My assignment is to analyze LeBron James and figure out why his offensive production has slipped this season.
First, some perspective.
James' 2005-06 season was more extraordinary than most people realize. In fact, since 1979-80 (the first season for Magic Johnson and Larry Bird), James had the best Player Efficiency Rating for any non-center age 18 to 22, posting a 28.1 PER at age 21. In other words, during those 27 years, only Shaquille O'Neal put up a better statistical season by age 22.
James easily outpaced Michael Jordan, Amare Stoudemire, Tracy McGrady, Kobe Bryant and all the rest.
Naturally, now we expect more from James. It comes with the territory.
Instead, James has tailed off.
That doesn't mean he's having a bad season -- far from it. He just turned 22, and his current PER of 23.7 would be the 10th best (since 1979-80) for players age 18 to 22.
And his passing is still exquisite, even if his assists are down a bit. His eye and feel for the game are truly amazing, at any age.
But we expected that he might be able to take his game to new heights and essentially take over the league, and it hasn't happened.
Specifically, his scoring has slipped from 31.4 points per game to 26.3, and that decline has been caused primarily by his decreased ability to create shots and get to the free-throw line. His free-throw shooting has become a problem as well.
Meanwhile, such players as Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, who were in the same celebrated draft class of 2003, have continued to make significant strides in their fourth season.
My study of his half-court offensive game reveals some of the problems …and potential solutions.
On to the breakdown: