Scout: Free Throws Have Become LeBron's Final Flaw

Scout: Free Throws Have Become LeBron's Final Flaw

Postby Kobe8Fan on Thu Dec 06, 2012 11:51 am

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By Brian Windhorst
ESPN.com

MIAMI -- LeBron James’ weaknesses paragraph has been reduced to a sentence.

Not too many years ago, the league’s “book” on James documented several shortcomings in his game. Not good going left. Doesn’t attack as much from left side of floor. Inconsistent midrange jumper. Below-average 3-point shooter. Can be pushed out of post with little effort.

“Not anymore, he’s basically down to one,” said an Eastern Conference advance scout who has recently tracked the Miami Heat.

“Free throws.”

James was just named player of the month for November. He’s shooting a career-high 53 percent from the field, a career-high 42 percent from 3-point range and averaging a career-high 9.1 rebounds. He has never been more proficient in playing from the post. His case for a fourth Most Valuable Player Award is already being built.

But there’s one hole and it’s actually growing a little. James is having the worst free throw shooting season of his 10-year career. He’s at just under 65 percent through 16 games, a stunning 12 percent drop-off from last season and 10 percent off his career average.

It happened to manifest itself in the Heat’s 105-101 loss to the Washington Wizards Tuesday night. With two minutes to play, James missed two important free throws in a four-point game. It wasn’t the direct reason the Heat lost, but it was a contributing factor.

More importantly, it seems that James’ struggles at the foul line could be having a negative impact on his overall offensive game. James is going to the foul line significantly less than in years past. So far this season he’s making just 5.7 trips a game, which would be the lowest average of his career. This is a drop of nearly three attempts per game from last season. Not only that, it's roughly half as many as his last season in Cleveland.

This is an unusual and unexpected development. As James has appeared to hit his prime over the past few seasons and his all-around game has been honed, all of his numbers and execution have only been on the rise. This is the first significant regression in a while and the opposition is already starting to notice.

It might not be long before strategies get altered and teams start putting James on the line in an attempt to slow his effectiveness.

James is taking an expected position on the matter, which is that it is just a phase.

“I just need to go up there and make them,” James said. “Just go up there and figure it out.”

But James has been wavering a bit on free throws for some time now. Last season he shot 68 percent on so-called “clutch” free throws, shots taken in the last five minutes with a game within five points. It was the first time he had shot below 80 percent on those key free throws since the 2007-08 season. In his first season with the Heat in 2010-11, for example, he shot 84 percent on “clutch” free throws.

If there was one bobble James had during the playoffs last season it came as a result of free throws. In the Heat’s Game 2 loss to the Indiana Pacers in the second round, James missed two important free throws in the final minute. This infamously led to Pacers reserve Lance Stephenson flashing a choking sign that became a touchstone for a physical and testy series.

No player will make them all; not even James can be held to that standard. But in the final possession of that game against the Pacers, James appeared to pass up a chance to drive with the Heat down two points. Coach Erik Spoelstra said at the time fatigue may have played a factor. James said he was attempting to get a better shot, which turned out to be a miss by Mario Chalmers. But it left the impression that after the free throw misses, James may not have wanted to go to the line again under pressure.

All in all, this was but a blip in a magnificent playoff run for James. But it was still there.

“The only weakness in his game right now is at the line,” the scout said. “There is basically no way to defend him, he will beat every look and every system. But if there’s a chink in the armor, and it’s a small one, it’s at the line.”

James struggled for consistency at the line early in his career. Over his first few seasons he went through what seemed like an unending stream of routines. He tried not dribbling. He tried deep knee bends. He positioned himself at different angles to the rim.

After shooting just 69 percent from the line during the 2006-07 season, he started working regularly with then Cavs assistant coach Chris Jent. Now an assistant at Ohio State, Jent worked to get James into a routine that he trusted while making adjustments to improve his balance. Within two seasons, his average had shot up to 78 percent.

James had been a reasonably consistent shooter at the line ever since, usually shooting in the high 70s, and usually in the 80s under end-of-game pressure.

Perhaps James is indeed just going through a bad phase. Perhaps all the basketball over the summer with the Olympics caused him to slack a bit on his fundamentals heading into the season. Perhaps this slide won’t even be remembered when the spring comes.

But with the quarter mark of the season in sight there is no doubt it is becoming an issue, one James will probably have to address.


http://espn.go.com/blog/truehoop/miamih ... ree-throws
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Re: Scout: Free Throws Have Become LeBron's Final Flaw

Postby pound4pound1 on Thu Dec 06, 2012 12:29 pm

yeeeaa...i cant laugh about other teams/players and FT problems...no comment
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Re: Scout: Free Throws Have Become LeBron's Final Flaw

Postby LakRfAn on Thu Dec 06, 2012 3:01 pm

no reason to laugh at anything as it pertains to Bron's game

he's hands down the best in the world and by a wide margin
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Re: Scout: Free Throws Have Become LeBron's Final Flaw

Postby revgen on Thu Dec 06, 2012 3:10 pm

So, the lack of a postup game isn't a flaw?
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Re: Scout: Free Throws Have Become LeBron's Final Flaw

Postby Juronimo on Thu Dec 06, 2012 3:17 pm

His post up game has improved quite a bit over the last couple of years. He'll never be Hakeem down there but it's much better than it was just 3 years or so ago.
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Re: Scout: Free Throws Have Become LeBron's Final Flaw

Postby The Original 81 on Thu Dec 06, 2012 4:32 pm

What about his midrange game? I know he was awful in last year's Finals but I don't know the numbers for this year so I'm not sure if he's improved there.

65% on his free throws is pretty bad, although it could be worse as we all know...
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Re: Scout: Free Throws Have Become LeBron's Final Flaw

Postby revgen on Thu Dec 06, 2012 5:01 pm

Juronimo wrote:His post up game has improved quite a bit over the last couple of years. He'll never be Hakeem down there but it's much better than it was just 3 years or so ago.


His postup game isn't even as good as Melo's. Heck, Melo's postup game his rookie year was better than Lebron's postup game is now.

Until Lebron can actually take over and dominate a game in the post like he does on the perimeter, I'd call his postup a flaw. Especially someone with his strength and athleticism.
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Re: Scout: Free Throws Have Become LeBron's Final Flaw

Postby The Original 81 on Thu Dec 06, 2012 5:21 pm

lakerswiz wrote:
The Original 81 wrote:What about his midrange game? I know he was awful in last year's Finals but I don't know the numbers for this year so I'm not sure if he's improved there.

65% on his free throws is pretty bad, although it could be worse as we all know...

I don't have any numbers, but I did take a look at his shooting chart on the season and there were tons of red x's (misses) from the short corner on both sides of the court. He's taking paint shots or 3 pointers, and is generally taking his mid-range jumpers from 15 feet out around the top of the key.


Thanks wiz. I think he'll have to develop a midrange game once his athleticism fades and he can't get into the paint at will like he can now. And as rev indicated he MUST improve his post game. Right now he's just bullying people down there, he's going to have to use his footwork to his advantage later on and his footwork is still poor.
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Re: Scout: Free Throws Have Become LeBron's Final Flaw

Postby Rooscooter on Thu Dec 06, 2012 7:01 pm

Sooooo..... just under 65% is a Flaw....

.....and Howard says his free throw shooting is O.K. because he does other things on the court while shooting 47%

From the casual observer's point of view.... Howard isn't doing anything as well as LeBron other than rebounding currently yet Lebron is the one with the "Flaw" because he's shooting nearly 20% higher than Howard from the line who's O.K. in his own mind....
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Re: Scout: Free Throws Have Become LeBron's Final Flaw

Postby 432J on Thu Dec 06, 2012 9:41 pm

i wish howard could shoot FT's like lebron
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Re: Scout: Free Throws Have Become LeBron's Final Flaw

Postby CaCHooKa Man on Thu Dec 06, 2012 10:06 pm

lol at final flaw
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Re: Scout: Free Throws Have Become LeBron's Final Flaw

Postby FabFourLakers on Thu Dec 06, 2012 10:56 pm

Lol. Seriously? If he shot 87% like Kobe, he'd average 32 a game easily. I agree. Definitely his "final flaw". God I just hope D-Wade breaks down this year and then the cHeat will finally have a weakness in their lineup...
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Re: Scout: Free Throws Have Become LeBron's Final Flaw

Postby The Rock on Fri Dec 07, 2012 12:41 am

The Original 81 wrote:What about his midrange game? I know he was awful in last year's Finals but I don't know the numbers for this year so I'm not sure if he's improved there.

65% on his free throws is pretty bad, although it could be worse as we all know...


