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2007 Cleveland Cavaliers vs. 2022 Los Angeles Lakers: Is Young LeBron Better Than Old LeBron?

2007 Cleveland Cavaliers vs. 2022 Los Angeles Lakers: Is Young LeBron Better Than Old LeBron?

The 2007 Cleveland Cavaliers squad led by LeBron James definitely overachieved, because they made the NBA Finals after finishing with the number two seed in the Central Division. Ranked 4th in defense, the Cavaliers were a dominant team at preventing easy shots from the perimeter and around the rim, and had a superstar in LeBron to carry the offense. King James was only 22 but might have been the most physically imposing player in the league.

Meanwhile, the 2022 Lakers are going through a frustrating season so far. LeBron James is nearly 37 years old, Anthony Davis is injured and inconsistent, and Russell Westbrook has been a disaster in terms of being an efficient point guard. Despite three Hall of Famers on the squad, the Lakers are greatly underachieving. What if the 2007 Cavaliers and the 2022 Lakers competed against each other during a 7-game-series? Will the overachieving team have enough juice to defeat a superteam that does not fit well together? Or will the Lakers’ superstar talent blow the 2007 squad away? It is time to find out which LeBron James-led team comes out on top.

Larry Hughes vs. Russell Westbrook

Larry Hughes vs. Russell Westbrook

This matchup is interesting because Hughes and Westbrook are completely different players at the point guard position. Hughes is more of a shooter and passing point guard, while Russ prefers to attack the basket with reckless abandon. Alongside LeBron in Cleveland, Hughes was very effective in 2007 by averaging 14.9 PPG and 3.7 APG on 33.3% from three.

Meanwhile, Westbrook is having a strong statistical year but has not played alongside LeBron very well. The triple-double machine is great at grabbing rebounds and setting up teammates for shots, but he cannot shoot the three well (30.2%) and his free-throw shooting has been great (65.6%). Russ will dominate the stat sheet against Hughes, but the Cleveland guard will be more effective.

Sasha Pavlovic vs. Talen Horton-Tucker

Sasha Pavlovic vs. Talen Horton-Tucker

Both shooting guards were somewhat effective in their respective seasons. Pavlovic was on the roster because of his shooting, nailing 40.5% of his three-point shots with LeBron James setting him up. The 6’8” shooter was very effective at spotting up for shots and had the size to contest shots on defense despite his lack of explosiveness.

Horton-Tucker is easily a more talented all-around player than Pavlovic, although he has also had his struggles this season. The 21-year-old is averaging 10.0 PPG and 4.2 RPG on only 37.9% shooting from the field. Once again, Horton-Tucker will have better performances over the series than Pavlovic, but the sharpshooter will be more effective next to LeBron.

LeBron James vs. Carmelo Anthony

LeBron James vs. Carmelo Anthony

Prime LeBron James was a force that was unstoppably on a physical level. No player in the league could stop The King when he was ahead of steam, although not much has changed since the 2007 season. But LeBron was a locomotive in 2007, carrying the team on his back at times and scoring the ball at an elite level. The 22-year-old averaged 27.3 PPG, 6.7 RPG, and 6.0 APG; and carried his team in the playoffs (25.1 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 8.0 APG).

Meanwhile, 37-year-old Carmelo Anthony is having a great season considering his age and the amount of mileage on his legs. Carmelo is averaging 13.4 PPG and 4.2 RPG on 39.3% shooting from three, above-average numbers for a player of his age. There is no way Anthony will be able to keep up with a prime LeBron, and will likely switch onto Drew Gooden to prevent getting exposed.

Drew Gooden vs. LeBron James

Drew Gooden vs. LeBron James

The Cavaliers’ Drew Gooden was never a great player, but he was certainly effective as a paint protector and scrappy scorer around the rim. Gooden averaged 11.1 PPG and 8.5 RPG, nailing 47.3% of his field-goal attempts. The big man relied on LeBron James and even Larry Hughes to get him good looks because he was limited offensively although he possessed a solid mid-range jumper.

The 37-year-old LeBron James for the 2022 Lakers is once again playing at an elite level, even if the team's success does not reflect that. James is putting up extraordinary numbers (28.5 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 6.6 APG) for a player of his age and the number of years he has put into the game at a superstar level. Gooden will try to form a wall alongside Zydrunas Ilgauskas to stop LeBron from feeding around the rim, because no player can stop The King, even at 37 years old.

Zydrunas Ilgauskas vs. Anthony Davis

Zydrunas Ilgauskas vs. Anthony Davis

A 7-footer with long arms and a high basketball IQ, Zydrunas Ilgauskas was a very effective center because of his size and shooting ability. The big man averaged 11.9 PPG and 7.7 RPG during the 2007 season while blocking over 1 shot per game. Ilgauskas is one of the Cavaliers’ fans most liked player because he was always around the rim to haul in rebounds and make life easier for LeBron on the floor.

Anthony Davis is without a doubt a better player than Ilgauskas. He has superstar skills that can translate to being a franchise cornerstone, and he has shown that over his career. Unfortunately, Davis has not shown that in the 2022 season. The big man is putting up 23.3 PPG and 9.9 RPG this year but is only shooting 17.9% from three and 72.7% from the free-throw line. It is very likely that Davis will also not enjoy banging down low against a powerful man like Ilgauskas.

