As LeBron James enters his 17th NBA season, Bleacher Report is taking a look at where the four-time MVP sits in the history books in several statistical categories now, after his projected 2019-20 season and following the remainder of his Hall of Fame career.
Already near the top of the all-time leaderboards in numerous categories, James has passed some of the game's greatest players, and even more legends are about to be bumped down the rankings.
First up in this series was total minutes played, both in the regular season and postseason. In part two of All the King's Records, we look at where James could finish his career in all-time blocks, steals and rebounds.
Blocks: 2019-20 and Future Projections
When attempting to predict James' stats both now and in the future, we'll once again be basing his numbers on 71 games played per season, as that's the average amount of time he's spent on the court over the past five years. That allows James to miss 11 total games for injury or rest.
Projecting his final career standings for all stats is done under the assumption he'll play five more years, meaning a retirement at age 39 following 21 total seasons.
Despite his size and athleticism, James has never been a true shot-blocking threat, as is the case with most wings. While he owns a highlight reel of chase-down blocks, spending 70 percent of his career court time at either small forward or a guard position and not in the paint has limited his rise in this category. His career high is 1.1 blocks per game, achieved during both the 2007-08 and 2008-09 seasons. Over James' 16-year career, he owns an average of 0.8 rejections per contest.
Still, his longevity puts him near the top 100 players of all time, sitting at No. 110 overall heading into the 2019-20 season.
Projecting where James goes from here can be tricky. Those who have watched his regular-season defense over the past few years know his effort level can be lacking at times, which certainly takes away the number of chase-downs. His 0.6 blocks per game last season tied for the second-lowest average of his career.
There's also the matter of where the Lakers will choose to play him. In his final season with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2017-18, James spent 63 percent of his court time at power forward and center, resulting in a spike in his blocks (0.9 per game). That number dropped to just 37 percent last year, which helps explain his lack of rejections.
With the additions of Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins and Jared Dudley, along with the returns of Kyle Kuzma and JaVale McGee, James could see even less time in the post.
The extra time on the wing, combined with a declining enthusiasm for regular-season defense in general, means James' block average could continue to slip. But he's averaged 0.6 blocks per game in three of the last four seasons, so that seems like an accurate projection for 2019-20, as well.
Swatting 0.6 shots per contest over a 71-game sample would result in 43 total blocks and move his career total from 921 to a projected 964. That would spark only a slight move up from 110th to 101st overall on the all-time leaderboard.
Such a jump would mean passing players like Scottie Pippen, Sam Perkins and former Miami Heat teammate Chris Bosh while putting James one block behind No. 100 Bill Laimbeer. James is also in the company of some current players (Paul Millsap, Al Horford, Robin Lopez, Rudy Gobert) who could either continue their climbs above him or surpass the 34-year-old in the standings.
If James maintains his 0.6 blocks per game over the next five years, here's where he'd finish in all-time rejections without factoring in movement from other current players:
|LeBron James Career Blocks Projection|
Finishing 66th overall in NBA history, while a far cry from most of his other statistical categories, would still be a remarkable feat for someone who's never been considered a traditional shot-blocker.
James should retain the athleticism needed to move into the all-time top 70 and would be one of the few non-bigs to make the list.
James' Current Rank: No. 110 overall
Projected 2019-20 Rank: No. 101 overall
Projected Career Rank: No. 66 overall
Steals: 2019-20 and Future Projections
Though this wasn't the case with blocks, James will finish his career as one of the top steals leaders in league history.
He's swiped 1.6 passes per game over his 16 seasons, resulting in 1,937 total thefts. During his sophomore season in 2004-05, James' career-high 2.2 steals per game ranked third in the NBA behind Allen Iverson (2.4) and Larry Hughes (2.9).
Given the amount of time he's spent on the wing guarding perimeter players and reading incoming passes, it's no surprise James is already so high on the leaderboard at 16th overall. Only one active NBA player (Chris Paul, ninth) remains ahead.
The battle for James now involves physically playing passing lanes, locking down defenders in one-on-one situations and exerting the extra defensive effort to continue racking up steals. While he may slide in those areas, his knowledge of opponents, experience against them and remarkable mental preparation should lead to him being in the right spots at the right times to pick off passes.
James has averaged 1.6 steals per game for his career, but that number decreased to 1.3 last season—the same as his average over the past three years. Projecting an equivalent number over 71 healthy contests results in a jump from 1,937 career takeaways to 2,029 and a corresponding three-spot move up the leaderboard.
Here's where James would finish in five years at this same pace without factoring in Paul's continued thievery:
|LeBron James Career Steals Projection|
Depending on how long Paul decides to play, James projects to finish at either No. 5 or No. 6 on the all-time steals list, potentially trailing only John Stockton (3,265), Jason Kidd (2,684), Michael Jordan (2,514) and Gary Payton (2,445).
This season alone, James should pass Kobe Bryant (1,944), Derek Harper (1,957) and Iverson (1,983).
While he won't come close to the 2.2 steals per game he recorded 15 years ago, his IQ and ability to read opponents should help him maintain a steady climb up the all-time steals list.
James' Current Rank: No. 16 overall
Projected 2019-20 Rank: No. 13 overall
Projected Career Rank: No. 5 overall
Rebounds: 2019-20 and Future Projections
Given his 6'8", 250-pound frame, James has always been an excellent rebounder for his position. He has the combination of athleticism and knowledge of positioning to post 7.4 boards per game for his career.
Unlike most of his other statistical categories, James' rebounding has increased in the last few seasons, up to 8.5 per game or higher each of the past three years.
However, that's a streak that will likely start trending back toward his career average.
James led the Lakers in rebounding last season, which is almost guaranteed not to happen again with Davis now on the team. Davis grabbed 12.0 boards per night for the New Orleans Pelicans last season and owns a career average of 10.5. His presence on the glass, combined with Cousins' 8.2 rebounds per game for the Golden State Warriors last year (10.9 for his career), means James' opportunities will inevitably go down.
Instead, his average over the past five years (7.8) should be a more accurate representation than the 8.5 he pulled down a year ago. Even as his career progresses, spending more time in the post and less on the wing should allow his chances on the glass to stay steady over the next five years.
Grabbing 7.8 rebounds per game over 71 contests would result in a jump from 8,880 career boards to 9,434, moving James from 54th to 47th overall. That would mean passing players like Larry Bird, Elton Brand, Artis Gilmore and Vlade Divac. As was the case with blocks and steals, this projection does not factor in active players, as Brooklyn Nets center DeAndre Jordan is currently in 53rd place, just 10 total rebounds ahead of James.
Here's where James projects to finish in total rebounding should he play five more years at the given rate:
|LeBron James Career Rebounds Projection|
If James passes Elgin Baylor (currently 27th overall with 11,463 rebounds), he'd be the all-time leader among small forwards. Moving up to No. 25 would mean passing Hall of Fame centers Dave Cowens, David Robinson, Jack Sikma and Patrick Ewing.
While rebounding certainly isn't one of the most prominent aspects of James' game, the fact he can still finish in the all-time top 25 is remarkable.
James' Current Rank: No. 54 overall
Projected 2019-20 Rank: No. 47 overall
Projected Career Rank: No. 25 overall
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