LeBron’s Not So Drastic Improvement

I would to make it clear to the readers of this blog that I HATE LeBron James. LeBron completely and utterly destroyed my basketball fandom by hightailing it out of Cleveland. So while my basketball IQ might not be so high, I do know how to look at statistics, (Thank you, Bill James). What I would like to know is how much LeBron has improved since he left Cleveland. The media makes it seem like LeBron has improved by a lot since his time in Cleveland. I want to know how much he has improved or regressed and the areas in which changes have occurred.

First, lets see if his per game averages improved. In the 09-10 season, LeBron averaged 29.7ppg; 7.3rpg and 8.6apg, but this past year he only got 27.1ppg/5.9rpg/6.3apg. This actually shows slight decline. So in what areas has LeBron taken his game to the next level? The answer, I’m sure you know, is his shooting, especially between 3 and 10 feet. This past season LeBron shot 56.7%- a career best including 55.4% from 3-10 feet. These numbers have improved by 6.1% and 8.6%, respectively. But does a nice improvement in shooting percentage mean he’s a better player than he was on the Cavs? Let’s see what his defensive numbers say. Defense is a little tougher to judge as the most common stats used to measure defense, steals and blocks, are ineffective. Instead we will use more advanced stats like defensive efficiency rating (DRtg) and defensive win shares (DWS). In LeBron’s last two seasons with the Cavs his defensive efficiency (lower is better) 102 and 99, but in his past two seasons with the Heat a career worst 105 and 101. Even if we normalize the DRtg by comparing LeBron’s DRtg to the team’s rating (because DRtg is the number of points his TEAM allows over the course of 100 possessions) we can see more clearly LeBrons lack of progress. In 2008-09 LeBron allowed 3.4 points less per 100 possessions in 09-10 that number was 2.1. In 12-13 with the Heat that it was 2.7 but this past season he was only .8 points per 100 possessions better than the team. So far proving that LeBron has not taken his defensive game to the next level as people presume. Defensive Win Shares (you can learn the ins and outs of the stat here http://www.basketball-reference.com/about/ws.html) is as close to an end all be all defensive stat and it shows LeBron accounting for 6.5 and 5.2 DWS in his last two season’s with the Cavs, and a 4.7 and a 3.7 in his two most recent seasons, the latter, which is his worst since his rookie year. Judging by the stats we can reasonably assume that LeBron has not improved  defensively and has perhaps regressed, especially this past year.

Overall the concept of LeBron taking his game to the next level  for the Heat does not hold up. The only season he had with the Heat that was in 2012-2013 when he had career bests in ORtg, OWS, and total WS/48. But all those numbers decreased this past year. He  is now the second best player in the world behind Kevin Durant.





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