Is LeBron James the Best Shooter in the NBA?

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Is LeBron James the Best Shooter in the NBA?
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Miami Heat's LeBron James

LeBron James is scoring at such an efficient clip this season that he has justifiably entered the "best shooter in the NBA" discussion along the way. 

In the month of February, James became the first player to attempt more than 200 shots in a calendar month and make at least 64 percent since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in March of 1983.

The NBA's reigning MVP is shooting a career-high 56.3 percent from the field and 40.7 percent from three on his way to averaging 27 points per night. He is also on pace to lead the league in player efficiency rating for the sixth straight time in 2012-13.

But is LeBron also now the best shooter in the NBA?

First off, let it be known that in answering this question, I am only considering players who rank among the top 15 overall scorers in the league.

From there, how James compares in terms of field-goal percentage, three-point percentage, free-throw percentage and true shooting percentage is highlighted below.


LeBron James is currently the NBA's fourth-leading scorer at 27 points per game

NBA scoring leaders (via ESPN.com)

No offense to my man Matt Bonner, but the NBA's best shooter must be a player who shoots well enough to rank among the league's elite scorers.

For all the time we spend analyzing shooting forms, when shots are made and from which areas of the floor individual players are most effective, ultimately, the goal is to put points on the board when the basketball is released. 

While we know that James has obviously been an elite scorer throughout his career, the top 15 scorers in the NBA this season are listed above for context in this conversation.


Shooting 56.3 percent, James ranks ninth in the league in field-goal percentage

USA TODAY Sports

Of the eight players who currently own a higher field-goal percentage than James this season, none average more than 16 points per game.  

While it is certainly true that much of this damage has been done on shots attempted at the rim—an area where James is shooting 78.8 percent, according to HoopData.com—James has actually made significant improvements from three to nine feet away from the basket as well.

After converting 47.3 percent of his attempts from this area last season, James is now making 59.8 percent of his shots from between three and nine feet out in 2012-13.


James is also shooting better than he ever has from three-point range right now

The 40.7 percent James is shooting from three-point range in 2012-13 is good for a career high.

In addition, it is also enough to tie James with Jarrett Jack and teammate Mario Chalmers at No. 26 in the league overall for three-point field-goal percentage through Tuesday.  

Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry are the only three players who currently rank higher than James on this list while also averaging 20 or more points on the season.


Free-throw shooting is about the only area where James is statistically down

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Despite adding new elements to his game every season, I don't expect James to ever achieve the 90 percent shooting from the free-throw line needed for entry into the exclusive 50-40-90 club.

Converting 74.7 percent of his attempts from the charity stripe this year, James is charting his lowest percentage this season since the 2007-08 campaign.  

While he's not necessarily a liability by any means, James does currently rank just below the league average of 75.5 percent from the line. 


James ranks No. 11 overall in terms of true shooting percentage at 63.6 percent

True shooting percentage (via ESPN.com)

After finishing each of his previous two seasons at 59.4 and 60.5 percent respectively, James has improved his true shooting percentage to 63.6 percent in 2012-13.

When considering the attention James receives from defenses on a nightly basis, the number is completely staggering. 

The only player in the NBA who is scoring more while also having a better true shooting percentage is Kevin Durant at 64.5 percent.


While he's a close second, James is not quite the league's best shooter

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As I watched the way he tore through February—shooting the basketball at a pace we've not seen from anyone in 30 years—I couldn't help but remember the type of shooter James was when he first broke into the league.

During his rookie season, for example, James shot 29 percent from three-point range. The efficiency he now demonstrates from this area of the floor is a testament to how much he continues to work on his game.

Though I will concede that James is very close to earning the title of league's best shooter as a result of all that, the honor belongs to Kevin Durant at the moment. 

Durant is leading the league in scoring at 28.6 points per game while shooting 50.7 percent from the field, 42.1 from three and 90.6 percent from the free-throw line.

So while he won't win the league's MVP award over James this year, I do believe Durant is more deserving of the NBA's best shooter distinction by the slimmest of margins.

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