged 35.9 minutes per game from their age-30 to age-34 seasons (using the Basketball-Reference convention of age as of Feb. 1 of the year), which is similar to James' 36.4 MPG so far over that span. At age 35, their playing time had dropped 10 percent from that early-30s average; and by their age-37 season, they were down 20 percent.

    Running the same exercise with games played and applying the averages to James' totals from ages 30 to 34 yields the following estimates:

    Projected LeBron Playing Time

    63 32.9
    70 33.5
    59 28.9
    65 29.9
    59 28.7
    42 27.1
    The games played totals in particular feel low here. Odds are that James will beat the projection in any given season, but the possibility of a serious, season-ending injury means his expected games played is much lower than the typical number of games played.
    How long can LeBron be expected to play?

    Besides health, the biggest variable that will determine James' final point total -- and chances of catching Abdul-Jabbar -- is how long he decides to play. So far, I've used age 40 for James' final season, because just one member of the comparison group -- Abdul-Jabbar -- played beyond age 40. Based on what we've projected for James in terms of per-possession scoring and playing time, here's how he might add to his scoring total.

    Projected LeBron Scoring

    22.8 1435
    22.0 1534
    17.8 1047
    17.1 1115
    15.1 889
    12.9 546
    These are surely conservative projections. James hasn't averaged fewer than 25 points per game since his rookie season, and between less playing time and a lower usage rate, we're projecting James to drop off by 4.2 points per game next season before continuing to drop. Still, this would be more than 6,500 points for James -- more than enough to pass Kareem, without even factoring in what he scores the rest of this season.

    It remains to be seen whether becoming the NBA's all-time leading scorer is an important goal for James. After all, counting stats don't have the same relevance to the debate over the NBA's greatest of all time that they do in baseball. Instead, it's championship rings -- particularly as a team's best player -- that carry more weight in the historical discussion.

    Nonetheless, James might become the league's leading scorer without making it a priority. Having come to the league directly out of high school, he benefited from a head start on the likes of Abdul-Jabbar and Karl Malone (who both spent four years in college) and Jordan (three, not to mention his pair of retirements). James capitalized on that opportunity with metronomic consistency. This will surely be his 15th consecutive season averaging at least 25 point per game; according to Basketball-Reference.com, nobody else in league history has reached that mark more than 12 total times in their career.

    Because a serious injury could both take James off the court and slow him down as a player, as we saw with Bryant's Achilles rupture, there's no guarantee that he'll catch Abdul-Jabbar. Barring something like that or James deciding to walk away while he can still contribute, he appears to be well on his way to becoming the NBA's GOAT scorer.


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