LeBron James has some outlandish standards to live up to. Some by his own doing, others due to the sheer brilliance of the men who’s shadows still shade LeBron’s achievements. two of those men, Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, have had incredible success late in their careers in the mid-range and post-up game. Naturally, as fans, we require nothing less of the 26-year old James. Right or wrong, that is the curse of being great.
This season, LeBron promised to start going down to the block a little more. Last night was one example of this. Although the Miami Heat lost an inexplicable 5th game in a row, this one to the Portland Trailblazers, there was still a few positive inferences we can draw from the game. One of those conclusions is that LeBron James on the block can be deadly for defenses.
When LeBron hits the lower block, he instantly creates a mismatch (then again, where DOESN’T he create a mismatch?). When you force the defense to switch to a smaller defender, the mismatch becomes even greater in favor of the Heat. LeBron is so big and so fast that a double team is almost a necessity on the block. With the smaller defender, some teams might even send a triple team.
This play took place early in the game wanted to get an easy bucket in the half court set. (please excuse the low-res pics).
To start the play, LeBron James starts at the wing with the ball in his hands. Chris Bosh plays as the pinch-post at the elbow. Mario Chalmers cuts through to the low block. LeBron will then pass Bosh the ball.
Here Mario Chalmers sets a back-screen for LeBron James, this forces Andre Miller to switch off Chalmers and onto LeBron in order to prevent an easy back door pass from Bosh. LeBron, who already physically and athletically dominates most defenders, has an even bigger advantage over the Miller, who is a point guard.
Will notice two things about the play in the image above: LeBron has gotten great post position on the smaller Miller and Bosh has stepped out all the way to the 3-point line.
LeBron’s great position advantage coupled with his physical advantage almost forces Portland to bring the backside double. At the same time, Nic Batum, who was defending Chalmers, floats down to essentially triple-team LeBron in the post.
Notice how Portland’s players all have to rotate over a man to provide backside help here, which is almost insane to think about, considering LeBron is being triple teamed. Most players lack the skill set to create out of this position and will most likely turn the ball over or force up a bad mid-range jumper. LeBron doesn’t exactly have a back-to-the-basket game, but his brute strength & speed (especially compared to Miller’s molasses-esque game) make him a nightmare for defenses when he gets anywhere near the basket.
Back to Chris Bosh. He spaces out the floor nicely and creates a ton of space for a cutter to flash from the weak side of the play. This is where having two Superstar players will pay off.
LeBron can now turn and face the basket. What he sees is a semi-open Chalmers (who is a 36% 3-point shooter), Erick Dampier (who has sealed off the smaller Wes Matthews under the basket), and his best friend and fellow superstar, Dwyane Wade (who is as open as can be in the middle of the lane).
LeBron James, who is already one of the biggest small forwards in the game, can easily scan the court over the mismatched defender when he turns around. Lebron is also one of the premiere passers and play makers, averaging 7.1 assists per game. That combined with the fact that the help defense leaves players open is toxic for any defense. LeBron can now turn around and pick who he wants to earn an assist off of.
Naturally, LeBron choses the option anyone would go with, passing to Dwyane Wade. Like I mentioned before, this is where having two superstars pays off. Once Wade is this deep, he can do whatever he wants, especially when he has no defender on him.
One last thing I wanted to point out was how Dampier uses his body to screen Wade as he drives to the basket. It’s not a direct pick on anyone, it’s more of a wall. Still, it’s the little things like this and the spacing by all five players that creates a wide open layup out of a halfcourt set.
Oh yea, having two megastars doesn’t hurt, either.
I was running some numbers last night from 82games.com and noticed that LeBron as a SF racks up a PER of 26.6, which is a Hall of Fame level performance. But when LeBron shifts to the power forward or the low post spot for Miami, his PER production jumps up to 36.6. Just to put that in perspective for you, Michael Jordan has the highest single season PER at 31.84. Unfortunately, LeBron has only used up 11% of Miami’s minutes at the PF spot.
Shane is a contributor to Stacheketball.com, NBAoffseason.com and LarryBrownSports.com. You can find him babbling about basketball all over the net or tune in as he tweets nonsense on twitter; @Suga_Shane.