Did Ray Allen Turn LeBron James into a Consistent Jump Shooter?

The NBA offseason is almost as annoyingly prolonged as the NBA regular season is.

Even with teams making their big signings, Summer League taking place and the schedule being released, there’s still another two months before the season kicks off October 29th.

As you might expect, NBA bloggers need an eye for any sort of angle they could feverishly research and write about. One can only write so many times about LeBron’s greatness or how Chris Bosh needs a larger role in the offense or which out-of-work free agent should be Miami’s 14th man.

With every narrative seemingly already given a discourse, I decided to take a look at some numbers involving LeBron’s progression as a jump shooter this past season.

In case you didn’t notice, LeBron had the best jump-shooting season of his career last year. The 42 percent he shot on 1080 jumpers was a career-best for James, as was his 40 percent three-point percentage.

Perhaps the most impressive stat involving his improved jump shooting was the 44 percent conversion rate he was hitting from 16-25 feet. That, too, was a career-high for James, and it was an impressive step-up from the year before when he was only hitting from that area at a 37 percent clip.

All of James’ percentages as far as being a jump shooter improved from the season before. He converted less than 40 percent of his jumpers and was a 36 percent three-point shooter that converted less than a three-pointer per game for the first time since his rookie year.

The only other season where James shot as well as he had last year came in his first year with the Heat back in the 2010-’11 campaign. It represented the first year he converted at least 40 percent of his jumpers and he also shot 43 percent in the 16-25 foot range.

However, he was only shooting 33 percent from beyond the arc.

It didn’t all come together until last year, with the exception of his 75 percent of free throw percentage which was the lowest he’s shot since 2008. Last year was the first time in LeBron’s career where LeBron shot well from everywhere on the court, including from beyond the arc.

The .565 he shot overall was a career-high, along with the absurdly high three-point percentage. LeBron could have joined an elite 50-40-90 club had he possessed any sort of grasp on his free throw shooting, which is 75 percent for his career.

Of course there are several factors for this. Miami’s spacing allows LeBron to basically pick-and-choose the quality of the shot he wants taken, the quality of shots being taken has tremendously improved over the past two years, and LeBron doesn’t have to take as many jumpers as he did in his days with Cleveland.

Still, there was a significant increase in his shooting percentages from the 2011-12 season to the 2012-13 season. After appearing to have finally got a grasp on what was once an inconsistent jumper, LeBron’s jump-shooting numbers in the 11-12 campaign dipped.

No, it wasn’t until last year when LeBron became as deadly a jump shooter as the likes of Kevin Durant, a 44 percent jump shooter last season, and Carmelo Anthony, a 41 percent jump shooter last year.

Is there any sort of coincidence that LeBron had the best shooting numbers of his career the very same year Ray Allen joined the squad?

There’s been gradual improvement in James’ shooting numbers, but the jump it took last season, as a mid-range and three-point threat, is staggering.

Here are his percentages as a jump shooter over his career:

2004-05: 35 percent on 1131 attempts

2005-06: 36 percent on 1351 attempts

2006-07: 34 percent on 1332 attempts

2007-08: 33 percent on 1205 attempts

2008-09: 37 percent on 1229 attempts

2009-10: 38 percent on 1115 attempts

2010-11: 40 percent on 1247 attempts

2011-12: 40 percent on 1076 attempts

2012-13: 42 percent on 1080 attempts

The highest percentage LeBron shot from beyond the arc before last year? 36 percent the year before, on 105 less shots. A lot of that has to do with the lockout, limiting LeBron to only 62 games, but he averaged only 2.4 three-point attempts per to the 3.3 he was taking this past year.

A look at his effective-field goal percentage also tells an interesting story. For those who don’t know, basketball-reference.com defines the eFG% as, “Effective Field Goal Percentage; the formula is (FG + 0.5 * 3P) / FGA. This statistic adjusts for the fact that a 3-point field goal is worth one more point than a 2-point field goal. For example, suppose Player A goes 4 for 10 with 2 threes, while Player B goes 5 for 10 with 0 threes. Each player would have 10 points from field goals, and thus would have the same effective field goal percentage (50%).”

LeBron’s eFG% last season on jumpers was 48 percent. The closest he ever got to that mark before was the 2010-11 season, and even then it was only at 45 percent.

Overal, his eFG% was 60 percent. His previous career-high was 55 percent.

His true shooting-percentage, which takes every type of shot into account? LeBron’s TS% last year was 64 percent. His previous high? 60.5 percent, coming in 2012.

Gradual improvement has played a role, especially since the 2008-09 season, but for it to all come together, meaning every type of shot from anywhere on the court, in the same season leaves questions to be answered.

LeBron’s one of the smartest players in basketball. In fact, he just may be the smartest. Knowing that, would it surprise anyone if LeBron spent the majority of the 2012-13 season spending practice time with Ray Allen and learning the artistry of the consistent jumper?

We already know LeBron’s been tinkering with his free throw form because of Allen, so why wouldn’t he also attempt to gain tips on how to more effectively shoot the three?

It wouldn’t be the first time a veteran has taught another how to shoot. Dirk Nowitzki had a lot to do with Jason Kidd’s improved three-point stroke in his short time with the Dallas Mavericks.

LeBron’s low free-throw percentage can be attributed to going through several different styles. Fighting to get out of a comfort zone that he’s been instilled in since he started playing basketball is a lot more difficult than it sounds, and it could be a reason as to why his free-throw percentage fell to its lowest since joining the Heat.

The same can’t be said about LeBron because there has been obvious improvement in his jump shooting since 2008. Meanwhile, his free throw percentage has hovered around 75 percent throughout his career. LeBron’s shooting, on the other hand, has shown improvement and the question it brings up is why his collective jump-shooting numbers suddenly hit high marks all in the same season.

I, unfortunately, do not have the means to call up Ray or LeBron and ask if there was a role being played in the sudden lightbulb moment James had in his jump-shooting abilities. If I did, I’d probably be out playing tennis on their helipads or leaning out of a Lamborghini Murcielago and smashing mailboxes with a diamond-encrusted bat while Joel Anthony laughs maniacally from the driver’s seat.

Alright, basketball needs to start already.

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