LeBron James embracing role at 4

Look for Amar'e Stoudemire and Serge Ibaka to have big weeks

Originally Published: January 17, 2013
By Bradford Doolittle | Basketball Prospectus
 LeBron JamesSam Forencich/NBAE via Getty ImagesLeBron James has embraced his role at the 4 when he's needed there.

All season, it's been tough to think of fresh blurbs to write about LeBron James, simply because you run out of superlatives, and there is never really any part of his game that merits criticism. He's good. He's the best. He's so remarkably consistent, you can set your watch by his nightly box score line. In this week's Barometer, we've finally got something unusual to observe about James, and it's got nothing to do with the fact that on Wednesday against Golden State, he became the youngest player to reach 20,000 points.

No, what's striking about James' week is this: He didn't qualify for the Barometer. With Miami going through a rough stretch and rebounding being the most obvious culprit in the slump, Erik Spoelstra has veered off a bit from his pace-and-space philosophy. Last week, we coded James for just 27 minutes as a power forward, leaving him three shy of qualifying for both this week's rankings and next week's projections. He spent 77 percent of his court time at small forward, the position at which he's starred for the past decade.

James still earns a coveted spot in the Barometer by maintaining his throne atop the season rankings. He's more than 500 minutes over the minimum for qualifying in that category, so he's a sure bet to maintain his status as the game's best "big man" -- for this season at least. As for the pace-and-space experiment, it'll be interesting to see what happens in the weeks leading up to the trade deadline. If Spoelstra determines that's he's got to have a center on the floor in most of his configurations, then lineups with James at 4 may become more the exception than the rule.

Details on how the Big Man Barometer is compiled and the true position system can be found here.

Top 10 Big Man Performances

Week of Jan. 9-15; players listed by winning percentage. Any player who played at least 30 minutes total at center or power forward last week is eligible for the rankings. Also included at the bottom are big man projections for next week.

1. Kevin Durant | Oklahoma City Thunder (.856)

Durant

Poor Kevin Durant was forced to play more out of position with Serge Ibaka out of the lineup. During four Thunder wins, Durant struggled his way to 35.5 points per game on 57 percent shooting.

Clearly he was overmatched. Durant is still at least a couple of years away from truly challenging James' title as the NBA's best player, but he may be ready to wrest the MVP award away from the King this season.