Lakers defeat Trail Blazers – 126:117. It was Lebron’s best game of 2018/19 season so far – 44 Pts+10 Reb+9 Ast. As we basketball fans know that Lebron has never been the best three-point shooters in NBA but his unbelievable athleticism allows him to get to the rim despite not being among the best jump shooters in the league. Of course he’s definitely better three-point (34.4% career) shooter than for example Giannis (career 27.6%) but by far worse than Klay Thompson (career 41.9%).
“I think I’m one of the league leaders in points in the paint. I drive just as much as anybody. At this point, it’s almost like they’re trying to turn me into a jump shooter. I can’t be a jump shooter.’’ (https://lebronwire.usatoday.com/2017/11/29/lebron-james-believes-officials-are-trying-to-turn-him-into-a-jump-shooter/)
Three-pointers vs. Portland 5 of 6! That’s the fact: simply there’s no one who can stop him 1vs1 if he shoots great from 3-point line that particular night. Lots of good things for Lebron’s team can happen if his defender has to adjust his strategy of defending him = playing closer.
Against league’s best players there’s no way to take away all his weapons but most of the teams is willing to give up King’s three-pointer rather than seeing him driving to the basket. Lebron is like a high-speed train (especially during transition).. When he goes full speed at defender, basically there’s nothing can stop him.
If the player who has tendency to DRIVE TO THE BASKET are able to add great 3-POINT SHOT to his repertoire his defender has to guard him closer (Basic principle for defense: great shooter = closer, bad shooter = further) and that means:
- Better opportunities to drive to the basket and shot fakes are more effective since defender has to ’’respect’’ opponent’s ability to shoot from outside;
- Once Lebron drives past his defender mostly there’s DUNK (or any other type of shot close to the basket)/FREE-THROWS (Draws a foul) or PASS to open teammate and also MID-RANGE SHOT option is possible (if his defender still near).
- He also becomes more effective offensive player without the ball (’’stretch the floor’’) if he is has great shooting night. That means more opportunities for his teammates.
The King scores higher % of his points from three-point line this season (2018/19 sample size is not too big this season but tendency is obvious) than both 2015/16 season when he won his first title with Cleveland and 2011/2012 season when he won his first NBA title with Miami Heat (I’ve chosen these 3 seasons to compare “different Lebron” with “today’s Lebron” in different stage of his career).
MIAMI HEAT (2011/12)
LA LAKERS (2018/19)
% of points scored from 3-POINT LINE: 9.6 (2011/12) → 13.6 (2015/16) → 22.5 (2018/19).
% of points scored from MID-RANGE area: 22.3 (2011/12) ← 12.3 (2015/16) ← 11.4 (2018/19).
% of points that coming from free-throw line and points in the paint hasn’t changed too much through the years.
Reasons for this could be:
- NBA is changing, players attempts more 3-point shots than ever before. Individual skill development.
- Basketball Analytics tells us long 2’s (mid-range) shots are worst shots in basketball.
- Miami Heat/Cleveland Cavaliers/Los Angeles Lakers = 3 different teams /3 different styles/ 3 different coaches/3 different roles.
- Tendency to attempt more shots from outside is often seen in basketball once players getting older. I am not sure if this is the case for Lebron but maybe it could be because of him being more pragmatic?
LEBRON JAMES SHOOTING 51%+ THREE-POINTERS = HIS TEAM WINS 80%+ GAMES…
Again 3 different seasons – with MIAMI 2011/12 (winning NBA title for the first time)/ CLEVELAND 2017/18 (last season with Cleveland)/ LA LAKERS 2018/19.
Of course, it’s very usual if team’s best player shoots well from 3-point line, he will score more points and his team has a bigger chance to win but as we basketball fans by following NBA for years… for Lebron that means he’s basically unstoppable and his teammates get tons of good shots created by King.
5 of 6 losses when Lebron shot 3-pointers with accuracy 51% or better was away games.
All 31 games of 2011/12, 2017/18 and 2018/19 seasons (including play-offs) when Lebron shot 3-pointers with very high accuracy (51+%).
5 OF 6 BEHIND THE ARC vs. PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS (Nov. 15th)
- all of King’s three-pointers were pull-up 3’s (off the dribble);
- Of 4 of his 5 three-point attempts made pick-and-roll/pop situations was involved.
3 of 4 PNR was defended using “SHOW&RECOVER” coverage. Most of the time it was PG or SG position player who set the screen for Lebron because in case of SWITCH James can use his strength and drive to the basket. For example I don’t see too many options without rotation (even rotation is not enough if high-speed train is arriving) in situation when Lebron attacks McCollum (great offensive player). Because of Lakers lack of outside shooters pick-and-pop (PG and SG usually not rollers) situations is not a threat for Portland – SHOW&RECOVER usually is suitable strategy to cover this type of pick-and-roll/pop.
It was similar strategy what Houston Rockets and Cleveland Cavaliers wanted to happen against Golden State Warriors attacking Curry when player who guarded Curry was the screener.
The reason why SHOW&RECOVER strategy wasn’t that successful most of the time was miscommunication between players & initial defender wasn’t able to re-establish good defensive position on Lebron after going under the teammate who was SHOWING. But of course there’s no strategy in the world who can stop probably the best player in the world now who has almost perfect game!!!
Having less than 7 seconds left on the shot-clock in this situation was SWITCH. SHOW&RECOVER lead to miscommunication and Lebron punished defenders for it = 3 points!
Examples of initial Lebron’s defender unable to successfully re-establish defensive position on Lebron James or even if he did it wasn’t enough to stop Lebron from scoring behind the arc in this particular game. It created opportunities for quality 3-point shot attempts for King.