Barry: LeBron is greatest — and he can get better 

Every so often an athlete comes along who redefines the position in his sport. Such is the case in basketball with LeBron James at the small forward position.

I had the good fortune of playing against some of the greatest small forwards ever — Elgin Baylor, Julius "Dr. J" Erving and Larry Bird. In my opinion, James is the greatest small forward in the history of the NBA. Warriors fans should relish the opportunity to watch The King in action for the Cleveland Cavaliers during the NBA Finals.

When I first watched James play in high school, I was blown away by what I witnessed. I saw a man among boys. It was almost inconceivable to me that anyone could be so developed at that young an age. In addition to his physique, he possessed incredible skill and a feel for the game not often seen at such a young age. There was no question he was something special. At 19, James didn't disappoint his admirers by being chosen NBA Rookie of the Year, becoming the youngest player ever to receive that honor.

My boyhood hero was Baylor, the first player to redefine the small forward position with his flair and athleticism. Then Erving took the position to even greater heights with his high-flying forays to the basket. Bird was an outstanding shooter who played with a craftiness and precision that elevated him to elite status. LeBron possesses all of the great qualities of these masters, yet his size and strength differentiate him from the rest. From that standpoint, there has never been anyone like him at the position.

Yet, this amazing player still has room for improvement. When he first came into the league, he had a major flaw in his shooting form — a flying elbow that would never allow him to be a consistent shooter, especially from 3-point range. After a number of years, he corrected the flaw and his shooting accuracy from beyond the arc improved dramatically, going from a low of 29 percent in his rookie season to as high as 41 percent two seasons ago. There is, however, still room for improvement in his form.

Also, James has never shot as much as 80 percent at the free throw line, which is a benchmark for the majority of top scorers in the league.

Another area where James can improve involves setting up his man prior to using his dribble, then using his first step to beat the defender. Currently, he does most of his driving while already dribbling the ball. He is quite effective doing this, but learning how to beat his man the other way would make him that much more dangerous.

When James is making his moves while dribbling, his ability to pass the ball to an open teammate is curtailed. With the other approach, he is always in a position to pass the ball until he beats his man with that first dribble.

Learning how to set his man up when moving without the ball and utilizing screens in a more effective manner are other parts of his game that need work. These are skills that someone with LeBron's talent can master easily if he is willing to put in the time.

I have always felt that James has not been utilized in the most effective manner possible on offense. He is often just asked to go one-on-one to beat his man and score. Can you imagine if he were to run off multiple screens? Passing the ball to him when he is on the move would make him virtually impossible to defend. By the time he came off a third screen, the man originally guarding him would be nowhere to be found. If any player was even close enough to guard him, that player would be in serious trouble.

I admire true greatness — and LeBron is all of that. I'll be rooting for the Warriors in the series, of course, but I'll be enjoying the opportunity to watch him do his thing as well.

Rick Barry played eight seasons for the Warriors and was the captain of their only Bay Area NBA championship team. In 1987, he was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. His commentary will appear exclusively in The San Francisco Examiner throughout the playoffs.

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