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LeBron James hasn’t had his usual ‘pop’ going to the rim. Is that just age, or something else?

Is LeBron James finally starting to show signs of age, or is there another factor in the Lakers star’s finishing struggles?

Detroit Pistons v Los Angeles Lakers

You may — or may not — have noticed that Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James has been lacking some burst (aka “juice” or “pop”) to start the season, namely when he’s attempting to get into the paint offensively, and especially when finishing around the rim.

He’s consistently left the ball short when going to finish, had the ball knocked out of his hands, or simply been unable to create enough separation when entering into the paint to get good looks. This is particularly evident when playing against spry, motivated defenders — both on the ball, and in help situations.

Further, LeBron’s free throw rate is the lowest of his career thus far, and he’s attempting more 3-point shots than ever.

The resulting question all this leads to is simple: Is this decrease in pop simply a function of the aging process, or are there more contextual factors at play here which can help explain his increased difficulty at the rim and why he’s taking more shots from the perimeter?

I discussed that topic in the following video:

To add some additional context to the points in the video: LeBron’s free throw rate has steadily been decreasing over the years, and his 3-point attempts also steadily increasing. There has been an acceleration in those changes this season, but when you analyze those rates without new teammate Russell Westbrook on the floor, they’re actually quite similar to last season!

All in all, although it’s easy to say “oh, it’s just age,” for LeBron, there are numerous factors which help explain this early season trend, and why it may not be as bad as it might seem when just looking at the numbers.

Dr. Rajpal Brar, DPT has a doctorate in physical therapy from Northern Arizona University, and runs his own in-person and online sports medicine and performance business, 3CB Performance, in West LA and Valencia, CA in which he further combines his movement expertise and fitness training. He also works at a hospital — giving him experience with patients in the immediate healthcare setting and neurological patients (post stroke, post brain injury) — and has been practicing for 4 years. Brar is additionally training at UCLA’s mindful awareness research center (MARC), has a background in youth basketball coaching and analyzes the Lakers from a medical and skills perspective for Silver Screen and Roll and on his own YouTube Channel. You can follow him on Twitter at @3cbPerformance.