LeBron James: Breaking Down What Makes Him Completely Unguardable

Roy BurtonContributor IAugust 21, 2012

MIAMI, FL - JUNE 19:  LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat looks on during pregame against the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game Four of the 2012 NBA Finals on June 19, 2012 at American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Whether LeBron James is a perimeter player with the size of a power forward or a big man with the speed and quickness of a shooting guard is a matter of personal opinion. Either way, he's the most unguardable player in the NBA.

With all apologies to Dwight Howard and Shaquille O'Neal, James is the closest thing the NBA has to Superman.

Faster than a speeding bullet... More powerful than a locomotive... Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound...

James' stats and skill set are typically only seen on video games. His ability to play four positions has resulted in countless sleepless nights for opposing coaches. Even the league's most heralded lockdown defenders have yet to find the Rosetta Stone that will help them decipher the mystery of King James.

As a member of the Philadelphia 76ers for the past eight seasons, Andre Iguodala (now of the Denver Nuggets) was frequently tasked with guarding James. Yet in 25 career regular-season meetings against Iguodala, James averaged 28.9 points, 7.0 rebounds and 7.0 assists.

Now Iguodala didn't have sole responsibility for checking James at all times, but the two tallied a similar number of minutes in those matchups (41.1 minutes per game for James as compared to 38.9 for Iguodala). Furthermore, one can also safely assume that whenever Iguodala was on the court, his primary responsibility was to shadow James, even at the expense of his own offensive output.

James may be a tough cover in a half-court set, but he's nearly impossible to defend in transition. Below is a play from January that shows just how powerless most teams are when the Miami Heat get out on the fast break. In the span of five seconds, James corrals a rebound, throws an outlet pass to Dwyane Wade, sprints the length of the court and fills the lane to perfection as Wade sets him up for a one-handed throwdown.

Just to prove that the sequence above wasn't an outlier: According to Synergy Sports, James averaged 1.42 points per possession in transition this past season, shooting a ridiculous 75.1 percent from the floor.

Overall, James was 23rd in the league in points per possession (1.04 PPP) in 2011-12. And his low-post game that people always find a way to criticize? Well, James shot 54.4 percent on his post-up attempts in 2010-11 and 49.4 percent last season.

Simply put, if James wants to mix it up in the paint, very few wing players in the league can stop him. In the clip below, Corey Maggette gives a valiant effort but is simply no match for James' 250-pound assault.

In fact, the only one who can check James is himself. He often settles for contested 23-footers when his talent in getting to the rack and finishing is without peer (James scored on 75.4 percent of his attempts at the rim last season). In 2011-12, James made a concerted effort to cut down on his ill-advised, long-range jumpers. As a result, he shot a career-best 53.1 percent from the field.

And as incredible as it may seem, James may just now be entering his prime.

"Just watching LeBron play, I mean he's just playing at a different gear right now," said Wade in an interview with the South Florida Sun-Sentinel on Friday, adding, "I think we'll continue to see a better LeBron James—it's scary to say, a three-time MVP—than we've seen."

A "better" LeBron James is a sobering thought for 29 NBA teams. After all...he's already the most unstoppable player in the league today.