Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.
LeBron James says he’s better than he was last season. What could he possibly have worked on? What does he have left to work on?
Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: This really is like griping that the driver’s seat of your Bentley doesn’t have built-in massage. But I’ll play along with two things: contact reactions and blocked shots. I know his superhero physique takes more uncalled hits than anyone since Shaq, but LBJ can be a little bit of a drama king when he gets bumped into hard or his headband gets knocked a-kilter. That emboldens foes and especially road crowds, where he needs to just stay in Grim Reaper mode. The second is strictly for friendly competition with his buddy Dwyane Wade, who — despite his smaller size — has a 667-649 edge in career swats through 10 seasons. What’s up with that, LeBron?
Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: Hoo boy, we’re getting picky, picky here. What’s next, beauty tips for Kate Upton? OK, if we must, after 10 years James is a career 74.7 percent shooter from the free-throw line. If he could bump that up to a Kevin Durant (88.3)-Dirk Nowitzki (87.7 level), new commissioner Adam Silver could shut down the league on his first day on the job in February and we could all just play video games and eat Buffalo wings.
Jeff Caplan, NBA.com: I love that LeBron put the league on notice that, “Hey, you thought I was impossible to guard before, just wait until now.” In summers past LeBron went to work on his post game and we saw the results. Maybe he focused on his mid-range jumper after seeing the Spurs in The Finals take away the paint and dare him to shoot. Perhaps he’s tired of shooting 74.7 percent from the free-throw line for his career (75.3 percent last season). It’s the one category he needs to improve to accomplish the one thing he hasn’t done that Kevin Durant has — reach the rare air of shooting: 50-40-90. Who knows? Maybe he wants to finish in the top 10 in steals and be No. 1 among forwards. He was 13th overall last season and second among forwards behind Thaddeus Young. Just be sure, come midseason, we’ll be talking about that one area in which LeBron improved.
Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: Winning more jump balls? Taking quicker post-game showers to avoid wasting water? Players can always get better, and most of the greats find their game evolves over time, but LeBron is already dominant in so many areas. Maybe it will be more a shift in focus — he can place less emphasis on scoring and decide to average double-digit assists, for example. Maybe keep an eye on 3-point shooting. His percentage has jumped three seasons in a row, and breaking the 40-percent barrier last season is impressive. Staying there consistently, after beginning 2013-14 at 33.7 percent for his career, would be that kind of improvement he mentioned.
John Schuhmann, NBA.com: The obvious answer is free throws. He shot 75.3 percent from the line last year, which was exactly the league average. He ranks near the top of the league in free-throw attempts and could be a little more efficient if he could shoot 80-85 percent. He was above average on mid-range jumpers, but struggled to knock them down at times in The Finals and can still improve a few percentage points there. And his post game can certainly use some more polish. I guess that’s enough nits to pick.
Sekou Smith, NBA.com: As great as he’s been the past few years, LeBron still has plenty of work to do on his game. Sure, he’s at the peak of his physical powers and in the prime of what is an all-time top-five career in the NBA. But who can’t stand to shoot better, both from the floor and from the free-throw line? LeBron’s post game has improved over the past couple of seasons but he hasn’t mastered that part of the game by any stretch. So, yes, there is plenty of work to do, even for the greatest player of his generation. LeBron’s an ambitious sort. He wants to make sure he goes down as the greatest player of all-time. And to accomplish that, LeBron has to maintain the work ethic that got him here — head and shoulders above the rest of the league.
Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: What can LeBron work on? Umm… his headband placement? Accessorizing his off-court outfits? Making sure his shirt stays tucked in better? Rejecting more shots per game? Realistically, on the court he’s pretty close to unstoppable — this is a guy who FOR HIS CAREER is averaging almost 28 points, 7 rebounds and 7 assists per game. He’s a four-time MVP. And he’s not even 29. Maybe — MAYBE — he could look to score a bit more or assert himself a bit more offensively, but that’s really cutting it close. I’m honestly not sure how he can get better. If LeBron really has improved from last season, I can’t wait to see it.
Marc-Oliver Robbers, NBA Deutschland: Definitely his free-throw-shooting. His career average is only on 74.7 percent. That is, in my opinion, way too little for a guy who shot 56.5 from the field last year and 40,6 percent from beyond the arc. With his athleticism and power you can often only stop him on his way to the basket by fouling him. Last season he got 535 attempts from the line, and if you compare him with other superstars like Kevin Durant (90 percent), Dirk Nowitzki (86 percent) or Carmelo Anthony (83 percent) there is plenty of space to the top. That’s his single weakness, but a weakness that you can turn into yet another strength with work.
Stefanos Triantafyllos, NBA Greece: There is always room for perfection, even if we talk about LeBron James. Last season he showcased his post-up arsenal. So what is he up to next? The one thing that he is missing in offense is the “in-between” game, as he either tends up to shoot or go all the way to the rim. He is unstoppable when he drives to the basket and has improved his jump shot after one dribble. Pulling up for a “J” (at his speed) and polishing his mid-range game is what he lacks toward becoming the most perfect offensive weapon in sports history.