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Re: Scout: Free Throws Have Become LeBron's Final Flaw

Postby kenshi1023 on Fri Dec 07, 2012 11:30 am

An inferiority complex flaw? :)
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Re: Scout: Free Throws Have Become LeBron's Final Flaw

Postby V.V.V.V.V. on Sun Dec 09, 2012 2:16 am

It's all hype. When his athleticism fades in a few years, we'll see for real how good the other facets of his game are.
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Re: Scout: Free Throws Have Become LeBron's Final Flaw

Postby Scnottaken on Sun Dec 09, 2012 2:37 am

V.V.V.V.V. wrote:It's all hype. When his athleticism fades in a few years, we'll see for real how good the other facets of his game are.

HIs ability to draw phantom fouls will more than make up for his athleticism.
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Re: Scout: Free Throws Have Become LeBron's Final Flaw

Postby LooN3y on Sun Dec 09, 2012 5:01 am

well considering espn was claiming he was the best player in the NBA years before, when he had absolutely no post game and his jumpshooting is even more horrible than now.


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Re: Scout: Free Throws Have Become LeBron's Final Flaw

Postby Juronimo on Sun Dec 09, 2012 2:28 pm

revgen wrote:
Juronimo wrote:His post up game has improved quite a bit over the last couple of years. He'll never be Hakeem down there but it's much better than it was just 3 years or so ago.


His postup game isn't even as good as Melo's. Heck, Melo's postup game his rookie year was better than Lebron's postup game is now.

Until Lebron can actually take over and dominate a game in the post like he does on the perimeter, I'd call his postup a flaw. Especially someone with his strength and athleticism.


I wouldn't call it a flaw at all really. That's as much of a flaw as Kareem not being able to shoot 3's. His post game isn't as good as Melo's but considering he can literally do everything else at an almost elite level and his post game has improved quite a bit, calling him out for not playing at an elite level in the post is nitpicking at best.
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Re: Scout: Free Throws Have Become LeBron's Final Flaw

Postby revgen on Sun Dec 09, 2012 3:05 pm

Juronimo wrote:
revgen wrote:
Juronimo wrote:His post up game has improved quite a bit over the last couple of years. He'll never be Hakeem down there but it's much better than it was just 3 years or so ago.


His postup game isn't even as good as Melo's. Heck, Melo's postup game his rookie year was better than Lebron's postup game is now.

Until Lebron can actually take over and dominate a game in the post like he does on the perimeter, I'd call his postup a flaw. Especially someone with his strength and athleticism.


I wouldn't call it a flaw at all really. That's as much of a flaw as Kareem not being able to shoot 3's. His post game isn't as good as Melo's but considering he can literally do everything else at an almost elite level and his post game has improved quite a bit, calling him out for not playing at an elite level in the post is nitpicking at best.


I don't see it as nitpicking since once he loses his athleticism, he'll need to depend more on fundamentals like footwork. Look at Wade for an example of what happens when you don't work on your fundamentals and rely too much on athleticism when you get older. This is Lebron's 10th year in the league. He's still young, but he's not exactly a pup anymore. He needs to get to a point where he doesn't have to rely on his athleticism so much to dominate.
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Re: Scout: Free Throws Have Become LeBron's Final Flaw

Postby Frank Dux on Sun Dec 09, 2012 4:21 pm

Final flaw? I know he certainly can improve his half court game, midrange game, and post game as well. Like another poster mentioned, he usually shoots a 3 or drives. Which is why he always has a very good TS%(long two's are bad for your %), I call that the James Harden effect. Which is why we've seen him struggle in the past, despite still putting up the numbers. Kobe may not be as "efficient" as guys like Harden, Wade, or Lebron. But his ability to get a quality shot off anywhere on the court is a lot more valuable than given credit for. How many times have we seen Kobe hit a big shot from the elbow after backing his man down? too many times!

Lebron is a great player, but he's still not as refined as he could be. If he added a midpost game to his repertoire, you better believe he'd have more than one NBA title.
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Re: Scout: Free Throws Have Become LeBron's Final Flaw

Postby revgen on Sun Dec 09, 2012 4:28 pm

Frank Dux wrote:Lebron is a great player, but he's still not as refined as he could be. If he added a midpost game to his repertoire, you better believe he'd have more than one NBA title.


Absolutely. Unlike Melo, Lebron actually has court vision and high caliber passing skills. He'd be devastating in the post.
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