Where the Universally Skilled LeBron James Ranks at Every Position
His game is so versatile, in fact, that it's not truly defined by any one position.
James can handle the basketball as well as any guard in the NBA. He can rebound with the league's elite and score from all over the court.
For this article, I am ranking James' game at each position. I am assessing his current body of work purely by the standards of that position in determining each ranking.
The position groups are based on how ESPN.com lists each player. James, for example, is listed as a small forward.
I did not include Derrick Rose, Andrew Bynum or any other player who has missed considerable time this year in these rankings.
Each is based on production to date this season specifically.
Point Guard Ranking: 5
Chris Paul is the best point guard in the NBA when assessed purely by point guard standards.
After Paul, Rajon Rondo, Russell Westbrook and Tony Parker currently round out the top four.
At fifth overall, just ahead of Kyrie Irving, Deron Williams, Jrue Holiday and any other point guard in the NBA, is LeBron James.
He's doing this while also averaging the fourth-most points in the NBA.
As further evidence of his point guard prowess, in every season James has played since entering the league, he's finished no worse than 15th overall in assists.
Shooting Guard Ranking: 2
Kobe Bryant is still a better shooting guard than LeBron James.
After Bryant, however, James ranks second. He's slotted just ahead of James Harden, teammate Dwyane Wade and every other NBA player at the position.
The 41.4 percent from three-point range that LeBron is currently shooting this season is a career high.
That percentage is also better than all but one of the 12 highest-scoring shooting guards in the league right now (O.J. Mayo).
Bryant is the only shooting guard scoring more overall than the 26.5 points James is currently averaging. There is no shooting guard averaging more assists.
James Harden and Tony Allen are the only shooting guards averaging more steals.
As we've seen throughout his career as well, there is no better player in the game attacking the basket from the wing position.
Whether it's from the right side or the left, when James makes up his mind there is no stopping him.
Small Forward Ranking: 1
LeBron James is the best all-around small forward in the NBA.
Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant are the only two small forwards scoring more than James this season as of Thursday.
Each player, however, is only averaging 2.7 and 1.9 more points, respectively.
In terms of assists, James ranks first at his position by a margin of nearly three per game.
He's also first in rebounding at 8.6 when compared to other small forwards.
I understand that he has spent considerable time at power forward this year out of necessity, but James is still the best small forward in league.
Power Forward Ranking: 5
By this time next season, LeBron James could become the best power forward in the NBA.
In order to get there, though, he needs to improve his rebounding.
From a statistical standpoint, James' all-around game currently ranks him fifth in terms of the power forward position.
On the strength of rebounding more than James while also scoring at a high rate, Kevin Love, Zach Randolph, David Lee and Tim Duncan make up the top four at the position.
James is then slotted fifth, just ahead of Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge.
In terms of rebounding, James needs to improve his work on the offensive glass specifically. He only averages 1.3 offensive rebounds per game this season. Kevin Love, for example, averages 3.5.
Center Ranking: 11
LeBron James' rebounding would rank him 12th in the NBA in terms of centers.
His field-goal percentage of 54.4 would rank 24th.
James would be an undersized center when compared to the Dwight Howards and Roy Hibberts of the world.
Conversely, his athleticism would make him almost unstoppable for the Al Jeffersons and Al Horfords of the league.
I'm not totally sure how that dynamic of James' game would play out at the center position over the course of an 82-game NBA season.
If he was forced to bang on the low block, it might prove difficult for James at times.
If he forced his defender to guard him in space though, seven or 10 feet from the basket, there isn't a center in the NBA who can guard him.
With that in mind, I'm ranking LeBron just outside the top third in terms of NBA starting centers at 11th overall.
I think he could be higher than that, but based on the fact that James has never really played center before, there isn't enough evidence to support that claim.