LeBron Is Still Getting Better

LeBron James might remain the best player in the NBA. He might remain the most valuable. He might even remain a player around whom a team can build a perennial Finals contender. But the question right now is, “Can LeBron remain this good for the rest of the season?” Because this LeBron is very close to as good as we’ve ever seen, in ways we’ve never seen before.Just so everyone’s clear at the top: James is not the sun-eater he was in 2012-13, with the third and greatest of his Miami Heat teams. He may not be quite as incontestable as he was at the end of his first tenure in Cleveland, when he won back-to-back MVPs and dragged meager rosters on long and doomed and occasionally brilliant playoff runs.But James is posting career highs in true shooting percentage (66.4), 3-point percentage (41.6), assist percentage (42.9) and block percentage (2.6). His free throw percentage (77.3) is the second-highest of his career. He’s shooting 80.7 percent within 3 feet of the basket and going to the rim about as often as he ever has. He has created more shots for teammates than anyone but Russell Westbrook, according to data from Second Spectrum, and he’s done it while playing 37 minutes per night — a heavy load for a player in his 15th season (who has also logged more than 200 playoff games).The easy answer to the obvious question — How? — is that his jumper is falling. According to data from Second Spectrum, James is shooting an effective field goal percentage of 58.8 on step-back shots and 63 on pull-up jumpers — his two most common shot types after brute-force drives. Those dwarf his normal rate of makes on those shots over the last three seasons.The large and sensible parts of the brain say this is unsustainable. That it’s fun to watch James play-act past glories while understanding that the underlying foundations have shifted, moved on — that James’s MVP-level start is a mirage of risky habits and clustered luck. The smaller, more rascally regions wonder: What if this is how LeBron goes late-Jordan?James is one of the most amorphous stars I’ve ever watched from season to season. In various offseasons over the past decade, he’s picked up a post game, lost and recovered his 3-point stroke, added sneaky perimeter dribble feints and pivots, and refined the drive-and-kick game to its most basic and brutally effective elements. Who’s to say he hasn’t gone out and added the step-back midrange game that Michael made art and Kobe made genre fiction?I mean, just look at this:I’ve been watching LeBron for a lot of years, and I don’t remember him looking so fluid on those shots, so smooth through the hips and shoulders. That shot has always been available to him, it’s just always looked more calculated than natural — a computer making an arcane chess move more than a master moving in on the hunt. Now, it looks more graceful, a little tighter in the footwork. They aren’t suddenly perfect shots — there’s still the occasional (and occasionally more than occasional) wild launch from 35 feet or with a foot on or just inside the line, but they look better in aggregate. Maybe it’s easier to see it like that because it’s going in; that’s one danger of applying the eye test.But it also makes sense given how well James has shot both from distance and point-blank. There’s simply more room to maneuver in the midrange if defenses must treat him as a 40-percent 3-point shooter and an 80-percent finisher at the rim — while also playing the lanes because he’s passing more than ever. That’s going to remain true for as long as James is canning 3s like this and remains unstoppable at the rim. The jumper can come and go, but it has been relatively steady since it went missing in 2015-16. The drives are more reliable.The Cavs score 125 points per 100 possessions when James drives and finishes himself, passes to a teammate for a shot or is fouled (or he makes a turnover), and 118 points per 100 possessions on scoring chances that come from multiple passes after a James drive, according to Second Spectrum. Both rank first among players with at least 100 drives this season, and both are unlikely to change as long as James remains unstoppable, crashing into defenders and creating space where the defender had previously been standing.One caveat: This isn’t the indomitable James. The onslaught is not exactly unrelenting. The pitch is not fevered. James is finding more success driving to the rim, but he’s also drawing fouls at a career-worst rate — his .294 rate of free throws per field goal attempt is down considerably from his career average .418 — and his turnovers are a hair under his career worst (from last season). These may be clues that James’s underlying skills have tailed off and his results will soon follow. Or they may be evidence that LeBron isn’t actually trying yet.His defensive numbers confirm that he hasn’t returned to his peak. The Cleveland defense has been nearly 11 points better per 100 possessions when he sits, and ESPN’s defensive Real Plus-Minus has him in the negatives, below James Harden and Kyle Lowry. RPM is famously skewed toward defensive-minded big men, but James has historically performed much better in the stat. So, no, James isn’t the clamp-down bear trap he was in his Heat years. But he’s in the top 40 for shots defended (a good sign he’s not getting blown out of plays) and opponents are shooting just a 46.6 effective field goal percentage against him (a very good number). While he’s giving up “good” shots (expected value 52.8 eFG percentage, adjusting for who’s shooting, which is one of the worst figures in the league), he’s depressing value on those shots by 6.2 eFG percentage points, sandwiching him between standout defenders like Kevin Durant and Paul Millsap once he’s actually engaged in the play.We expect more from James because we’ve seen more from him. We’ve seen him slip from the best player in history to merely the best at this moment, and so his deficiencies call out in a way other players’ do not. Maybe he’s playing catch-up defense these days, or not drawing fouls the way he used to, or not willing Jae Crowder into making his wide-damn-open 3s. But 15 seasons into his career, he’s still getting better, and so far this season, the pieces he’s added have more than made up for the ones that have fallen away.Check out our latest NBA predictions. read more

