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The Lebron Thread

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Post#1 The Lebron Thread
Wed Jan 11, 2012 3:17 am by SideshowBob

I wanted to continue the discussion that was going on in the GB thread made in response to Lebron's struggle in the fourth quarter.

As IG2 has brought up many times, it seems that Lebron's seen a major athletic decline that has resulted in the loss of mainly explosiveness and agility, which have lead to him being FAR less effective playing within the half court. This is because, unlike before, he cannot blow by any defender that the opposing team puts in front of him, and can no longer get to the basket at will. This leads him to rely largely on his jumper (which is actually very effective at this point) or high percentage transition buckets. That is not to say that he doesn't attack the basket at all, because he still does. But not at the frequency of his Cleveland days, nor the ease, and nor the effectiveness.

Through the first 3 quarters of the game, it seems that his slightly diversified arsenal, an absolutely elite jumper and unstoppable speed on the break have led to him becoming an even more effective player than he was in Cleveland. However, late in games, the defenses tighten up, and scoring in the half court becomes a necessity. Lebron loses confidence in his jumper, and struggles to attack the basket, and becomes unusually passive.

Now, what I think many don't realize is how effective he was in his last years in Cleveland in the 4th quarter. ElGee did an intensive study on late game performers of the past decade, and Lebron blew everyone away, in volume scoring, scoring efficiency, turning the ball over, and even his rebounding shot up. This was no different in the playoffs, as James separated himself from his peers even further. What Elgee suggests is that James' value as a player was unevenly released at the end of games. He attacked the basket so relentlessly that he was always getting high percentage shots or free throws, which then led to defenses opening up for him to close out games with jumpshots.

Now the significance of this is that this effectiveness at the end of games is the reason Cleveland tended to overperform in the regular season. Everyone remembers the blowouts, but there were so many close games that looked like major wins because James was so effectively able to put teams away before the clock expired. I don't have the numbers, but we'd have to look at extensive play-by-play data to see how many games were actually fairly close in the fourth quarter but then saw the margin of victory increase as the game ended.

That's been the issue with Lebron in Miami, forget looking to score every time down the court, he's not even demanding the ball half the time. He needs to really build confidence in that jumper in late game situations, as he showed in the playoffs last year, or he'll likely continue to struggle


For reference, ElGee's crunch time study posts:

http://www.backpicks.com/2011/01/10/the-nbas-best-players-in-the-clutch-since-2003/
http://www.backpicks.com/2011/02/03/clutch-play-since-2004-playoff-numbers/
http://www.backpicks.com/2011/02/24/the-power-of-memes-and-the-nbas-best-closer/
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Post#2 Re: Lebron's Crunch time effectiveness, Cleve
Wed Jan 11, 2012 3:38 am by IG2

Terrific post. Agree with everything you said.

As far as current LeBron is concerned, it really boils down to whether he can ADMIT who he is to himself. He's a jump shooter. That's what he does 80% of the time in the half-court. All those dunks/layups you see in highlights? They either come in transition or off-ball cuts. Those cease to exist in crunch time, so what is he going to do with the game on the line? Drive to the basket? Not capable. Post-up? Boo. Nobody does that. Shoot? Hell yeah, but doesn't have the confidence, even though numbers indicate he should, because he shoots mightily well the first 3 qtrs. Can LeBron embrace the fact that he's a jump shooter? It's the only way he will stop being the sporting world's laughing stock in the clutch. Yes, sucks to lose that off-the-dribble ability that is so essential to be a productive late-game perimeter player in this league. Can you imagine if Rose(the premiere 4th qtr player today) suddenly lost his ability to attack the basket in the half-court? He wouldn't even have a reason to exist. But unlike Rose, LeBron does possess a fairly reliable jumper. He needs to stop being a pussy and shoot the **** ball. That's his only hope of being a productive 4th qtr player in this league.

In the meantime, enjoy this doozy against NJ in LeBron's last season as a Cavalier. He can't do 90% of the things he's doing in this video.

