While I hate to write about the single most-talked about player in the NBA, I wanted to look into several of the myths and hypotheses about LeBron James, the Miami Heat, and their validity.
LeBron is currently third in the league in points per game (27.7) and fourth among qualified players in field goal percentage (56.7%) and nearly every fan and analyst argues that LeBron should shoot more – given how effective he is, isn’t it best for the team if he just keeps on shooting?
I decided to take a look at LeBron’s game log and track just how strong a correlation there was between how many shots LeBron puts up and how well the Heat perform. Along with a few other calculations, here is what I found:
Reminder: A correlation of 1 means that as one statistic goes up, the other statistic goes up in exact succession. A correlation of -1 would mean the response statistic goes down. A correlation of 0 means there is no relationship between the two statistics.
So what does this all mean? First off, the relationship between how many shots LeBron takes and how much the Heat win by isn’t zero, but actually negative. While still a weak correlation, it turns out that the more shots LeBron takes, the more likely the Heat are to lose. This remains true for free throws and three pointers, so it’s not that the Heat are simply good when LeBron is hot from outside or aggressively getting to the line.
As you can see in the graph below, there is no clear correlation between how many shots LeBron attempts and the Heat’s success. When LeBron attempts 12 or less shots, the Heat have won all 8 games by an average of 17.6 points. And when LeBron attempts 15 or less shots, the Heat are 24-4, winning by an average of 10.2 points per game. That’s pretty extraordinary, but is really just an arbitrary endpoint as the results get more mixed when looking at the whole sample.
Another interesting note was the relationship between how many shots LeBron takes and how well he shoots. With a correlation coefficient of just .03, there was basically no connection between LeBron taking “better” shots whether he shoots 10 or 20 times a game.
In the end, the debate shouldn’t say that the Heat are better off based on whether LeBron shoots more or shoots less – there are simply too many variables in any game for that to be a valid argument. What you should do is watch the greatest basketball player in the world, scoff at those who think they’ve figured everything out, and enjoy the playoffs.
Matt Cott is a co-founder of RotoAnalysis and the Founder of BasketballWAR.com. Follow him on Twitter @RotoAnalysis & @KidCotti21!