LeBron James is known to carry the Cavaliers load. But when he carried them all the way to the NBA title last year, James was coming off a regular season that saw him log 35.6 minutes per game, tied for 12th in the league and more than two minutes off James Harden‘s NBA-leading 38.1 minutes per game. This year things are different, with James averaging 37.6 mpg. That ranks James second in the league, or essentially tie with minutes-leader Kyle Lowry (37.7 mpg). When James says the Cavs are top heavy, he doesn’t just think it, he feels it in his legs.
Those extra two minutes a game James has been on the floor add up to more than 160 minutes during the NBA season — or more than four full basketball games (played at his average mpg). That’s a lot of extra playing for a team that hasn’t yet locked up the Eastern Conference title. And the tight battle for home court advantage in the playoffs all but assures that James’ minutes won’t drop by much. The good news for Cavs fans: shooting guard J.R. Smith is reportedly ahead of schedule for his return to the lineup. Smith can take some pressure of James, and maybe even some minutes.