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Post#3 Re: Lebron's athletic decline, Cleveland vs.
Wed Jan 11, 2012 4:09 am by SideshowBob

Holy s*** at 7:05

I remember watching this game. He had a double double at halftime and at the time, everything he was doing just seemed routine. Seeing it now just makes me relative how much differently he moves around on the court
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Post#4 Re: Lebron's Crunch time effectiveness, Cleve
Wed Jan 11, 2012 4:43 am by junot111

IG2 wrote:He can't do 90% of the things he's doing in this video.


90% of the video is nice passing, jump shots, active defense and fast break finishes. Which of those things can he not do today?

His decline in athleticism is overstated. People need to realize that he's playing on a different team which isn't built completely to cater to his strengths. In Cleveland he would play with at least 3 perimeter threats on the floor at a time. Nowadays he has one or two. That small difference in the number of shooters makes a huge difference in how the defense can play them, and changes the floor spacing to give LeBron less room to work with in isolation situations. If he wasn't so athletic any more, the Heat wouldn't be so successful on the break.
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Post#5 Re: Lebron's athletic decline, Cleveland vs.
Wed Jan 11, 2012 5:34 am by toodles23

Lebron was determined to destroy the Nets that game, it was obvious from his body language, though I'm not sure why he came out like that against the Nets of all teams. The dunk at 7 minutes is just absurd, there's no way in hell Miami Lebron is making a play like that.

Another game showing how Lebron used to play (from 2006):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DqE-DrcWV6I

Note the superior acceleration and explosion to the basket in the halfcourt, the quick spin moves in traffic (he used to love using spin moves, but he hardly ever does them anymore), the takeover in the 4th quarter (typical of Cleveland Lebron even as far back as 2006), and the open court dunk on Diaw at 5:25. He was a different player back then.
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Post#6 Re: Lebron's athletic decline, Cleveland vs.
Wed Jan 11, 2012 6:24 am by orangeparka

I'll admit I never watched that much of LeBron while he was in Cleveland, but I just don't understand how he's doing so much better now efficiency-wise if he's lost the ability to "blow by anyone".
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Post#7 Re: Lebron's athletic decline, Cleveland vs.
Wed Jan 11, 2012 6:34 am by orangeparka

toodles23 wrote:Lebron was determined to destroy the Nets that game, it was obvious from his body language, though I'm not sure why he came out like that against the Nets of all teams. The dunk at 7 minutes is just absurd, there's no way in hell Miami Lebron is making a play like that.

Another game showing how Lebron used to play (from 2006):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DqE-DrcWV6I

Note the superior acceleration and explosion to the basket in the halfcourt, the quick spin moves in traffic (he used to love using spin moves, but he hardly ever does them anymore), the takeover in the 4th quarter (typical of Cleveland Lebron even as far back as 2006), and the open court dunk on Diaw at 5:25. He was a different player back then.


...what am I supposed to be seeing in that video? I really don't see much difference with how he plays there and how he plays now.

If anything, LeBron looks like a much smoother dribbler now, especially in transition.

He isn't "blowing by" everyone any more than he is on the Heat now. He does much more of muscling his way inside, which he's still very much capable of doing now.

I'm sorry, I just don't see what this huge athletic decline deal is all about.

He does have less super athletic highlights, but watching an everyday game of his from 2006, he doesn't seem too much different other than his jumper being so much smoother/better, and the overall polish to his game.
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Post#8 Re: Lebron's athletic decline, Cleveland vs.
Wed Jan 11, 2012 11:28 am by SideshowBob

toodles23 wrote:Lebron was determined to destroy the Nets that game, it was obvious from his body language, though I'm not sure why he came out like that against the Nets of all teams. The dunk at 7 minutes is just absurd, there's no way in hell Miami Lebron is making a play like that.

