LeBron James not 'used' to these struggles

LeBron James

JamesIt's been a crazy couple of weeks for LeBron James. He entered the Finals having outplayed regular season MVP Derrick Rose in the previous series. Scottie Pippen even went as far to say that James might be better than his former teammate Michael Jordan.

Fast forward to Game 4 of the NBA Finals, where for the first time in his 90 career playoff games, James failed to reach double figures. He was noticeably absent in the fourth quarter where he was held scoreless and has only contributed nine points for the series.

Even with his seven assists, LeBron scored or assisted on only 22 of the Heat’s points in Game 4 against the Mavericks. That’s the fewest total points he’s contributed to his team in any single playoff game in his career.

So what happened to James on the offensive end in Game 4?

A good way to measure LeBron’s involvement in his team’s offense is with the advanced statistic Usage Rate. Usage Rate is how often per 40 minutes that a player shoots, assists, gets to the line or commits a turnover.

In Game 4, James had a usage rate of 16.9. That was his lowest single-game usage rate for any of his 98 games played this season. In fact, it is the lowest usage rate of his postseason career. His previous low was 17.2, which came in Game 1 of the 2011 NBA Finals.

Out of the 627 regular season games James has played in his career, he has had only two lower usage rates – and both occurred in his rookie season.

James’ declining usage rate wasn’t just a problem in Game 4, but rather has been a developing theme as the postseason has gone on.

Dwyane Wade vs LeBron James
Usage Rate, 2010-11 Season

LeBron had a slightly higher usage rate than Dwyane Wade in the 2011 regular season, but while Wade's usage rate has remained fairly steady in the playoffs, James' has seen a significant drop in the finals. As a result, Wade has registered a higher usage rate in each of the four games vs Dallas, relegating James to sidekick status.

In addition to LeBron deferring more to his teammates, he is also less efficient as measured by PER (Player Efficiency Rating). PER is a per-minute, pace-adjusted measure of a player’s statistical productivity, with the league average being 15. LeBron’s career postseason PER is 26.5, highest among all active players. James had a paltry 6.6 PER in Game 4, his lowest of the 2011 postseason.

For Miami to win the series it is crucial to get the ball in James' hands late in the game, whether he's scoring or not.

In Games 1 and 3 of the Finals, both Heat wins, James had a touch on 78.6 percent of the Heat's possessions. In Games 2 and 4, Heat losses, James had a touch on 60 percent of his team's offensive possessions.