With his dangerous combination of size, strength and speed, LeBron James is truly a rare breed of a player. Using these to his advantage, he can beat you many ways offensively. However, James is most effective when showing his aggressive ability and attacking the basket.
Watching the NBA Eastern Conference Playoffs was like viewing a new LeBron James, he was hitting clutch shots and showing a true killer instinct. Not only that, but it seemed as if he was thriving off finally proving critics wrong. With Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh by his side, no team could stop this trio in a quest to become champions.
That was until they met the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA Finals.
Give the Mavericks credit; after Game 1, they played a solid zone defense that completely shut down Miami's ability to drive. A lot of this was due to coach Erik Spoelstra's lack to make adjustments, but LeBron didn't show the desire to break through.
So why must James show his aggressive playing style more often?
Let's look at some reasons and find out.
Let's make a statement right away: No player in the NBA has the rim finishing ability of LeBron James.
James' athleticism causes match-up nightmares for defenders, and he usually exploits that.
If guarded by a smaller defender, James will power by him like a rag doll. Bigger defenders do not possess the foot speed to keep up with the 6'8" forward and are often left in the dust.
Any way you put it, LeBron will make his way to the basket.
Last season, James made 339 shots at the rim while converting 72 percent of the time. He relies heavily on getting inside, but without aggression, he fails to do so.
Attacking the basket has many influences on a game. Not only can getting to the rim cause teams to fall into foul trouble, but often times help swing momentum in a team's favor.
Just how much does LeBron James rely on trips to the free throw line?
For his career, James has averaged 6.6 free throw makes a game. Based on his career scoring average of 27.7 points a game, that means that LeBron gets 24 percent of his points from the charity stride.
Last season, only four players in the NBA shot more free throws than James. In comparison, all of these players managed to average over 20 points a game.
James failed to get to the line against Dallas, which hurt them in many way. Along with getting easy points by free throws, putting teams in foul trouble is just as important.
While averaging just 3.3 attempts in the NBA Finals, it just shows how much of an impact James lack of aggression can have.
James must continue to get eight to 10 free throw attempts a game to help his team.
During his time in Cleveland, James became known for his ability to make teammates better. Look at the likes of Mo Williams, who fell out of relevance after the King's departure. After an All-Star appearance in 2009, Williams never had the seasons he was capable of while playing with James.
Role players, including Anderson Varejo and Anthony Parker, were big keys in Cleveland's ability to win games. This isn't because they were great players, but because James knew how to utilize them. However, if James disappeared, so did the rest of the team.
The same thing stands in Miami.
Players like Mike Miller and Udonis Haslem can hurt an opposing team on offense. However, these guys aren't capable of constantly creating opportunities for themselves.
Miller is one of the best spot-up shooters in basketball. When defenses collapse on a driving James, it gives plenty of chances for players like Miller to do what they do best.
Haslem was also a beneficiary of James' aggressive play. Often times, Haslem could get short open jump shots or an easy put in at the rim. This isn't because he is an elite offensive player, but because players like LeBron create offense for teammates.
Let's be honest: As good as LeBron is offensively, his jump shot is not his biggest asset.
As much power and athleticism as James has, he should make it a priority to be a drive-first player. However, James should still put in some work on his jumper
Spending some time during the offseason working on his jump shot would be crucial to helping him improve as a player. His ability to get to the basket is unmatched, but hitting jump shots consistently would make him the most complete threat in the NBA.
Last season, James was often forced to take bad jumpers late in the shot clock. A lot of this is because James would fail to establish himself in the paint first.
If opposing players notice he isn't forcing his way inside, odds are they will play skin-tight defense. However, if LeBron barrels through the paint for some shot attempts, defenders will be more inclined to give James some space.
If James is on a hot streak, he is a dangerous shooter, but settling for bad shots can be a liability in close games.
This is by far the most important reason. There is absolutely no way Miami will win a championship without LeBron James beng aggressive.
No, LeBron wasn't the sole reason for Miami's eventual defeat, but his "disappearance" played a major role.
Whether it wasn't taking it strong to the hoop or failing to shoot in the fourth quarter, James' Finals play was sub-par compared to his potential.
Wade had a masterful NBA Finals performance, but seemed to be the only one of the Big Three to show up every game. While his scoring average was down, he shot a high percentage from the field and took the role of Miami's true leader.
Both are top five players in the NBA, but the main difference between James and Wade's respective games is what they bring to a team.
James has the much better ability to make his teammates more effective.
Without his aggressive game, role players will fail to achieve what they are supposed to game after game.
Look at what Dirk Nowitzki did for Dallas. His shooting ability and fourth quarter play ultimately doomed Miami.
Dirk's aggressive approach opened up chances for big games for players like Jason Terry, Jason Kidd, and Tyson Chandler. The Mavericks' wing men were gifted open shots because so much attention was focused on the Finals MVP.
Once James became ineffective, so did most of the Heat players.
LeBron doesn't need to lead the team in scoring, instead, he needs to establish himself as the most versatile threat on the floor. James can hurt a team in many ways, but if he continues to settle for bad shots and not be aggressive he will not be effective.
Miami needs each member of the big three to be solid in throughout the playoffs, and James' lack of aggressiveness showed it's true effect. However, when LeBron is at full force there isn't a team that can contend with the Miami Heat.
Thanks for reading! Feel free to leave a comment and let's discuss.