Another game showing how Lebron used to play (from 2006):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DqE-DrcWV6I

Note the superior acceleration and explosion to the basket in the halfcourt, the quick spin moves in traffic (he used to love using spin moves, but he hardly ever does them anymore), the takeover in the 4th quarter (typical of Cleveland Lebron even as far back as 2006), and the open court dunk on Diaw at 5:25. He was a different player back then.


I swear, his body language on the court changes based on what kind of jersey he wears and what kind of shoes he has on. It's strange as hell, but he plays better at home when he's wearing a road jersey :dontknow:
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Post#9 Re: Lebron's athletic decline, Cleveland vs.
Wed Jan 11, 2012 11:29 am by SideshowBob

The biggest change to me is his fluidity. He looked like he was getting around the court much easier, and the most noticeable difference is from those 09 and 10 highlights.
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Post#10 Re: Lebron's athletic decline, Cleveland vs.
Wed Jan 11, 2012 12:47 pm by IG2

orangeparka wrote:I'll admit I never watched that much of LeBron while he was in Cleveland, but I just don't understand how he's doing so much better now efficiency-wise if he's lost the ability to "blow by anyone".


He picks up a ridiculous amount of easy baskets through transition and off-ball cutting. He's also a good shooter. He doesn't create much off-the-dribble in the half-court though, which is a major necessity to succeed in close games. And LeBron exasperates that problem by not taking jump shots.
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Post#11 Re: Lebron's athletic decline, Cleveland vs.
Wed Jan 11, 2012 1:03 pm by SideshowBob

Exactly. He needs to have confidence in that jumper throughout the fourth quarter. What he does is test it out early in the game, and if he misses a few, he'll go away from it completely. He needs to know that he's going to make that shot with the game on the line and he needs to be willing to take it. He hasn't been doing this, and because he cannot create offense in any other way in the half court (off-ball cutting isn't readily available when defenses tighten up at the end of games) he has to resort to this extreme passiveness. 0 FGA in the 4th is just unacceptable. I'd rather he take 5 shots and lose the game than not taking any shot at all.
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Post#12 Re: Lebron's athletic decline, Cleveland vs.
Wed Jan 11, 2012 3:13 pm by SideshowBob

Just look at how fluid he looks running around on the court here.


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Post#13 Re: Lebron's athletic decline, Cleveland vs.
Wed Jan 11, 2012 3:54 pm by toodles23

SideshowBob wrote:I swear, his body language on the court changes based on what kind of jersey he wears and what kind of shoes he has on. It's strange as hell, but he plays better at home when he's wearing a road jersey :dontknow:

Totally true, he's been a more skilled, focused, polished player on the road ever since he got to Miami. It's bizarre, but when he plays at home he seems to ditch his skills a little bit.
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Post#14 Re: Lebron's athletic decline, Cleveland vs.
Wed Jan 11, 2012 4:01 pm by Chosen01

Honestly who cares? He's still a better player now than he was in 06,he's 27 of course he's not going to have the exact same athleticism as he had when he was 21 but still the most athletic SF in the game.
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Post#15 Re: Lebron's athletic decline, Cleveland vs.
Wed Jan 11, 2012 4:18 pm by CablexDeadpool

Lebron doesn't suffer from athletic decline


Lebron changed his game, Lebron went from 245 to an upwards of 275.

Right now he's sitting around 265.

Lebron put on weight towards the end of his tenure with the Cavs. Lebron began changing his game from a wing player to more of a PF since he got in Miami.

Look at his body, he was leaner and slimmer then and look at him now, rock hard solid muscle.

He's essentially a Power Forward now. He's no longer player like a guard or a wing.

So no, it's not loss of athleticism per se, it's called putting on 30 pounds and evolving his game.
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Post#16 Re: Lebron's athletic decline, Cleveland vs.
Wed Jan 11, 2012 4:19 pm by SideshowBob

toodles23 wrote:
SideshowBob wrote:I swear, his body language on the court changes based on what kind of jersey he wears and what kind of shoes he has on. It's strange as hell, but he plays better at home when he's wearing a road jersey :dontknow:

Totally true, he's been a more skilled, focused, polished player on the road ever since he got to Miami. It's bizarre, but when he plays at home he seems to ditch his skills a little bit.


