How LeBron James Can Perfect His Struggles at the Free-Throw Line

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How LeBron James Can Perfect His Struggles at the Free-Throw Line
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

At 6'8" and 250 pounds, LeBron James is capable of achieving physical feats which the average human could only dream of.

With a rapidly expanding skill set, James has also become one of the greatest players in NBA history.

In order to solidify his pursuit of a second NBA championship, however, LeBron must perfect his struggles at the free-throw line.

According to Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com, James' struggles from the charity stripe is his last area of weakness. This comes from the mouths of anonymous scouts and league executives, who claim LeBron is otherwise flawless.

Although a subjective perspective, here's one scout's take on James' progression:

The only weakness in his game right now is at the [free throw] line. There is basically no way to defend him, he will beat every look and every system. But if there’s a chink in the armor, and it’s a small one, it’s at the line.

One could certainly debate that belief.

LeBron's categorical greatness is often overstated, as he is average in most facets of the game, and elite in specific areas. 

For instance, James is still shooting 38.1 percent on his mid-range jump shots. A respectable number, but far from one that garners the label of elite.

With that being said, who is going to complain about his average jump shooting when LeBron can attack the rim at will? More importantly, why harp on his mid-range game when his three-point shot has improved so drastically?

For the season, James has posted a slash line of .530/.433/.648. That is a career-best three-point mark, and a career-worst free-throw percentage.

Although intriguing, the argument to be made is not about where James has improved—it is to speak on his greatest weakness, which is (and long has been) his free-throw shooting.

From the line, James has never shot above 80 percent, although his career percentage sits at 74.5.

As James shoots below 65 percent for the 2012-13 season, it is important that we do not blow over this issue as a non-factor.

We've seen teams employ the hack-a-player technique on Dwight Howard, thus placing the Los Angeles Lakers in a position to lose games.

So how can James avoid such from happening to he and the Miami Heat?

 

Bend the Knees

The most common flaw found in a poor free-throw shooter's motion is their lack of bend in their knees. This creates a shot in which the power is generated from the upper body, thus forcing the hands and wrist to generate force as opposed to touch.

It's what has ailed the likes of Dwight Howard, DeAndre Jordan, Ben Wallace, Shaquille O'Neal and even LeBron James.

When James is converting his free throws, he's creating power with his legs and working on the spiral of the ball with his upper body. This allows him to put proper spin on the ball and release the free throw at the ideal angle.

In turn, LeBron achieves the necessary trajectory and converts his attempts from the charity stripe.

Unfortunately, there hasn't been enough of that in 2012-13.

 

Balance

The number one issue with LeBron James' mid-range jump shot and free-throw shooting has nothing to do with the size of his hands or the strength in his body. Instead, LeBron's greatest issue is the improper balance he has long displayed.

James often arches his back—first, at a bent angle, and then outwards upon his rise.

Discovering the straight and upward motion is something that can only be achieved by repetition. Upon reaching the ideal level of balance, however, James could shoot at a much more consistent rate.

Furthermore, James has a tendency to bend his body at a 35 degree angle before coming up and lifting off of his toes for the attempt.

Although this may be his most comfortable approach, LeBron does not gain enough strength from his lower body to consistently convert.

All of which can be cured by tweaking his angles—and conferring with one individual.

 

LeBron and the rest of the NBA should take notes.
Work with Ray Allen

This may not be much of an analytical approach, but how about LeBron James work with a career 89.3 percent free-throw shooter that just so happens to be his teammate?

You know, one of the greatest pure shooters of all time.

Ray Allen.

Allen has shot at least 90 percent from the free-throw line in 10 of his 16 years in the league. Even as his numbers have dipped a bit at age 37, Allen remains an 85.1 percent shooter during the 2012-13 regular season.

LeBron has never topped 78 percent during his nine-year career.

If LeBron is looking for a player to pattern his shooting form after, he couldn't find a better mentor than Allen.

That is, if he wants to perfect the only area of his game that can be described as a weakness.

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