LeBron James is doing the dirty work and it's punishing all comers.
Though he's gone down into the trenches before, the four-time MVP is leaning into his post game like never before as he continues to play like an MVP in his 17th season and at a stage of his career where a dropoff could have been expected. Instead of dropping off, James is dropping down low and dump trucking the narrative that he's slowing down.
For the season, James is averaging 4.1 post-ups per game second on the team behind Anthony Davis (9.2). Since the All-Star break, LeBron has been willingly going down to the block imposing his will and using his back to the basket game to not only simplify the offence and get easy looks for himself but his teammates too.
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The King is averaging 5.6 post-ups since the break resulting in a team-high 3.6 points, 1.2 assists per game according to NBA Stats. Over the course of a season, 5.6 would be easily his most dating back to the 2013-14 season which is as far back NBA.com's post-up stats go/
Over the last five games, we've seen LeBron go to the low block when his team needed a basket most. He killed the Celtics with repeated trips to the post in a game that could've gone either way. And made the Pelicans pay everything they put Jrue Holiday on him defensively in their two most recent games.
What LeBron is doing over the last couple of weeks is reminiscent of his 2011-12 championship season in Miami where Erik Spoelstra wanted more post-play out of him. With James operating in the post, it gave Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh and the other Heat players more defined roles on the offensive end. Wade would get back to cutting and slashing and Bosh knew he had to become a floor spacer.
The Lakers don't have the offensive chemistry issues those Heat teams struggled with at times but why not make life easier for your team?
On Sunday against the Pelicans, LeBron posted up 8 times per NBA Stats. He shot 75% from the field and picked apart the Pelicans when they decided to double team.
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Midway through the fourth, the Pelicans decided to play Holiday on LeBron. James wasted no time in getting the smaller guard down on the block and went to work. With the floor spaced and no double team, imminent James spins baseline for an easy two.
The reason that bucket was so easy for LeBron? He had a similar play just minutes before where he made the defence pay for doubling him.
Once again LeBron was on the low block, this time with Josh Hart trying to outmuscle him. Zion Williamson sees his teammate in need of help so he doubles down off of Kyle Kuzma. LeBron sucks Zion in and delivers an on-point pass to Kuzma who confidently steps into a three.
Later in the game, LeBron is once again in with Holiday trying his best to stop him. The Pelicans learned their lesson from the Williamson double off Kuzma so when they double LeBron they're in a much better position to take away the easy pass at the top of the key to Danny Green. James, however, is still one step ahead - reading the rotation and finding Kuzma alone for a corner three.
The Lakers as a team this season are shooting 35.8% from three-point range which ranks 16th in the league. It's a sticking point for many who believe this team might run into trouble in the playoffs when the defence tightens up.
A positive however is their three-point percentage shoots up to 38% on catch and shoot triples which ranks in the top 10. Given the even heavier dose of catch-and-shoot opportunities sure to come from LeBron's playmakng come playoff time, there's reason to expect that the Lakers could be a better shooting team than they've let on thus far.
For a team with questions surrounding their role players and secondary scoring, simplifying the offence by posting up and feeding LeBron James as much as possible may be the answer.
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