I think he was like this in Cleveland as well, but its definitely more prominent in Miami. Just check out his home/road splits

05-06
Home: 30.9 per game 59.2% TS
Road: 31.8 per game 54.7% TS

06-07
Home: 26.4 per game on 55.7% TS
Road: 28.2 per game on 54.8% TS

07-08
Home: 29.4 per game on 57.1% TS
Road: 30.7 per game on 56.5% TS (#1 in league)

08-09
Home: 25.4 per game on 59.8% TS
Road: 31.5 per game on 58.6% TS (#1 in league)

09-10
Home: 28.4 per game on 61.8% TS
Road: 31.0 per game on 59.3% TS (#1 in league)

10-11
Home: 25.6 per game on 57.9% TS
Road: 27.9 per game on 60.9% TS (#1 in league)

11-12
Home: 25.8 per game on 65.8% TS
Road: 32.8 per game on 64.6% TS (#1 in league)

So, we clearly see that he's better in high pressure situations on the road, as this is his 5th straight season leading the league in road scoring. As you mention, we really see a shift when he arrives in Miami, as not only does his volume increase, but his efficiency spikes as well.
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Post#17 Re: Lebron's athletic decline, Cleveland vs.
Wed Jan 11, 2012 4:22 pm by SideshowBob

Chosen01 wrote:Honestly who cares? He's still a better player now than he was in 06,he's 27 of course he's not going to have the exact same athleticism as he had when he was 21 but still the most athletic SF in the game.


But no one's arguing that. We're talking about 2009 and 2010, when Lebron was at his peak, producing at historic levels (especially in the clutch) and leading Cleveland to overachieve to the #1 seed two years in a row.

He may be a more diverse and skilled player than he was then, but he's not nearly as effective. He's better than 03-07 Lebron, about on par with 08 Lebron, but well below his 09-10 level
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Post#18 Re: Lebron's athletic decline, Cleveland vs.
Wed Jan 11, 2012 4:40 pm by Chosen01

You don't have anything that backs up that statement/

LeBron is averaging 30 8 and 8 on close to 60% shooting 80% FT, 65%TS 2 steals .8bpg

That's better than his '10 season overall, pretty easily.
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Post#19 Re: Lebron's athletic decline, Cleveland vs.
Wed Jan 11, 2012 5:09 pm by ahonui06

No significant athletic decline. LeBron just isn't a clutch player on the biggest stage against quality teams.
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Post#20 Re: Lebron's athletic decline, Cleveland vs.
Wed Jan 11, 2012 5:11 pm by SideshowBob

Chosen01 wrote:You don't have anything that backs up that statement/

LeBron is averaging 30 8 and 8 on close to 60% shooting 80% FT, 65%TS 2 steals .8bpg

That's better than his '10 season overall, pretty easily.


Yes, statistically he's better. You didn't even mention the minutes, he's at 37, the lowest of his career, and still maintaining higher raw production, which makes those numbers look even more otherworldly. Simply put, through a 10 game sample, he's having the greatest statistical season of all time.

However I'll maintain that despite that, he's not as effective of a player as he was in 2009 and 2010, because in crunch time his production has dropped off. Crunch time was when Lebron's dominance really came out, and that dominance just isn't there at the level it once was. If he starts trusting that jumper, as he did against us and Chicago in the playoffs, he'll regain the dominance he shows through the first three quarters, but if he maintains this passiveness late in games, he continues to have significantly inferior impact to his later Cleveland days.

As for backing it up, watching 80% of his games for the last 8 and a half years is all the support I have to those claims. You can either take my word for it, or not, but I'll continue to insist that the stats here are not telling the full story.
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