Beyond your Los Angeles Lakers’ disappointing 2-6 record to start the 2022-23 NBA season, another disappointment of an early season trend was the lackluster shooting of the team’s best player. Which, come to think of it, might have something to do with the team’s current position near the bottom of the Western Conference.
In eight games, LeBron James, 37, is averaging 24 points, 9.1 rebounds, 7.5 assists, 1.1 steals and 0.9 blocks. Pretty solid numbers for a guy entering his 20th NBA season.
That said, I didn’t realize the situation had gotten to the point where LeBron James’ shooting numbers are actually poorer than teammate Russell Westbrook, never known to be a particularly strong shooter. This writer was shocked, shocked I tell you, to find the following mockup by Micah Adams:
The big areas of concern, of course, are the basket and three-point numbers. James has actually evolved into a pretty proficient volume shooter from deep. For his career, he averages 34.5% on his 4.5 total triple attempts. Last season he shot 35.9% on 8.0 looks from afar. The fact that he only converts 20.7% of his 7.3 high-volume looks per night is troubling. That would be by far his lowest three-point shooting percentage of all time. If he really wants to stay that bad, he’ll have to change his shooting profile and limit his long-range output.
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When it comes to overall shooting from the floor, James is a career 50.4% shooter. The 43.1% completion number is worse than all but one of his other seasons (his 2003-04 rookie year).
Here’s the catch: James is struggling with pain in his left foot. He’s playing there for now, at 36.4 minutes per game, but LBJ’s lift just isn’t there. It seems to at least affect his finish in the paint, but who’s to say it doesn’t affect his sweaters as well? James was also bedridden for much of the past week with an illness other than COVID-19. These mitigating factors may play an outsized role in James’ shoot. The fact that opposing defenses don’t respect LA’s outside shooters and often obstruct the running lines with assist coverage against James certainly can’t help either.
James himself seems to blame the disease squarely, for Kyle Goon of the Orange County Register. “I lost my rhythm when I kind of had this bug,” James said. “Not only the threes, but a few lay-ups were short around the edge. I just feel like my rhythm has been off. I didn’t get a chance to go to the training ground because I was kinda told – not just told to stay away, but advised to stay away to save my energy for matches.