Miami Heat: Assessing LeBron's Best Methods of Scoring

Joshua J VannucciniSenior Analyst IIIFebruary 4, 2013

Miami Heat: Assessing LeBron's Best Methods of Scoring

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    Whenever there is a discussion surrounding the league MVP, LeBron James is at the forefront. His versatility to score, rebound, distribute and defend makes him the best all-around player in the NBA.

    LeBron has set career-highs this season in terms of scoring, so let's review how he's doing thus far.

Post-Up

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    Post-Up: 12.4 percent usage, 46-of-106 field goals, 43.4 shooting percentage

    The major knock on LeBron's game over the last few years was his lack of a post-up game. His production from down low has increased, however his consistency and efficiency have not. 

    LeBron's percentage of 43.4 is less than average and, considering his strength and muscle that often overpowers defenders, is a little disappointing. He certainly makes up for it in other areas, and the Heat are not all that reliant on his post-up offense. 

    Nonetheless, post-ups are the fourth-highest play LeBron will perform, so improving his accuracy would go a long way. Further developing this aspect of his game could keep LeBron as a scoring leader for the majority of his career, even as his athleticism and speed begin to fade.

Isolation

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    Isolation: 24.6 percent usage, 103-of-216 field goals, 47.7 shooting percentage

    Playing one-on-one basketball is no doubt a fan favorite. Within a team concept however, it is not considered to be necessarily effective or useful. Having your entire team seemingly motionless, while a central player goes head-to-head with his opponent does not enforce a successful offense. However, when your central player is LeBron James, it's different story.

    Not only can LeBron score in an isolation, but if a double or triple-team is headed his way on defense, he can send passes out to open players in a heartbeat. The Heat score 48.1 percent of the time when they run LeBron in an isolation. This goes to show their success as opposed to say Kobe Bryant and the Lakers. Their percentage of 44.3 points to his low accuracy of 42.2 percent, in addition to how ineffective LA is when Bryant does pass out.

    James' shooting percentage is solid, and it could be attributed to his needing to bail the Heat out at the end of the shot-clock. According to 82games.com, LeBron shoots 46.8 percent between the 16th and 20th seconds of the 24-second shot-clock. It may not tell the whole story, but could play a factor.

    James is utterly unstoppable going to the rim, converting on 68.9 percent of his attempts inside the key. While this number also relates to other plays, it points to LeBron's struggles shooting off the dribble. As we'll see later, he is a much better spot-up shooter than pulling up in isolation. He's shooting just 40 percent from mid-range, which is his lowest since joining the Heat.

Pick-and-Roll Ball-Handler

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    Pick and Roll Ball Handler: 18.1 percent usage, 74-of-144 field goals, 51.4 shooting percentage.

    LeBron's ball-handling and ability to pass at his size are supreme, which makes him a powerful contributor in the pick and roll. As evidenced above, the 6'8" small forward is often too much for defenses to handle.

    His 51.4 percent shooting is nothing to be sniffed at, and displays LeBron's level of consistency getting to the rim. This play, however, is where he turns the ball over the most.

    With a turnover percentage of 14.5, this statistics points more to the Heat big men than James himself. His next highest turnover percentage is 9.2, which comes in transition. With players flying up and down the court, a number that elevated is expected. 

    However, it is surprising to see the NBA's best player commit such a high number of turnovers in a play as simple as the pick and roll. LeBron errs just 2.8 times per game, which is a career-high (or career-low, whichever way you perceive it).

    While it's unfair to load all the blame on the Heat's frontcourt, LeBron surely has had his fair share of mistake-making handling the ball. Yet with Chris Bosh, on a pick-and-roll or a pick and pop, setting screens it makes life difficult for opposing defenses: either allow LeBron to go single-coverage and do as he pleases, or give Bosh free-roam to knock down open jumpers or drive to the rim.

Spot-Up

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    Spot-Up: 7.9 percent usage, 39-of-73 field goals, 53.4 shooting percentage

    Aside from criticism surround his post-up game, LeBron is also crucified for not having a reliable jump shot. Even though he has professed such a skill for the majority of his career, his inability to consistently hit long-range shots somehow cast a shadow on his overall production as a shooter.

    This season, James is averaging 40 percent from mid-range, 50 percent from the corner-three and 38 percent from above-the-break three. An above-the-break three is essentially any three-point attempt that comes anywhere except the corner.

    Despite his struggles from the middle, LeBron's shooting beyond the arc has vastly improved. He is averaging a career-high 40.4 percent from deep, knocking down 1.3 shots per game. He's currently on pace to finish the season with the most three-point makes in his time with the Heat.

    What makes this noteworthy is that LeBron is shooting 50.9 percent on spot-up three-point shots. When compared to fellow teammate Ray Allen, who is shooting 47.6 percent on spot-up attempts from downtown, it demonstrates not only LeBron's effectiveness on such shots, but the time and effort he has put in to improve.

    Running ball-screens with Wade as the primary ball-handler, and LeBron set up on the wings for open jumper should absolutely be a play the Heat need to consider. James' efficiency on spot-ups is too high a level to be misguided or a "fluke" in statistical analysis.

Transition

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    Transition: 17.4 percent usage, 108-of-145 field goals, 74.5 shooting percentage

    It's hardly a surprise that LeBron finds the most success in transition. Affectionately referred to as a freight train on a fast break, his combination of speed and strength makes it almost impossible to stop him.

    With an overall field-goal percentage of 74.5 and one of 75 in the restricted area, it is clear once James enters the paint, it's all over. His array of athletic manoeuvres makes it look easy, however it is anything but.

    James also draws a foul in transition 10.3 percent of the time, but it is converting at an ordinary 73.4 percent. It is LeBron's lowest percentage since his '07-'08 season in Cleveland, at which he shot 71.2 from the line. 

    Regardless, LeBron is still able to be utterly unstoppable in transition. There are few who can do so like James, yet teammate Dwyane Wade is right there with him. The duo on a fast break is most teams' worst nightmare, yet it is a reality most nights Miami plays.

Conclusion

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    With seasonal averages of 26.6 points, 8.3 rebounds and 7.1 assists per game, in addition to a stellar 30.37 PER, LeBron James is making a strong case to take home the MVP award once again.

    His offensive production this year has been nothing short of spectacular, efficiently dominating his opponents in a variety of fashions. Whether it be on jumpers, driving to the lane or finding his open teammates, LeBron has done it all to keep Miami atop the Eastern Conference standings.

    Their is a very slim margin of even more improvement, which almost seems ludicrous to consider. However, if there's anyone in the NBA that can accomplish such a feat, it's LeBron James.

     

    All statistics sourced from nba.com/stats, espn.com/nba, 82games.com and Synergy Sports Technology.