LeBron’s new role

The Miami Heat have signed free agents LeBron James, Chris Bosh, and Dwyane Wade to 6 year contracts at the American Airlines Arena in Miami on July 9, 2010. UPI/Michael Bush Photo via Newscom

Much has been written about how LeBron James will fit in an offense alongside Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Many pundits are skeptical about the possibility of it working, but I’m not. The trio may not be perfectly designed to play together, but their skill sets aren’t as incohesive as some are saying.

Tom Haberstroh writes about a yet-developed statistic that would be able to determine LeBron’s impact on the game.

What is WPA? Starting with the beginning of a play, what is the probability of winning the game, given the situation? After the conclusion of that play, recalculate and debit/credit the player for the change in win probability. That’s WPA. This is the essence of sport: each play contributes to a team’s chances of reaching its collective goal of beating the other team.

James would have to pass up the shot that he loved to take in Cleveland because probabilistically it may be the better play with his new Super Friends. But as any coach will attest, player ego often gets in the way of a team’s goals. If James swallows his pride and makes the pass to an open Wade for a game-winning shot, it wont signal that Wade is The Man, even if that’s what the media would decide. In reality, it means James has fully recognized his role as the facilitator of victory, whether that’s taking the big shots or creating better ones for his teammates.

All three Super Friends are willing passers, so sharing the ball shouldn’t be a problem. I don’t think LeBron is heading to Miami thinking he’s going to be taking most of the shots up against the shot clock. That will largely be Wade’s job. LeBron will likely handle the ball a lot on the break and early in the shot clock, when he can use his considerable ball handling and passing skills to create open shots for his teammates.

Since he has thus far been unwilling to develop a post game or much of a midrange jumper, LeBron will generally do one of two things when he gets the ball: 1) attack the basket for a layup, or 2) attack the basket and create a shot for a teammate.

If the trio has one weakness, it’s consistent shooting from outside (though Bosh is pretty steady). That’s why the Heat signed Mike Miller, Eddie House and James Jones, who are all 39%+ shooters from long range.

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