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Examining LeBron James' offensive profile

LeBron James

JamesHere’s a look at some of the lingering storylines revolving around LeBron James' offensive play:

1) Statement: LeBron is not attacking the rim enough and is settling too often for jumpers

Method of analysis: Look at his percentage of FG attempts by distance (within 5 ft, 5-15 ft, 15+ FT) over the last four regular seasons.

Conclusion: James took a larger percentage of his shots from mid-range (17.2 percent), due to a steady decrease in shots within five feet (34.9 percent, down from 39.2 percent in 2007-08) and a sharp drop this season in long-range attempts (47.9 percent down from 52.9 percent the season before). During the 2010-11 campaign, James took and made a higher percentage of field goals from five to 15 feet than any other year in his career. Age, new teammates and a new coach all contributed to this incline.

2) Statement: LeBron needs to develop his post moves and post-up more often

Percent of Total Plays on Post-Ups
Past 7 Seasons

Method of analysis: Look at James’ percentage of offense generated when posting up and compare to Carmelo Anthony who plays a similar position and entered the league the same year.

Conclusion: Looking at his new offense, James was put in the post more often. He posted up on 7.9 percent of his plays, the highest percentage of his career. His post-up percentage increased in the 2011 postseason, but he was less involved offensively and the sample of games is small, so his 2011 postseason post-up percentage is not really meaningful.

Anthony posts up nearly twice as much as LeBron, but that gap is narrowing as Carmelo becomes more of an isolation player and LeBron begins to post up more frequently. So LeBron is posting up more often, but still nowhere as often as Anthony (14.1 percent in 2011) or Kobe (14.8 percent) for that matter.

3) Statement: LeBron should be “taking over games” or “imposing his will offensively” in the postseason.

LeBron James Usage Pct

Postseason career:

2011 postseason:

Method of analysis: Look at his usage percentage -- the percentage of team plays while he is on the floor that end with that player taking a FG, FT or committing a turnover. Players with usage percentages over 30 percent tend to dominate the ball. By definition, the average usage percentage is 20 percent (100 percent divided by five offensive players).

Conclusion: When looking at LeBron’s career postseason usage percentage, a clear trend of being less involved offensively emerges. Through the 2009 postseason, LeBron’s postseason usage percentage was over 37 percent and was over 40 percent (a huge figure) in 25 of 60 games. However, starting with his final season in Cleveland and carrying over to this postseason, his usage percentage dropped significantly and, maybe more telling, only twice in 32 games did he have a usage percentage over 40 percent.

However, this drop in usage percentage is not a bad thing for LeBron’s teams. When looking at his team’s offensive efficiency rating (pts per 100 possessions), the lower LeBron’s usage percentage, the more efficient his team’s offense is in the postseason. In other words, LeBron’s teams have done better offensively in the playoffs when he is acting as a facilitator and not dominating the shots and turning the ball over.

Interestingly, Dwyane Wade is the exact opposite. Since LeBron joined the Heat, the team has been more efficient in the postseason the more plays that end with the ball in Wade’s hands.