“I’m still getting better. I don’t want to be the same player I was this past season, I want to come into this season a new, improved, better LeBron James. We’ll see what happens, man. But I will come back a better player.” – LeBron James
Scary thought, huh? However, LeBron James is not the only superstar that will be working hard this off-season to improve. Everyone has different opinions on who makes the cut as a superstar, so we have selected the top 5 in MVP voting from last season. No room to argue there, right?
1) LeBron James
Outside Shooting: One of the biggest knocks on LeBron’s game has been his perimeter shooting, but coming off a season where he shot a career-high 40.6% of three pointers, it seems like it’s not a weakness anymore. However, the truth is LeBron’s shooting ability can sometimes become a liability in his game. Game 3 of the 2013 NBA Finals is a great example. The Spurs dared LeBron to shoot, and he did… as he slumped to a measly 7-of-21 shooting.
On-Ball Defense: LeBron is a great defender, do not get me wrong. But with his raw athleticism, and for the best player in the league, he gets blown by a bit too much off the dribble. James has publicly stated that he wants to win the Defensive Player of the Year award; but the truth is, he hasn’t deserved it. Not yet, anyway.
Free Throws: Not much of a major concern as James still hits 75% of his free- throws, but it would be nice if he could get the figure up to 80%. He’s the only player on this list not to have averaged 80% from the stripe over a season.
2) Kevin Durant
Aggression: Kevin Durant is a great scorer, and he isn’t the youngest scoring champion ever for nothing. But it has long been a mystery as to how Russell Westbrook averages more attempts than Durant himself. Often, Durant seems too passive on offense as he literally stands around, watching Westbrook creating shots (sometimes ill-advised ones) for himself, instead of relentlessly making cuts and looking for the open space to shoot or drive. He still has managed to lead the league in scoring multiple times despite this, which makes one wonder: what if Durant had the same aggression to shoot as much as Westbrook? 35+ PPG, doesn’t seem too ridiculous.
Passing: When Durant isn’t scoring, Durant could use opportunities to create better looks for his teammates. However, he doesn’t use his ability to draw defenders enough, as he can easily drive and dish to open teammates. Two seasons ago, he averaged only 2.7 APG. Now he’s bumped that figure to 4.5 APG, but he should look at LeBron’s career average of 6.9 APG as an indication as to where he should be.
3) Carmelo Anthony
Efficiency: Carmelo’s main weapon is his scoring ability, becoming arguably the most versatile scorer today. However, he doesn’t score with elite efficiency. He has never shot over 50% in a season, and only once shot over 40% from three. If he can get averages of 48% FG and 40% 3PT next season, he’ll be moving in the right direction.
Team Play: As a high volume shooter, sometimes he can make the Knicks’ offense stagnant as other teammates stand around while Melo creates his own offense, instead of moving the ball. This can disrupt team flow, and his recent statistic of 2.6 APG proves this.
Defense: For a superstar, Carmelo gets away with his defense, or lack of it. He’s never made an NBA All-Defensive Team, and has never been in the conversation for it either. It may be too late for him to start becoming a lock-down defender, but at times he can put in more effort than shown.
4) Chris Paul
Scoring: Here’s the thing about Chris Paul: sometimes he’s too unselfish! There isn’t a lot about CP3’s game to criticize, but this season he was simply let down by his teammates’ production in the playoffs. He’s a pass first point-guard, but sometimes he needs to take the killer instinct and score points when it’s needed. His PPG dropped from 19.8 to 16.9 over the season, and he should try to get that to around 21 PPG for next season.
5) Kobe Bryant
Team Play: Like Carmelo Anthony, Kobe Bryant’s isolation basketball plays can often stagnate his team’s offense, and instead he could elevate his game by becoming more of a facilitator than a pure scorer. We saw flashes of this last season, and Kobe has said he will return to playing the facilitator role. If he does, expect Kobe to post a new career high in assists per game, and also for assists in a single game.
Efficiency: Once again like Anthony, Kobe has never been known for his efficiency. This is partly due to the amazingly difficult shots he takes, but Kobe has never shot over 47% from the field, or 40% from downtown. To improve this, Kobe will need to improve his shot selection. It would be better for his Achilles if Kobe becomes more of an efficient scorer anyway.