Kyle Soppe also writes about the NBA for Pickin’ Splinters. Follow him on Twitter.
LeBron James has done it all statistically this season, and won a well deserved 3rd MVP. So why make changes and revert to old habits at the most important time of the season?
This regular season turned heads, as the 6’8″, 250 pound super-human took his talents to the painted area, leaving the three-point shooting to his teammates. The move resulted in a career high field goal percentage (53%) and even had a positive impact when he did choose to step behind the arc and fire away (career best 36% on fewer attempts). The Heat were cruising in games in which “The King” attempted 2 or fewer three pointers, winning 31 or 40 games in the regular season. He shot 3 or more three pointers in 41.9% of the games this regular season, with the Heat coming out on top in only 15 of those 26 games. LeBron is a hybrid athlete who seemed focused on not bailing out his over-matched opponents with long jumpers, a move that resulted in a historic season from a statistical perspective and the number two overall seed in the Eastern Conference. Mission accomplished, right? We phased the 3 pointer out of James’ game, putting pressure on the defense for all 48 minutes by attacking the basket with reckless abandon. Or was that a facade? Did he learn a new style, or did he simply memorize it for the regular season test?
Even though the Heat have been very successful thus far in the postseason, LeBron has reversed course and gone back to his three-point shooting ways, and the Heat are not functioning at their peak because of it. Remember that these numbers have been accumulated with James helping fill the void of the injured Chris Bosh by playing Center at times. One would assume that his interior game would flourish while his perimeter game took a backseat, but the opposite has been true He has attempted 3 or more three pointers in 85.7% of his playoff games despite being incredibly effective from inside of the arc. He is making 55.3% of his shots from inside 23 feet 9 inches and only 25.5% from outside the three-point line. James is shooting 50% more three pointers per game in the postseason than in his record setting regular season, a trend that can’t continue if the King wants his ring.