LeBron Trivia

Posted on June 9, 2007 by

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In Game One of the 2007 NBA Finals LeBron’s Win Score was 0.0. Obviously this was not how he wished to play in his first game on the NBA’s biggest stage. One wonders, though, is this evidence that the Spurs have a magical LeBron defense? Or did LeBron just have a “bad” game?

Let me begin with what I know about LeBron. In his first four seasons he offered the following with respect to Wins Produced and Wins Produced per 48 minutes [WP48].

2003-04: 6.4 wins; 0.099 WP48

2004-05: 21.7 wins; 0.307 WP48

2005-06: 20.4 wins; 0.292 WP48

2006-07: 17.4 wins; 0.262 WP48

After four seasons he has produced 65.9 wins with a 0.242 WP48. In sum, LeBron is a very good player, although not yet as good as Jordan. In Jordan’s first four seasons he posted a WP48 of 0.344. Still, LeBron is very good.

Although LeBron is definitely a great player, he played very badly against the Spurs. One wonders, how often does this kind of a performance happen? I typically look at performance across a season, so this is not the question I generally can answer. Luckily, Basketball-Reference provides box score data for every NBA game LeBron has ever played.

Thus far he has played 316 regular season contests and 30 playoff games. When we look at his regular season games, we see that his Win Score has equaled zero, or wandered into the negative range, 26 times (or 8% of the time). Most of these dismal performances – seventeen if you wish to be specific – occurred during his freshman season with the Cavaliers. This past season it happened only four times (in 2005-06 it only happened twice, although it also happened once in the 2006 playoffs).

Interestingly, a Win Score less than or equal to zero had never occurred against the Spurs before Game One of the 2007 Finals. It’s actually another Texas team, the Rockets, that has often frustrated King James.

In all, LeBron has faced Houston eight times in his career. On three different occasions his Win Score was zero or in the negative range. Another three times his Win Score per minute (WSMIN) was below average. So does Houston have a magical LeBron defense? If they do, it vanished two of the last three times they played the Cavs. In these games, LeBron was well above average.

The Rockets, though, are not the issue at the moment. What about the Spurs? Again, he has faced this team eight times in the regular season. Four times he was above average (and of course, four times he was not). His career WSMIN against the Spurs is 0.220, which is above the average mark (0.152) for a small forward. To put that in perspective, LeBron has a career WSMIN against all teams of 0.225. In sum, it doesn’t appear that the Spurs have some secret method to stop LeBron. He has historically played as well against the Spurs as he has played against other NBA teams.

Given this history, one might expect LeBron to bounce back in Game Two of the NBA Finals. How far can he bounce back? Can we expect a performance like Game Five in the Eastern Conference Finals?

In that game LeBron posted a 19.0 Win Score. His PAWSmin (Position Adjusted Win Score per minute) was 0.228, which is very good (Jordan’s career PAWSmin was 0.153, for example). Surprisingly, though, this was not LeBron’s best PAWSmin in the playoffs. In Game Three of the Eastern Conference Finals, coming off the only below average game he had played thus far in the 2007 post-season, LeBron posted a PAWSmin of 0.239. Because he played fewer minutes than what he played in Game Five, though, his Win Score was only 18.0.

When we look at LeBron’s regular season career, we see that he has had a Win Score of 18 or higher in 31 different contests. Given 316 regular season games, he does this about 10% of the time. One should note that 24 of these performances occurred during the 2004-05 and 2005-06 season. In 2006-07 he only equaled or surpassed 18 on four different occasions.

The team LeBron most often victimizes is the Portland Trail Blazers. This is a Western Conference team, so he has only played Portland eight times. In four of these eight contests, though, King James has surpassed the 18.0 mark.

There is good news for Portland. In their most recent encounter in January, LeBron finished in the negative range. So even Portland, who historically has played LeBron badly, managed to “force” King James into a really bad game. This suggests that James can play badly against anyone.

And of course, he can play extremely well against anyone as well. The Pistons have faced LeBron 29 times in the regular and post-season. Fourteen times LeBron has been below average. Unfortunately for Detroit, the last four times he was well above average. Which is one reason Detroit is not in the NBA Finals this year. The Spurs certainly hope they do not end up with a similar experience.

One last note…if you like, dislike, or hate the new look of the WoW Journal, let me know. The new look was introduced this morning and I am still deciding myself if I like it or not. As always, suggestions are welcome.

– DJ

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