Why LeBron Is No Longer A Top-10 Player

The day has come. LeBron is no longer a top 10 player. It’s strange to think or even say. He’s been elite since the George W. Bush administration. I remember following his ascension on sports talk radio on my Zune. However, his play has begun to slip in recent years and he isn’t able to dominate games like he used to. He’s still an outstanding player, but the coveted top 10 threshold atop the hierarchy of power in the NBA is now out of reach for the king.



If you aren’t watching LeBron you might assume he hasn’t declined much at all. He averaged 26 points a game, 7 rebounds, and 8 assists last season. Those box score numbers are almost identical to his career averages, but the analytics paint a different picture. LEBRON is an overall impact metric that estimates a player’s value that is coincidentally named after the player it is dethroning. Twice in the last three years he has finished outside the top-10 in LEBRON. If you look over the last decade he’s clearly declined in his late 30s.

Here are his finishes on LEBRON over the years:

2015: 6th

2016: 1st

2017: 5th

2018: 10th

2019: 9th (First season as a Laker)

2020: 4th

2021: 6th

2022: 14th

2023: 10th

2024: 19th

At his best, he could control games from start to finish, but at his advanced age, he lacks the stamina to do so anymore. He has to pick his spots on both ends of the court instead of holding down the turbo button all game.



LeBron’s dominance on the offensive side of the ball has faded. O-LEBRON is the offensive portion of LEBRON and it is broken down into two main components, O-LEBRON Box (weighted box score numbers) and Luck Adjusted ORAPM (fancy plus/minus). O-LEBRON Box takes all of a player’s box score stats, weights them by importance, and compresses them into one number. Luck Adjusted ORAPM is the plus/minus portion that looks at how much better or worse a team is when a player is on/off the court on offense. It also adjusts for lineup strength and how players perform relative to their norms. 

Here are his finishes in O-LEBRON Box/Luck Adjusted ORAPM over the years:

2015: 5th/6th

2016: 4th/ 3rd

2017: 6th/2nd

2018: 3rd/2nd

2019: 8th/15th 

2020: 5th/ 4th

2021: 15th/7th

2022: 8th/34th

2023: 15th/12th

2024: 19th/17th


Both in 2023 and 24 he failed to finish inside the top 10 in either the box score or plus/minus portions of O-LEBRON. He can’t dictate possessions like he used to because of his diminished burst. In the past, he could shed defenders with ease but now he’s stone-walled on the perimeter more often. He averaged almost 15 drives/75 in 2020 and that was down by almost a third in 2024. His Self Created Shot Making is also concerning. He’s finished outside the top 20 in both of the last two seasons. Shot making stats look at your expected eFG% vs your actual eFG% based on shot quality. He was the crème de la crème in Self-Created Shot Making as a Cavalier but things have been rockier as a Laker. 

Here are his finishes in Self-Created Shot Making by season:

2015: 1st

2016: 4th

2017: 2nd

2018: 1st

2019: 5th (First season as a Laker)

2020: 26th

2021: 14th

2022: 8th

2023: 58th

2024: 24th



LeBron’s defense has also slowed over the years. The first half of his Lakers tenure had him as a clear positive and the last three seasons have been closer to average. A bulk of his defensive value comes from his rebounding and a bit of rim protection. However, he’s lost the ability to hang with quicker players on the perimeter. His change of direction and lateral quickness are nowhere near where they used to be. Because of that, he profiles as a 4 on defense in the helper role, rotating from the corner. He’s already one of the most stationary defenders in the league (2nd% in Defensive miles/75) and his Passing Lane Defense (deflections and intercepted passes) has declined from his younger years (51st percentile in 2024).

D-LEBRON percentile over the years as a Laker:

2019: 85th% 

2020: 86th%

2021: 91st%

2022: 73rd%

2023: 69th%

2024: 43rd%



There are still a lot of good things about LeBron’s game. He finishes at the basket very well, his playmaking is still elite, and he was able to appear in 71 games last season. His playmaking and size give him a built-in floor in terms of overall value and he was a fringe All-NBA player in 2024. Everything would have to break right for him to repeat that level of play in his 40s. He has to manage his energy expenditure on a nightly basis which limits his impact. Offensively, when his energy is wasted you can see the visible frustration on his face. Not only because his teammates missed an opportunity on something like a well-timed cut, but also because he knows his gas tank is that much closer to empty for the night. Defensively, he is often matched up with the opposing team’s worst offensive player greatly reducing his on-ball responsibilities. His energy management also causes him to punt on possessions by not rotating or closing out. His days as a top-10 player are over. He is declining on both sides of the ball and there is a mountain of data to back up the claim.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.