When LeBron James made the decision to "take his talents to South Beach," he was hoping that by joining up with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh the Miami Heat would win not one, not two, not three, not four, not five, not six ... well, you know the deal. James believed that by teaming up with two fellow All-Stars, he wouldn't have to single-handily carry a team as they could share his burden. And while James' seven championship rings proclamation didn't come true in Miami, overall the Big 3 of the Heat played off each other exceptionally well and won two championships together.
James made a similar decision when he signed with the Cleveland Cavaliers last year. Knowing that Wade and Bosh couldn't help him carry a team forever, James went back home to the Cavs to team up with Kyrie Irving, one of the best young point guards in the league. James then urged the Cavs to trade for Kevin Love, which they did, adding one of the better young forwards in the league to the team. With Love and Irving, James would be playing with two young and blossoming players that could slowly take on a larger role as he got older and couldn't be as dominant anymore.
A smart decision by James, which is starting to pay off. The Cavs got to the Finals last year but that was due in large part to James as both Irving and Love were injured for large parts of the postseason. Love was out after the first round and Irving missed a few games of the Eastern Conference Finals and then got injured in Game 1 of the Finals, ending his postseason prematurely. This year though, things are much different.
With Irving and Love healthy, James and the Cavs have been unbeatable in the playoffs, sweeping the first two rounds. Both Irving and Love have stepped up in the postseason which has resulted in James being able to take on a lesser role. James is playing at a high level, averaging 23.5 points, but that is the lowest mark of his 11-year postseason career. This is of course because of Love and Irving and the added responsibility they've shouldered. In fact, according to Cavs coach Tyronn Lue, this is the first time in LeBron's career that he is getting the necessary support.
From ESPN's Dave McMenamin:
"LeBron is letting the game come to him," Lue said after practice Saturday. "When he wants to be aggressive and he sees fit to be aggressive when the teams have a good run or whatever they may have, then he just takes over the game ... And with Kyrie (Irving) and Kevin (Love) playing at a high level, he can take a lot of mileage off of his body, reduce his (usage) rate and just kind of seeing and figuring out the flow of the game."
"I don't think he's been in this position before where he can just sit back and see the flow of the game, see where he has to take over the game and it's been great for him," said Lue. "I mean, to average 23 points or 24 points and sweep both series is big for us because now our other guys are stepping up, they're playing well and we know LeBron always can play well."
Lue may be overlooking LeBron's tenure in Miami, when he teamed up with two phenomenal players in Wade and Bosh that helped him carry the workload. But Lue does have a point when it comes "to flow of the game."
With Irving, James doesn't have to facilitate the team's offense as much as he did in the past. Irving is the best point guard James has ever played with and he's allowed LeBron to experience a sense of freedom on offense. Love also helps James by helping on the boards and spacing the floor with his shooting.
James may have been in a similar situation in Miami but Love and Irving have definitely lessened his workload. James is averaging 38.8 minutes a game in the postseason, the second lowest mark of his career and, again, the Cavs have swept the first two rounds. And a less fatigued James is a huge advantage for the Cavs as they look to get to the Finals for the second straight year, where LeBron, who has been almost laying in wait throughout the postseason, will exert maximum effort.