LeBron James has quickly quieted doubts that his play may experience a decline in his 19th season. Despite the Los Angeles Lakers‘ early struggles, James‘ play remains a significant bright spot. However, he has made a notable change to his playing style that pushes the dialogue toward Father Time possibly catching up to him.
LeBron James quickly off to a strong start
James finished his 18th campaign on a sour note after battling a nagging ankle injury that forced him to miss six weeks.
After an offseason focused on getting his body right, James is off to a strong start. He’s currently 13th averaging 26.0 points with 6.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists while shooting 46.7% from the floor and 48.3% from beyond the arc in three games. James has scored more than 20 points twice while shooting better than 44% on two occasions.
However, a notable trend has surfaced that may signal that Father Time is finally impacting him.
LeBron James may finally be succumbing to Father Time as he alters playing style for Lakers
Despite missing Tuesday’s game against the Spurs, James is off to an encouraging start.
However, it’s how he’s scoring that should garner more attention. He’s taken an increased reliance on his 3-point shooting as he’s averaging 9.7 attempts per contest. James is hitting at a career-best 48.3% while he’s made at least four 3-pointers in each of his first three games.
He averaged 6.3 attempts from deep in each of the last two seasons, but it’s a notable uptick, more than doubling his career average (4.4). The 36-year-old’s decision to take more 3-pointers draws the obvious connection toward him relying on his offensive production away from the rim to lessen the physical wear and tear at the rim.
It’s a trend that former longtime NBA guard Jim Jackson noted during a recent interview on The Dan Patrick Show.
“You can’t assert that same amount of energy and take that same pounding as you used to even though LeBron is from Mars somewhere sub-human in what he does at his age,” Jackson noted. “But you can tell over the years that the pounding has taken away some of his athletic ability, especially when gets to the basket and sometimes can’t finish as well as he did in the past.”
Jackson added that James’ ability to effectively rely on his 3-point shooting is a credit to his work in the gym. Although there is credence to the 36-year-old lessening his offense generated from drives to the basket, it’s a change made to help Russell Westbrook fit into the fold.
Westbrook is a ball-dominant player that has historically found much of his offensive success behind his usage rate. James’ increased dependency on 3-point shooting also opens the floor more for Westbrook to drive to the basket or find his teammates and the 17-time All-Star for scoring opportunities.
Albeit it’s a small sample size, it shows that James is taken a renewed approach to his offensive game.
Lakers need talent around LeBron James to step up
James’ transition to an altered offensive approach underlines the importance of the play from the rest of the roster. Although he has maintained his elite performance, it’s no guarantee he can continue playing at an MVP-caliber level.
The Lakers can lean on Anthony Davis as the anchor on both ends of the floor. Meanwhile, Russell Westbrook must effectively fill the gap as the third option that can take over games when necessary. Westbrook must pick and choose his spots, a process that will come with plenty of bumps.
The supporting cast must also provide consistent, reliable play to supplement the start talent when they experience struggles. As the season rolls along, the Lakers will clearly see if this roster can elevate them to NBA title contention.