Oklahoma City Thunder v Miami Heat

LeBron James jealous of Kevin Durant’s shot attempts


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…


“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).


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.

Could Tristan Thompson’s holdout last months? Windhorst says yes.

2015 NBA Finals - Game Five
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VIZZINI: “So, it is down to you. And it is down to me.”
MAN IN BLACK nods and comes nearer…
MAN IN BLACK: “Perhaps an arrangement can be reached.”
VIZZINI: “There will be no arrangement…”
MAN IN BLACK: “But if there can be no arrangement, then we are at an impasse.”

That farcical scene from The Princess Bride pretty much sums up where we are with the Tristan Thompson holdout with the Cleveland Cavaliers, minus the Iocane powder. (Although that scene was a battle of wits in the movie and this process seems to lack much wit.) The Cavaliers have put a five-year, $80 million offer on the table. Thompson wants a max deal (or at least a more than has been offered), but he also doesn’t want to play for the qualifying offer and didn’t sign it. LeBron James just wants the two sides just to get it done.

Brian Windhorst of ESPN thinks LeBron could be very disappointed.

Windhorst was on the Zach Lowe podcast at Grantland (which you should be listening to anyway) and had this to say about the Thompson holdout:

“I actually believe it will probably go months. This will go well into the regular season.”

Windhorst compared it to a similar situation back in 2007 with Anderson Varejao, which eventually only broke because the then Charlotte Bobcats signed Varejao to an offer sheet. Thompson is a restricted free agent, meaning the Cavaliers can match any offer, but only Portland and Philadelphia have the cap space right now to offer him a max contract. Neither team has shown any interest in doing so.

And so we wait. And we may be waiting a while.