The Passing Brilliance Of LeBron James

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James minutes distribution by quarter this season has been fairly even this season. The Lakers essentially try to get around eight minutes of LeBron in every quarter in some fashion while trying to find ways to stagger Davis and James.

Usage and Assist Data

A common parallel in the data that matches up with the eye test involves James’ usage as a facilitator and scorer. Typically in the 1st and 3rd quarters, LeBron looks to run the offense as a facilitator and find ways to set up his teammates and in the 2nd and 4th quarters he looks for his own scoring (while continuing to set his teammates up where available).

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If James spends the first and third quarters setting up his teammates then how do we know that he spends the other two scoring more? Again we can take a dive into the data. Typically LeBron goes to the bench early in the first and third and gets a solo shift without Anthony Davis in the second and fourth quarters.

Frank Vogel has deviated a little bit from this substitution pattern but for the most part it has stayed consistent throughout the season. While we know James’ usage rate increases and assist rate decreases in his “Scorer” quarters his scoring stats help solidify the idea that he looks to score in these situations.

James has attempted 157 more field goals attempts, 94 more free throw attempts, and grabbed 59 more rebounds in his “Scorer” quarters compared to his “Facilitator” quarters.

Even with LeBron’s assist totals dipping in these quarters, he is still finding ways to mix in some of the low effort assists while trying to make optimal score vs pass decisions in isolation play.

The fourth quarter is really where James makes some of his more difficult passes out of his isolation play.

While the pattern of LeBron’s “facilitator” and “scorer” roles should change as the Lakers start increasing his minutes and tightening their rotations once the season resumes, James’ ability to manage his workload without sacrificing chemistry is tremendous.

When the Lakers made the trade for Anthony Davis and overhauled their roster and staff, not many folks in the media penned the Lakers for the kind of success they have had this season. More importantly, many media members expected father time to lay claim to James and his productivity on the court.

However, LeBron yet again, has found a way to stay one step ahead of everyone else, one pass at a time.