Let's delve deep into the betting trends for Lebron James in the Playoffs to see where we might be able to get an edge in the NBA Odds. These bombshells could lead to record profits, or humiliating defeat.
LeBron’s Historic Playoff Shooting Slump
LeBron James has seemingly been great in the playoffs so far; however being back in Cleveland has brought back old trends that don’t necessarily help out the Cavs chances of winning the NBA Finals. They already have to go through the league’s toughest team, and by far their toughest opponent of these playoffs. Plus, James is going to face his toughest challenge yet in being defended by the Defensive Player of the Year runner-up, and 1st Team All Defender, Draymond Green. If you consider all of this, the fact that Kyrie Irving still might not be 100% by next week, and you consider that LeBron is shooting near playoff career-lows from the field, it might be time to fade the Cavs and LeBron at sportsbooks like 5Dimes.
James is shooting only 42.8% from the field in these playoffs, which is the lowest he has shot in the postseason since the 2008 playoffs. Since the three-point line was created in 1979-1980, only one team has ever won the Finals with their best player (to decide who a team’s best player is, I used whomever was their leading playoff scorer for that season) shooting below 43% from the field, and that was in the 1989 playoffs where Isiah Thomas shot only 41.2% from the field, and the Bad Boy Pistons won their first of two titles before the Michael Jordan era began. However, the circumstances on that Pistons team compared with today’s Cavs team are entirely different. Joe Dumars complimented Thomas that season, and was nearly their co-leading scorer in the playoffs. He also shot 45.5% from the floor in those playoffs. With Irving banged up, and not shooting great himself, (43.6%) there isn’t going to be anyone else who can match LeBron’s offense on the Cleveland Cavaliers in these Finals against a team like the Golden State Warriors.
A big reason for James’ dip in shooting percentage has been his three-point shooting. So far in 14 playoff games, James is only shooting 17.6% from three. He is also shooting less threes, but his lack of an accurate three-pointer might hurt the Cavs even more in this series.
Advanced Shooting Numbers Tell the Same Story
Field goal percentage isn’t the best stat to tell the whole story though, because with less help and with the volume that James has been shooting, his numbers are obviously going to be worse than say, the last four Finals with the Heat. If you look at the Effective Field Goal (eFG%) numbers, which takes into account that three-point shots are worth more than two-pointers, LeBron is still in historic low territory for his playoff career. Plus, you still have only Thomas in 1989 who has won the title with an eFG% of less than 45%.
To top it off, LeBron’s free throw shooting has been way down in the playoffs too, both in terms of volume and percentage. LeBron’s free throw attempt rate (number of free throws per field goal attempt) is 28.7%, which is by far a low for his career in the playoffs. That number was ten points higher in his rookie season in the playoffs.
Lastly, to take a better look at what his free throw attempts have been doing to his numbers, his True Shooting Percentage (TS%) is also at a career low in the playoffs. James has a TS% of less than 50%. Of course only Thomas has ever shot worse and still won the title. To put it into perspective, the lowest playoff TS% of any championship team’s best player since 1980 outside of Thomas, (and potentially Lebron) was in 1997 when Michael Jordan has a TS% of 52.4%, a full three percentage points higher than what James is shooting so far in 14 games in these playoffs.
I’ve seen LeBron James do some incredible things in his 11 years in the NBA, but after blowing out the Hawks, the Cavs’ are seemingly looking the best they’ve been. But are they really? NBA odds makers know that it took only one more game for the Warriors to get out of the West than it did to get the Cavs out of the East, and you know that beating the Pelicans, Grizzlies and Rockets was much harder than beating the Celtics, Bulls and Hawks. Unless James comes out and drastically improves his shooting in these Finals, this series might turn out more like his first trip to the Finals in his sophomore season. They run through everyone in the East, only to be swept in the Finals by a far-superior, and more battle-tested West team. Don't fall into the trap of overvaluing the Cavs in the Finals with your NBA picks.