5 Eye-Popping Stats from LeBron James in 2012-13 Season
LeBron James knows his numbers.
The Miami Heat forward has something of a photographic memory when it comes to empirical data. He's almost always correct when he references a statistic or score from the game he just played, or even one he played several seasons ago.
Nor is it a coincidence when, as he approaches a triple-double, he starts emphasizing the area of the game—whether rebounding or passing—in which he is still a bit short of 10. He uses statistics as a way to measure himself against his past accomplishments and against others in history.
So it is somewhat significant when someone brings something to his attention of which he wasn't already aware.
That was the case this week, when it was mentioned that he was on track—even if he didn't play again—to lead the league in field goals made.
"I don't even shoot that much," James said. "That's pretty cool. I like that stat."
There were plenty of stats for Heat fans to love this season.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I’ve had some really good individual seasons. I think, as far as efficiency, yeah. I don’t know if they’ve got all the numbers settled yet, but I felt I played some really good basketball this year.”
What follows are the five statistics that stand out the most.
All quotes in this piece were collected through the course of the author's coverage of the Miami Heat for the Palm Beach Post. All statistics were accurate as of Tuesday afternoon.
5. Combined Assist and Rebound Average of 15.3
When asked about his excellence in one area or another, LeBron James likes to say that he simply tries to do whatever his team needs.
This Miami Heat team has unique needs, because it has not been built in the traditional way.
There is no dynamic penetrating point guard. As well as Mario Chalmers has filled his role, and as much as he has improved as a passer, he still generates a modest assist total; Chalmers' average of 3.5 is exactly in line with what he did last season and has done for his career.
That puts a burden on James to cover these elements as a new sort of hybrid: the power point guard.
While averaging 37.9 minutes, 4.6 fewer than his highest average in a season, James has managed to post the highest rebounding average (8.0) and second-highest assist average (7.3) of his career.
The only surprise is that he has relatively few triple-doubles (four), frequently coming up one or two short in either rebounds or assists.
Twenty-five times he's been in double-digits in rebounds, while ranking No. 21 in the NBA in average.
Fifteen times he's been in double-digits in assists, the statistic he calls his favorite, while ranking No. 11 in the NBA in rebounding.
Nothing average about any of that.
4. Connecting at 56.5 Percent from the Field
Which of these men doesn't belong?
DeAndre Jordan, Dwight Howard, JaVale McGee, Serge Ibaka, LeBron James, J.J. Hickson, Tiago Splitter, Amir Johnson, Kenneth Faried, Al Horford.
Those are the top 10 in the NBA in field-goal percentage. All but one primarily play center or power forward.
James is the exception.
He is fifth in the NBA in that category, at 56.5 percent, even while still doing plenty of his work on the perimeter.
That hasn't kept him from raising his field-goal percentage for the sixth straight season, to levels that even the other elites, such as Michael Jordan, have never approached.
Just being very efficient. Being able to put myself in position to be successful out on the floor, my teammates allow me to do the things that I do, the coaching staff puts me in position to be successful. Just a testament of implementing my offseason workouts into game situations, being very comfortable with my game, and just going out there and making plays. Just always being in the right place, I guess, offensively.
This season has included a stretch in which he scored at least 30 points on 60 percent shooting in a record six games, a stretch that would have been extended to seven if he hadn't taken a throwaway three-pointer in garbage time against Oklahoma City.
"I value every shot more than I used to," James said.
3. Knocking Down 40.6 Percent of Three-Pointers
After LeBron James blitzed the Houston Rockets for 32 second-half points, 15 of them on three-pointers, in the second half of a November 12 comeback victory, you'd think he finally would have received the designation that has so long eluded him:
His teammates had another word for him:
"Shotmaker," Shane Battier said.
"Shotmaker," James Jones said.
"Shotmaker," Dwyane Wade said.
Apparently, there's a distinction between a pure shooter and someone who simply makes outside shots when it matters, with Wade admitting that the latter applies to him as well.
That's what makes James's three-point percentage (40.6) one of his most impressive statistics. When he entered the NBA, and even through his first few seasons, his outside touch was considered his Achilles' heel.
That's why, even after allowing 51 points to James on a barrage of jumpers during the 2010-11 season, then-Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said that he would use the same strategy again.
Opponents might still live with that approach, rather than let James drive.
But when he's connecting at this season's clip—tied for No. 26 in the league—it's not such a good option. And it appears sustainable, so long as he takes the shot in rhythm and on balance as he's been doing more than any season before.
2. Plus-720 in His Court Time
Those who watched LeBron James closely this season may have noticed something:
He didn't go all-out on defense all the time.
At times early in the season, that was an issue for the Miami Heat, especially when it affected the team's defensive rotations and a three-point shooter broke free.
Still, when it mattered most—and as the season progressed—James stepped up his defensive energy. And doing so while playing the most efficient offense of his career made Miami an even more dominant team while he was the floor.
That is reflected in the Heat's outrageous 720-point advantage while he's on the floor.
That plus-minus number is second in the NBA, one point behind Oklahoma City forward Kevin Durant, though Durant has played 242 more minutes.
Yes, James plays plenty of minutes with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
But he also plays plenty with Norris Cole, Chris Andersen and others a bit down the roster as the anchor of the four-man second unit.
In clutch situations, defined as a five-point margin with either team leading and five or fewer minutes remaining, James is a league-best plus-127.
The next four players in that category are also on the Heat.
And as good as Bosh, Wade, Ray Allen and Shane Battier are, that has more to do with James than it does with them.
1. Miami Heat Record: 65-16
When you are the best player in the NBA, sometimes the toughest person to top is yourself.
So the Miami Heat entered the last game of the season—one they were likely to play without LeBron James—needing a win to reach 66 wins and merely tie the Cleveland Cavaliers team that James led in 2008-09.
Of all the statistics that could be cited to state James's greatness, the one that correlates—and matters to him—most is his win total.
From that 2008-09 season forward, James's teams have won 80.4, 74.4, 70.7, 69.7 and now 80.2 percent of their games.
While his supporting cast over that time has improved, his consistency remains the primary factor in that collective success. He rarely struggles and, when he does, it lasts a quarter or half a game at most.
Early in this season, James downplayed the significance of some of the losses, especially those on the road, where the Heat started 11-11. But as the Heat got hot and a small winning streak stretched out to 27, he began to acknowledge the special nature of what they were accomplishing.
“We’re just trying to make a mark on NBA history, any way we can,” James said.
He recognizes that he will make his ultimate imprint with championships.
But, in NBA history, there's only one man who has been the premier player on two 66-win teams.
And if the Heat beat the Orlando Magic to close the season, even without James, Michael Jordan will have company.