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Are LeBron James and Mo Williams a Duo Yet?

Published by on May 13, 2009

The theory exists that you need two stars to win a championship. Kobe couldn’t do it on his own, Dwyane Wade couldn’t do it on his own. Even His Airness never did it without Scottie. Having three stars on your squad, like last year’s Celtics, is certainly a bonus—but two is the minimum.

Incidentally, superhero duos are invariably uncool. Batman is cool; wimpy, lifestyle-ambiguous Robin is not. I consulted a friend who writes comics for a living to see if there were any really cool superhero twosomes. There aren’t.

The trade for Mo Williams last summer marks a tremendous change in the Cavs. There were other factors, too—consider LeBron’s Olympic experience, and his newfound dedication to defense since then—but the bottom line is that they won 21 more games this year than last.

Mo brought the perfect complement to LeBron. Though Bron-Bron has polished up his jump shot this year and become a threat from anywhere on the floor, his bread and butter is still putting the ball on the floor and rumbling his way into the lane.

Having Mo on the wing lets LeBron drive the lane, all five defenders contract on him, and then dish it out to the now-open Mo for the three.

It all goes back to Cleveland’s Game One loss against the Pistons in the 2007 Conference Finals. Down by three with seconds left, King James took the ball and pounded it into the lane. The Pistons saw it coming and gravitated toward the paint, leaving Donyell Marshall open for the spot-up, game-winning three. The problem?

He missed it.

LeBron took the flack for not taking the last shot upon himself—but didn’t he do the right thing?

This year, that doesn’t happen. LeBron dishes, and Mo—a clutch shot kind of guy—hits it. He shot a lights-out 43.6 percent from deep during the regular season, which is, by far, his career-best. Apparently no one playing for the Bucks (Mo’s previous team) could draw defenses away like LeBron.

In turn, the Cavs shot 46.8 percent from the field this year, up from 43.9 percent last year. Their 39.3 percent mark as a team from downtown is up from last year’s 35.8 percent. LeBron’s assist numbers are up to 9.2 per 48 minutes from 8.5—most likely because he’s got such a reliable shooter to kick out to.

The trade for Williams is already a good deal for Cleveland, regardless of what they gave up. But consider that they only gave up Damon Jones (6.5 points, 1.9 assists per game in ’07-’08) and Joe Smith—and after the Thunder released Smith he came back and signed with the Cavs again. Net result? Trading Damon Jones for Mo Williams.

Good trade.

Mo isn’t the only other piece making the Cavs tick, either. Starting Delonte West at the two-spot gives Cleveland another versatile weapon, someone who can shoot the J but also attack the basket.

Zydrunas Ilgauskas is white and bald but he’s a legitimate big man, reliable for 12 points and 8 boards a game.

Anderson Varejao, who has enough hair for a dozen centers, plays with a scrappiness and passion that’s infectious.

But it’s the LeBron-Mo combination that has proven to be deadly.

But are they a duo to challenge the all-time greats? That’s yet to be seen, but they’re sure looking good. Take a look at the duos and trios that have won the last dozen or so championships, and you’ll see that it’s an elite club. Starting with the most recent championship, and going backward:

  • Garnett/Pierce/Allen
  • Duncan/Parker/Ginobli
  • Wade/O’Neal
  • Duncan/Parker/Ginobli
  • Billups/Wallace
  • Robinson/Duncan
  • O’Neal/Bryant
  • O’Neal/Bryant
  • O’Neal/Bryant
  • Robinson/Duncan
  • Jordan/Pippen
  • Jordan/Pippen
  • Jordan/Pippen
  • etc.
  • etc.
  • etc.

It’s hard to imagine LeBron getting any better, though he’s managed to up his game every year since he entered the league. It’s just as tough, though, to imagine him taking the entire team on his back every year and making a title run.

Not by himself. Not without Mo.

LeBron and Mo. They’re the new Dynamic Duo.

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