After a disappointing first year on the Los Angeles Lakers for LeBron James, his team is off to a very impressive start so far this season.
Whether it is because he played the first 10 games of the season without point guard Rajon Rondo or because James has decided to run the offense through new superstar teammate Anthony Davis, James’ assist numbers are now at an all-time high.
James leads the league with 11.2 assists per game and an assist percentage of 52.4 percent. One of the reasons is that he is simply passing the ball far more often.
James has made 68.3 passes per game, the third-most in the NBA behind only Luka Doncic (70.6) and Ben Simmons (69.6) thus far. It’s significantly more passes than any of his other seasons since the statistics were made publicly available in 2013-14.
According to the available tracking data, 23.4 percent of his passes have been to Davis. James has averaged 2.5 assists per game to Davis, establishing a far better rhythm than any he has ever had with a big man.
Brian Windhorst recently wrote about the immediate chemistry that the two stars have displayed (via ESPN):
“Through their first nine games, James had assisted Davis on 26 baskets, 10 more than any other teammate, per ESPN Stats & Information research. Compare that to his first nine games with [Chris] Bosh, when it was 17 assists, and his first nine with [Kevin] Love, which produced only 11. Their pick-and-rolls have resulted in the highlight dunks that fans love and a schematic nightmare for opposing coaches. And even though they sometimes are caught a little out of position, there’s a natural flow that’s easy to see.”
Now after more than a dozen regular-season games together, the tracking data indicates that James has targeted Davis more often than any of his other teammates since 2013-14.
When dividing the minutes they have shared the court by 36, James is averaging more than 25 passes to Davis. That is the most since he averaged 22.3 passes per 36 shared to Kyrie Irving during their 2015-16 campaign, which ultimately resulted in an NBA championship.
For perspective: James averaged 16.9 passes per 36 minutes shared to Kevin Love during his final season in Cleveland and just 12.6 passes per 36 minutes shared to Dwyane Wade during his last year in Miami.
It is also worth noting that given how many more passes per game James is averaging overall this year, James is still able to find other teammates beyond Davis at a remarkably high rate as well.
While it is still a smaller sample size as he missed time to start the season due to injury, Kyle Kuzma has received 2.1 assists per game from James and that is without the forward even being in the starting unit with the four-time NBA MVP.
The new mindset for James is evident in more than just the eye test, showing his willingness to defer. The stats back up exactly how much of a playmaker he has been for Los Angeles thus far.