- LeBron James is taking and making more and deeper three-pointers than ever before.
- According to a report, one NBA scout thinks James may be taking more three-pointers because they’re easier shots than going to the basket and will help him preserve his body.
- Lakers head coach Luke Walton suggested that James may be finding new ways to challenge himself and keep himself engaged.
Stop us if you’ve heard this before: A year older, another year into his career, LeBron James isn’t slowing down.
The soon-to-be-34-year-old Los Angeles Laker is averaging 28 points (his most in nine years), 7 rebounds, and 7 assists per game for the 17-11 Lakers.
But James has made one subtle change to his game – he’s launching from deep like he’s doing a Stephen Curry impression.
James is averaging 5.9 three-point attempts and making two of them per game, both career highs. His 37.6% shooting from downtown is 3 percentage points better than his career average. But it’s not just James’ shooting that has increased; it’s how he’s doing it.
According to the NBA’s stats site, James has already taken 122 shots from 25 to 29 feet, which is basically any non-corner three. He’s taken 10 shots from 30 feet and beyond, making three of them. He took 12 such shots all of last year.
James is also letting them fly quicker, too. According to NBA.com, James is taking three pull-up three-pointers per game, tied for ninth in the league.
According to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin, some people around the league have theories on James’ new shooting habits. One is that deep threes are simply easier shots for James to take. They’re generally less contested and require less work.
A scout told McMenamin: “I think he is preserving his body. Doesn’t want to have everything going to the rim and take a pounding this early in the season. I think those shots will be fewer in the playoffs. Right now, they are easy shots for him to take. Doesn’t really have to work for them.”
That’s not say James has ditched the powerful drives that have helped make him one of the best players in the league. He’s still attacking with force:
James might just be saving his energy a little more for later in the season, when his drives become more impactful.
Perhaps a more interesting theory is that James is just finding new ways to occupy himself. The NBA regular season is long, and frankly, even while adjusting to a new team, James plays for the playoffs. These new and difficult shots might just be James’ way of keeping himself busy, according to Lakers coach Luke Walton.
“I played with Kobe [Bryant] and I remember challenging him one time that he can’t shoot off the glass,” Walton told McMenamin. “And for two straight weeks in practice, he shot every single shot off the glass and made a very high percentage of them. I guess that’s something [similar] that could be possible [for James].”
Of course, James himself is smart enough to add a new skill to his repertoire. In an era when teams are shooting more threes from farther than ever before, it surely has occurred to James that he has to keep up with the times.
“I understand that you got to, at times, keep the defence off balance; and being able to take a jump shot here, a couple 3s there, keeps them off balance,” James said, via McMenamin.
He added: “I try to get better and better and do things the following year that I wasn’t so good at the previous year. Or bring things to my game that I didn’t have the previous year. So, I guess increasing my range is one of them. And being confident and sticking my landing and keeping my follow-through up.”
James hasn’t lost much of a step, even as he’s gotten older, and is still an offensive force. If James’ three-pointer becomes a truly reliable skill, he’ll only continue to age better and better, extending what is already an unfathomably long prime for an NBA star.
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