Oklahoma City Thunder v Miami Heat

LeBron James jealous of Kevin Durant’s shot attempts

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LeBron James has not won a scoring title since 2008, when, not coincidentally, he last led the NBA in shots per game.

Attempting the most shots is not a sure-fire way to lead the league in scoring average – Kevin Durant leads the NBA in points per game this season, though Carmelo Anthony and LaMarcus Aldridge have taken more shots per game – but it helps. And Durant still shoots at a high volume – so high in fact, he actually wants fewer attempts.

LeBron on the other hand…

Via ESPN:

“I get jealous sometimes when I look over at KD and he’s like 16-for-32 (from the field) and then 14-for-34. … Man,” James told ESPN.com’s Tom Haberstroh.

James could stand to take more shots but explained, “I’m not much of a forced-shot guy.

“But there are games where I have it going, and then at the end of the game, I’m like, damn, I shot just 12-for-16? Why don’t I get up at least six or seven more? I definitely notice it.”

There’s no secret why Durant shoots more than LeBron. With Russell Westbrook out injured, the Thunder need Durant to carry them offensively. LeBron has a couple star teammates, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, who need need shots. Plus, LeBron is a better distributor than Durant, making passing up a shot the correct call more often for LeBron than it is for Durant.

Could LeBron shoot more and still help his team, though? Almost definitely. A 59/40/75 shooter, LeBron is incredibly efficient. Even if he forced more shots and lowered his efficiency, it would still likely sit well above his teammates’. The equilibrium point probably requires more LeBron shots.

But that’s not his game and hasn’t been since he joined Wade and Bosh in Miami. In his four years with the Heat, LeBron’s per game averages have been:

  • 26.7 points on 18.8 shots
  • 27.1 points on 18.9 shots
  • 26.8 points on 17.8 shots
  • 26.0 points on 16.1 shots

In NBA history, there have been 240 seasons of players as scoring as many points per game as LeBron has each of his four years in Miami. In shots per game among that group, LeBron’s seasons rank as the second- , ninth- , 26th- and 28th-fewest (marked in red).

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Only Adrian Dantley (sixth-, 15th-, 17th- and 22nd-fewest) rivals LeBron’s sustained output of high-volume, low-shot scoring. Karl Malone (7th-, 14th-, 24th- and 30th-fewest) and Shaquille O’Neal (10th-, 12th-, 18th- and 33rd-fewest) fall just short of the discussion.

The season with the fewest shots per game on that list belongs to Charles Barkley, who scored 28.3 points on 16.0 shots per game in 1987-88.

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This is the path LeBron chose when signing with the Heat, and I think he knows that.

I don’t take his comments as complaining, as much as they’re acknowledging a downside to his decision.

The upside definitely trumps it.

By sacrificing his individual game to play with other stars, LeBron has two titles already. He has a good chance at a third this season, and his championship window won’t close after that.

I also believe history will judge his historically efficient seasons even more kindly than they’re being judged right now.

In hindsight, we probably overrated players like Allen Iverson during their high-volume, low efficiency seasons. The tide has turned a great deal already, but I think it has further to go. Efficiency – in this regard, not wasting possessions with missed shots – is becoming increasingly valued at the expense of volume stats like points per game.

Everyone knows LeBron is the best player in the NBA right now. But when people look back on his career, I think it will be viewed even more favorably – precisely because he doesn’t regularly shoot 16-for-32 or 14-for-34 like he wishes he did.

Draymond Green tells Kyrie Irving: ‘I know your moves’ (video)

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Only Draymond Green can endearingly brag about his defensive intelligence while admitting getting fooled on a play.

In the Warriors’ blowout win over the Cavaliers last night, Green guarded Kyrie Irving and anticipated the Cleveland guard would go one way. After Irving went the other way to score, the two shared a moment during a stoppage.

“I know your  moves,” Green said.

“I know,” replied Irving, whose vast offensive repertoire allowed him to find an unexpected counter.

Thaddeus Young shakes backboard with dunk on Terrence Jones (video)

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Terrence Jones isn’t much of a rim protector.

Thaddeus Young took advantage.

This ferocious jam helped the Pacers beat the Pelicans, 98-85.

Rudy Gobert block secures Utah’s win over Phoenix (VIDEO)

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At the season’s midway point, Rudy Gobert is probably the leader frontrunner in the Defensive Player of the Year race. Kawhi Leonard will have a say, and there is a lot of basketball yet to play, but Gobert anchors the NBA’s best defense and he is a force in the paint.

