The NBA features some of the absolute best athletes in the history of humanity. Opportunities come and go in the matter of a mouse’s heartbeat. In such a league, precision is king, a title new Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James knows a thing or two about.
According to a new analytic charting accuracy from the NBA’s absolute elite creators (as detailed in a great piece by Fred Katz of The Athletic), James ranks as the league’s most precise facilitator, something teammate Josh Hart says he noticed early on:
“I knew it in open gym just playing against him, just where he was getting guys the ball and stuff like that,” Hart said. “And I knew, ‘Oh, this is going to be fun.’”
It must have been for James’ teammates in Cleveland.
James is the most accurate passer ChartSide evaluated, completing 77 percent of his passes on catch-and-shoots into the shooting pocket last year. And Hart will benefit from those catches, as did the Cavaliers who ran alongside a man who creates his offense in a dissimilar way from the other four players mentioned in this study.
James created the majority of his stand-still 3s last year out of the post, according to ChartSide. The four other guys, all guards, boast a less diverse profile, operating mostly out of pick-and-rolls and isolation.
There you have it, if you’ve ever watched James and noticed how rarely he seems to miss on passes despite throwing a variety of them from all over the court, you were right; and now it’s there in a fully-quantified explanation.
The Lakers are still learning how to benefit from James’ crazy passing ability. It’s going to take time. We’re starting to see it with Hart, who is on fire to start the year and Kyle Kuzma has looked better since he was added to the starting lineup. But if the Lakers are really going to take full advantage of James’ passing ability, it’ll have to be a roster-wide development, not just a few strong games from a couple guys here and there.
Another thing to keep in mind is James’ reported preference to move off the ball. If he doesn’t have possession of the basketball, he might not be able to make as many of those passes detailed in Katz’s piece. This will likely be a balance issue, as the Lakers work to find a way to grant him his preference while also utilizing his gifts, but it’s going to take time.
That’s definitely a problem just about every team in the league would like to have to figure out, though.
It’s fascinating to see the evolution of information continue. Stuff like this makes the viewing experience more interesting, as we figure out how small aspects of the game come together to help teams win.