Are You a Cover Junkie

first_imgWhat sets Coverjunkie apart from other cover sites is both the quantity of posts, and the fact that it’s well-organized and highly searchable. Biemans collects covers by publication, theme (9/11, split-run, premier issues), and art director, and he also publishes complete credit information, a rarity. His tastes are very egalitarian; there’s a healthy mix of consumer, mass market, enthusiast, trade, city and regional, and altweekly covers, with selections from Italy, England, Germany, Russian, and of course, The Netherlands. He also has a strong social media presence on Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook, which helps spread the Coverjunkie cover selects fast and far.Coverjunkie is a one-person labor of love for Biemans, but it’s a project that is helping to redefine the essence of how magazines design and promote their covers. In a recent interview, Biemans gave the lowdown on how he puts the site together, and what makes a good Coverjunkie cover.Why did you start Coverjunkie?Biemans: I wanted to celebrate creativity in magazine design, to spread the love for ace cover design. And it was also a response to the “print is dead” statement, which I think is a lot of rubbish! I think a cover is more than just about selling itself, it’s also a reflection of our visual culture. On Coverjunkie you can see this reflection from all around the world, as well as from different decades.

How do you find the covers you post?

Biemans: I browse the good old newsstand and look online and on Twitter. Right now I get 10-15 covers a day by email, some good, some bad. The best thing about Coverjunkie is that some mags send me hard copies. I love that; it gives me a fab feeling. 

How do you select what goes on Coverjunkie?Biemans: Posting everything would be impossible; I get too many covers sent to me. I post the most creative ones, the remarkable ones, the covers that stand out. The hardest part about Coverjunkie is editing the covers and then telling art directors that their covers are not creative enough, and that I can’t post them. I try to email everyone to explain. I hate disappointing people because I know they’re trying to create sweet stuff. But again, I have to be rigorous; when there are weak covers on the website it loses its strength. 

What makes a good magazine cover?Biemans: It’s the creativity that counts. My motto on the site is “covers that smack you in the face or that you want to lick!” I think the ace cover contains news, a vibe, and creativity. Most of the covers have only two out of three of these ingredients. But when it carries three out of three you have an epic one. For many magazines, newsstand used to be the big indicator, but it’s increasingly not that important, at least not in the U.S. I think a cover these days is more about making a statement instead of selling. It’s about creating a vibe that the reader likes (or maybe dislikes). A magazine cover is part of a brand, a very important part because it has a soul and it can give feeling and depth to a brand.What magazines do you think consistently do the most interesting or memorable covers?

Biemans: I definitely prefer magazines that use a different approach with each cover, who use their cover design to make a statement or to spark and surprise their readers. I like The New Yorker when they put newsy items on their covers. And I think The New York Times Magazine and New York rock it hard. Bloomberg Businessweek, they’re crazy, and what I like about them is that creative director Richard Turley and his team take charge and are very brave. I love all the altweeklies from the U.S., like SF Weekly and San Antonio Current! They don’t have big budgets but they create extraordinary stuff. There’s Spanish Metropoli, Texas Monthly, Vice, IL from Italy, Wired from the U.S., UK and Italy, Suddeutsche Zeitung Magazin from Germany….What advice do you have for editors, art directors and others to create great magazine covers?

Biemans: Three things: guts, guts, and guts. Mix that with talented designers with soul and a fab editor to create the best headlines. I’m a strong believer that creativity brings great pleasure to readers, whether it’s on an iPad, website, magazine or even cellphone. I don’t care as long as it’s well-designed and made with soul. Days before last week’s debut of The New Republic’s redesign, its new cover was posted and circulating around the web. The buzz was on, and people were tweeting and commenting on it before the magazine itself was even available for viewing. Today, every editor and art director thinks about creating a magazine cover that can go viral, that will work at multiple sizes on a wide variety of displays and platforms and create hype. Along with this, websites like Coverjunkie, NASCAPAS, and others are now providing a visual forum for magazine covers from all over the world to be displayed and distributed.The Coverjunkie site just celebrated its second anniversary. It was launched in late 2010, the brainchild of Dutch art director Jaap Biemans [pictured below], who has done cover designs for the weekly Intermediair and the glossy, Vanity Fair-like Hollands Diep, before moving over to art direct Volkskrant Magazine, the weekly magazine supplement of a large Dutch newspaper (it’s basically The New York Times Magazine of the Netherlands). Biemans recognized early on that for many publications, the days of covers getting “heat” on the newsstand were a thing of the past. To date he’s posted over 11,500 covers, and Coverjunkie has become a daily must-destination for magazine art directors around the world.Biemans interned at a design firm in NYC in the late 90s, and that New York experience has informed his design and editorial sensibilities. And while Coverjunkie has a definite global reach, he has a big soft spot for very American style-magazine cover design, as well as for the funky, gonzo-style designs of altweekly newspapers like The Village Voice.last_img read more

AL supports use of EVMs in natl polls Quader

first_imgObaidul Quader file photoRuling Awami League general secretary Obaidul Quader said his party is in favour of using the electronic voting machines (EVMs) in the parliament elections to be held in December.  Quader, also road transport and bridges minister, said this while talking to newsmen while inspecting Dhaka-Mymenshingh highway in Vogra area of Gazipur on Thursday.He said the ruling party will accept the decision of the Election Commission (EC) in this regard.Meanwhile, the election commission on Thursday finalised a proposal for amendment to a relevant law to pave the way for use of electronic voting machines (EVMs) in the national elections pending in December.Quader also warned of taking stern action against any political party that will try to create anarchy by boycotting the upcoming national elections.Dwelling on the street agitation by the opposition parties, the minister said the government will give a befitting reply if any party tries to create anarchy in the name of demonstration.last_img read more