Cavaliers Advantage

The Cavaliers have the advantage of their defense. Even if the roster lacks big names other than LeBron, they certainly defended at an elite level. Making the NBA Finals is an indication that the team got it done on defense, especially when it was devoid of All-Star offensive talent outside of LeBron. Hughes was a solid defender, Pavlovic brought size to contest shots, Gooden made a career out of playing stout defense, and Ilgauskas was incredibly large and imposing around the rim. Of course, a 22-year-old LeBron James was always an imposing presence when defending on-ball guards and forwards. Head coach Mike Brown specialized in suffocating defenses, something the Lakers do not possess.

The Lakers are incredibly talented offensively but can be prone to turnovers and bad shots when pressured. Their head coach Frank Vogel is also a defensive specialist, but the roster is not built for that. The Cavaliers roster is built on role players who compete hard, so there will be 110% effort on defense from the “others” while a prime LeBron James takes over games. Not to mention, LeBron at 22 was a more dominant athlete than a 37-year-old King.

Lakers Advantage

One advantage of the Lakers is based on their superstar power. Even if the Lakers do not defend like the Cavaliers and rely too much on a much older LeBron, superstars have the tendency to take over games when they are feeling in the zone. The Lakers’ poor record in the West this season is down to the inconsistency of their superstars, but each player has had monster performances at some point this season. That means if Davis gets hot, he can win a game on his own unlike any player on the Cavaliers roster.

The same goes for Russell Westbrook, a (still) explosive point guard that can have big games if his shots fall. But the biggest advantage of the 2022 Lakers is the brain of LeBron James, a veteran who has competed in every playoff series that there is. The King was a more explosive athlete at 22, but he is definitely smarter now. With LeBron’s basketball IQ and raw superstar talent, they can overcome a much less talented Cavaliers squad.

Who Wins A Best-Of-7 Series?

This series will go both ways early on, as they split the first 4 games. Game 1 goes to the Lakers, with LeBron and Davis dominating the paint. Gooden and Ilgauskas struggle to keep up on the fast break, especially when Hughes and Cavs’ LeBron shoot poorly from the perimeter. Westbrook only has 3 turnovers, and the Lakers win a blow-out 112-98 victory.

Game 2 goes to the Cavaliers after LeBron James completes an and-1 with 10 seconds left in the fourth quarter. The game was back and forth early until the second half before the Cavaliers start building a lead behind their proficient three-point shooting. Pavlovic, Hughes, and James combine for 5 threes in the 3rd quarter. After the Lakers come back in the 4th, they run out of steam as King James gets the game-winning And-1 layup.

Game 3 once again goes down to the wire, but a costly Russell Westbrook turnover with a minute left gives the game over to the Cavaliers. With the game tied 92-92, Westbrook collects a missed LeBron jumper on the offensive rebound before forcing an errant pass to Carmelo in the corner. Westbrook overthrows the pass, giving the Cavaliers the ball. Cleveland’s LeBron drives and kicks to Pavlovic, who drains a three-pointer over a scrambling Horton-Tucker with 42 seconds remaining. The Lakers fail to get a good shot, and Cleveland win the game with free-throws to end the game.

Game 4 is all Lakers, with LeBron going for a 34-point triple-double. Davis and Westbrook play well, making up for the stinker they put up in Game 3. Lakers’ LeBron dominates the pace of the game, controlling tempo and setting up teammates with ease. A big 12-point third quarter by Carmelo puts the game out of reach, despite a valiant effort by the Cavs. The game ends 115-102 in favor of the Lakers.

Game 5 goes to OT, but the Lakers simply run out of steam. The Cavaliers make an effort to double and even triple-team the Lakers’ LeBron from the 4th quarter onwards, forcing others to beat them. That simply does not happen, as Carmelo goes 1-8 from three and Westbrook goes 0-5. Davis has a strong double-double with 23 points and 15 rebounds, but goes scoreless in OT. With the Lakers lacking offensive options outside of LeBron, Cleveland pull away.

The Lakers bounced back in Game 6, dealing with an aggressive defensive performance by the Cavaliers. Davis has his best game yet, dropping 39 points and 17 rebounds. LeBron is relatively quiet by his standards (21 points, 11 assists) and Westbrook grabs a triple-double. Cleveland struggle to deal with an efficient Davis who grabs 6 offensive rebounds in the game. With a dominant display, the Lakers have the momentum to win Game 7.

But it does not happen. The Lakers struggle to keep the ball, turning the ball over 15 times in the game. Astonishingly, Cleveland play at a controlled pace led by their prime version of LeBron James, and Mike Brown actually outcoaches Frank Vogel. The Cavaliers never rush on offense and focus on clamping down on LeBron and the Lakers. Westbrook commits 6 turnovers in the game, while Davis and James have 4 each. Cleveland focus on defense and let their MVP 22-year-old King to win the series for them.

Final Result: 2006-07 Cleveland Cavaliers vs. 2021-22 Los Angeles Lakers 4-3

Finals MVP: LeBron James


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