Just ask the Phoenix Suns.

Down three with 13 seconds left Monday night, the Suns wanted a three to tie, but when that was not easily open Eric Bledsoe decided to drive for two (then the Suns would foul and extend the game), he was cut off so Bledsoe dished to rookie Marquese Chriss, who went in for the layup — and found the long arms of Gobert. Blocked shot and game over.

Utah is for real, folks.

Three Things We Learned, Cavaliers/Warriors edition: What can we take away from Monday to NBA Finals?

OAKLAND, CA - JANUARY 16:  LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers holds his face after being fouled by Draymond Green #23 of the Golden State Warriors at ORACLE Arena on January 16, 2017 in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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The NBA goes big on Martin Luther King Jr. day — as they should — but if you missed the action because you were busy counting to 100,000 for no reason, we’ve got you covered with the key takeaways from the biggest game on the schedule.

And we’re doubling our usual three things we learned to six for a day.

Six things from Warriors’ thrashing of Cavaliers that could play out in NBA Finals.
 Nothing that happens in the regular season guarantees anything come the NBA playoffs, let alone the Finals. Last season’s 73-win Warriors were just the latest in a long line of teams to prove that. Which means we need to be careful reading much into Golden State’s thrashing of Cleveland on Martin Luther King Jr. day. The Finals are a little less than six months away — both of these teams will be different by then (the Cavaliers hope to have a healthy J.R. Smith and Kevin Love by then, for example).  Remember, in January one year ago the Warriors thrashed the Cavaliers on national television, and how did the following Finals turn out?

However, when these teams meet some strategies are tested, little things in the game that we could see — or teams will need to at least account for — come the Finals meeting we all expect. Here are six things from Monday’s game that could well play out in June in the NBA Finals.

1) In the four straight wins the Cavaliers had in this series prior to Monday, they were very aggressive in defending Stephen Curry — they trapped him off picks, were physical, tried to pressure him into decisions to give up the ball, then when Curry tried to make the playground passes that worked against other teams the Cavaliers help defenders made steals and were off in transition the other way. All of that made Curry passive — remember the guy floating on the perimeter taking just 11 shots on Christmas Day?

On Monday night Curry took that pressure in stride, attacked Kyrie Irving from the opening tip (remember Curry’s first possession he blew right by him), used his handles to create space, used his gravity to draw defenders to him, then he whipped smart passes around the floor. In the first half, Curry had 10 assists and zero turnovers. For the game Curry had 20 shots. If he can match that, or even come close, in the Finals, the Cavs are going to struggle to slow this offense down. Like every mortal team has.

2) In January 2016 the Warriors thrashed the Cavaliers on national television, and that was a critical step in the Cavaliers deciding they needed to let David Blatt go, hire Tyronn Lue, and make changes that put them on Golden State’s level. With Monday’s loss, one thing that was evident was the depth of playmaking options the Warriors have and how that can be difficult to guard. Cleveland has two playmakers right now, Kyrie Irving and LeBron James. Cavs’ GM David Griffin has talked about wanting to add playmakers, LeBron has called for a backup point guard, but it’s clear whatever position they could use to add another playmaker or two heading into the trade deadline.

3) Can Kevin Durant guard LeBron? Chris Haynes of ESPN with an interesting stat:

The Cavaliers were on the last night of a six-game, 12-day road trip — they were not at their best. LeBron clearly wasn’t. However, if KD can even do a reasonable job on LeBron — or can switch on to him without getting torched — the Warriors will be a lot more comfortable and have more options on defense.

4) How did Warriors handle Kyle Korver? They went right at him and made him play defense, which has never been a strong suit (to put it kindly). The Warriors have enough playmakers that whoever Korver was guarding just went at him, and it worked — particularly during the stretch that saw the Warriors first push their lead north of 20. Korver didn’t have a great shooting night, by June he likely is far more comfortable, but if the Warriors can expose him on the other end it will be hard to keep Korver on the court for extended periods.

5) When JaVale McGee checked in for the Warriors, Tyronn Lue countered with Channing Frye. JaVale is not a strong defender, doesn’t step out away from the basket if he can help it, and the Cavs saw an advantage. JaVale’s offense covered that in this game scoring inside, but it’s something to watch.

6) DeAndre Liggins is a good defender, but he’s more focused on-ball than off, and in the fourth quarter Klay Thompson torched him a few times making Liggins chase him off screens away from the ball. You can be sure Steve Kerr noticed and filed that away.