HANG TIME NEW JERSEY BUREAU – Fact 1: LeBron James is posting up a lot more than he has in previous seasons.
Fact 2: LeBron James leads the league in field goal percentage from within five feet of the basket.
Highest field goal percentage within five feet of the basket
Minimum 75 FGA
Are Fact 1 and Fact 2 related? Not really.
James is posting up almost twice as much as he did last season, a great thing for those of us who have been calling for him to develop a post game. But he’s been less efficient in the post than he was a year ago, according to Synergy Sports.
James is posting up on 14 percent of his plays and scoring a little less than a point per possession on those post-ups (when he keeps the ball). That’s good, but not as efficient as he’s been in the last two seasons in the post, mostly because he’s not getting to the line as much.
LeBron James’ post-ups, last three seasons
% Poss = Percent of total possessions
Poss = Number of post-up possessions
PPP = Points per possession
%FT = Percent of possessions that result in free throws
James is taking 38 percent of his shots from within five feet of the hoop, up from 35 percent last season. But that increase has more to do with transition opportunities than post-ups. James is leading the league in fast-break points for the fourth straight season, but he’s scoring a much higher percentage of his points on the break than he ever has.
LeBron James’ fast-break points, last five seasons
In the restricted area
But James does occasionally turn a post-up into layups. In the three examples below, you’ll see him use both his size (first play) and agility (last two) to get to the basket.
Those last two buckets are evidence of some Hakeem-esque footwork that we don’t often see from James.
In the paint
In addition to shooting more and better from within five feet of the basket, James has also increased his shooting percentage from elsewhere in the paint. In total, he’s taking 48 percent of his shots from the paint and shooting them at 69 percent, up from 62 percent last season.
Here are a few examples of post-ups that turn into easy buckets elsewhere in the paint, even though his footwork could still use a little more polish…
The one area where James’ shooting percentage is down this season is mid-range shots (between the paint and the 3-point line). His 41 percent shooting from mid-range is above the league average (38 percent) but well below his mark of 45 percent last season. That drop is compounded by James taking 41 percent of his shots from mid-range, up from 33 percent last season.
A little too often, a James post-up turns into a bad shot…
Passing out of the post
The outcry for James to post up more often was never only about his own shots. With the size of a power forward and the passing skills of a point guard, James can create as many or more good shots for his team by passing out of the post as he can by mastering the up-and-under.
When James has the ball on the perimeter, defenders can easily see both James and their own man at the same time. But when he’s got the ball below the foul line, it’s harder to see both your man and the ball without turning your head.
According to Synergy, James has passed on 30 percent of his post-ups. And the Heat have scored 1.19 points per possession on those plays, as opposed to the 0.99 they’ve scored when he’s kept the ball.
Here are a few examples of James creating for others out of the post, with defenders clearly getting caught with their heads turned on the first and third plays…
By going into the post more, James has answered the call of his coaches and critics. And though he’s not quite a dominant force on the low block, he should eventually get there. And as his post moves become more polished, defenders will have to pick their poison, because he can do as much damage with a pass as he can with a shot.