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LeBron needs to improve his game… but what aspect?

Jun 15, 2011, 7:03 PM EDT

Dallas Mavericks v Miami Heat - Game Six Getty Images

This much is clear, for LeBron James to reach his goal of a championship he is going to have to step his game up.

The question is how?

For a moment, we’re going to get away from the psychological aspect and what happened in the fourth quarters of the finals, the need of LeBron to accept failure so he can move past it.

We’re talking on the court. Because as Brian Windhorst reminds us at ESPN, LeBron does put in the work in the offseason. A lot of work.

“In the summertime I’ll put a lot of hard work into my individual game, try to bring my individual game to a team, and I work hard every day as an individual to go out there and perform at a high level for my teammates and for myself.”

James is right; he puts in as much work in the summer as any player in the league. His workout routine is ironclad, whether he’s on vacation, in China on a promotional tour or in Los Angeles filming commercials.

What should he work on? The first answer from many is a post game. Last season 8.1 percent of LeBron’s shot attempts came on post ups and he was more efficient when there than he was on isolations or as the ball handler in pick-and-rolls (his two most common way to generate shots). He shot 54 percent in post up situations and scored 1.04 points per possession, both good numbers. It’s fair to argue he needs more touches in the post.

But in the playoffs, that was less of an option — teams are not going to let him get away with that, the double team will come quickly from a big man and while James is a deft and willing passer, you’d rather have him shooting than passing.

The second answer is the three pointer. This is a valid thought. Think back to the playoffs — when LeBron was draining his threes like he did against Chicago or in Game 1 against Dallas, the Heat were so much more difficult to guard. But by the time we got to Game 5 the Mavs were playing off him and begging LeBron to shoot from three.

Henry Abbott and David Thorpe of ESPN promoted this idea today.

Remember how the Mavericks got away with sometimes using just Jason Kidd or J.J. Barea on James? Let him stand way out in the corner with one of those little guys on him. When he makes the catch, as (dare to dream) a 40 percent 3-point shooter, he’s doing his team a huge favor by letting that easy shot fly without a second thought. And when he decides to fake that 3 and put the ball on the floor … now the entire defense is messed up.

To me, there is a third option — develop one trustworthy, can’t miss midrange shot.

When Dirk Nowitzki doesn’t have it going, he will eventually go to the one-legged fade-away jumper and knock it down, get himself going that way. He can hit that shot in his sleep. When Kobe Bryant is struggling (or really needs a basket) he drives to the elbow for a quick pull-up jumper. A shot he can hit even when things seem not to be working. Something he can trust.

LeBron needs that shot. He is a good midrange shooter — he hit right near 45 percent of his shots from 10 feet all the way out to the arc — but he needs a signature shot. One that isn’t just a dunk. It could in theory be the three pointer, but it needs to be something.

When the going is tough, LeBron needs the one shot he can trust completely. That he has the ultimate confidence in — because clearly he needs more confidence when the pressure is high.

  1. randysavage4ever - Jun 15, 2011 at 7:28 PM

    SHOOTING and thats it…

    maybe attitude? – does he realize that if he developed a KILLER INSTINCT he would be 10000 times better? get angry, hes too friendly i guess i dunno..

    back to the basket game – he is powerful – its not his game, but it can begin to be added to his arsenal…

    but really please develop a jumper you can always count on…

    his passing is outstanding, incredible defense, driving to the rack A+… shooting is streaky, casually missing free throws? – that cant happen…

  2. randysavage4ever - Jun 15, 2011 at 7:34 PM

    ALSO – back in 2003… Before Kevin Eastman got huge pub & joined the Celtics, I went to his shooting clinic in Baltimore, MD , and he said that he trained with Lebron in the summer & that Lebron would call him up at 1:00 am and ask him to open up the gym to take shots…

    thats dedication.

  3. steelyres211 - Jun 15, 2011 at 8:01 PM

    He needs to develop the same type of fadeaway jumper that Jordan had. That thing was lethal and when he was in his prime, I don’t think I saw it get blocked once.

    • randommofo - Jun 15, 2011 at 10:41 PM

      Dumbass- did you a) read the article and b) watch ANY games this season? LeBron is a good midrange shooter

  4. cosanostra71 - Jun 15, 2011 at 10:28 PM

    couldn’t agree more- LeBron needs a signature SHOT- not a dunk.

  5. silk32 - Jun 15, 2011 at 11:03 PM

    The Pistons had the “Jordan Rules” and now the Mavs have scripted the “Lebron Rules” >> . If Lebron wants to improve his game he only needs to read this, assuming he hasn’t read it already.

  6. jebdamone - Jun 15, 2011 at 11:20 PM

    didn’t read the article because the answers seem obvious. he needs to improve his jump shot and his post game. a turnaround jumper would be great but really he just needs to get a jump shot that is consistent from a few different spots.

  7. mistercharitystripe34 - Jun 15, 2011 at 11:23 PM

    He needs both a post-up game along with a reliable mid-range shot, but not just one. He should work on some jump-hooks, fallaways, etc.

  8. delius1967 - Jun 16, 2011 at 2:37 AM

    The biggest aspect of his game that needs to improve is for him to stop doing that incredibly stupid, open-mouthed “look at me” pose whenever he does something halfway noteworthy. Dunk? Pose. Block? Pose. You can almost see him picturing himself on the front page of next day’s sports section, and trying to decide what would look fiercest.

  9. davidly - Jun 16, 2011 at 9:31 AM

    He needs to dunk harder. And scream and flex his muscles after.

    • edweird0 - Jun 16, 2011 at 11:50 AM


  10. telergy - Jun 16, 2011 at 12:34 PM

    lebron needs to work on

    he dribblse the ball of his legs or losses control of the ball far too often. he has no effective dribble move. no crossover, nothin.

    his jab step, step back jumper isnt fooling anyone. how does dirk whos less athletic have better footwork than lebron?

    -post game
    hes 6’8 ..if he cant dominate players in the post or develop a fadeaway hes not maximizing his game. kobe developed it, mj developed it..he can too

    jump shot
    -last 5 years 33% from 10-15ft. he needs to imrpove that jumper if he wants to continue to rely on it so much

    -he chokes in the spotlight. he needs a mentor

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