NBA

Stat Central: What’s Wrong With LeBron James And The Cavs?

On the surface, LeBron James‘ stats through four games appear fairly normal.  LeBron is averaging 23.8 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.8 assists per contest–not that far off his career averages of 27.5 points, 7.2 boards and 6.9 assists.

But all is not well is Cleveland.  The Cavaliers are off to a surprising 1-3 start, something no team with James on it has done since the 2004-05 season, his second in the league.  Whether deservedly so or not, LeBron’s early-season numbers are a big part of the problem.

In Cleveland’s 95-90 opening night home loss to the New York Knicks, LeBron shot 5-for-15 from the floor and turned the ball over eight times.

It seemed easy to write that performance off as a case of return-home jitters when LeBron went for 36-8-4 in the Cavs’ 114-108 victory in Chicago the next day.  But, then Cleveland traveled to Portland and things got ugly against the Trail Blazers.

In the 101-82 blowout James finished with just 11 points, his lowest game total since 2008.  Over LeBron’s four-year tenure with the Miami Heat, he never once scored so few points in a single outing.

James only managed two points after the first quarter in Portland, and zero in the second half.  For the game he made four field goals and just one free throw, an infamous combination he hadn’t produced since the first two months of his NBA career as a rookie in 2003.

While the Cavs fell further and further behind the Blazers in the fourth quarter, LeBron appeared content to stand in the corner and let teammates Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters fire away.  The two of them went a combined 6-for-28 from the field.

After the loss there were reports that James may have been trying to teach his club a lesson in the importance of spreading the ball around, and he nearly said as much himself.

However, Cleveland clearly did not get the message in its 102-100 defeat in Utah a night later.  LeBron posted 31 points and four assists, but the rest of the Cavaliers dished out only two assists put together (one apiece for Waiters and Kevin Love).

No NBA team had totaled six assists or fewer in a single game in over two years.

Through four games James’ field goal percentage is .413, significantly worse than his career number of .496.  His 18 total turnovers are tied for the third most in the league, as is his 4.5 turnovers per-game average.

LeBron’s PER (player efficiency rating) of 19.91 ranks him 71st in the league–right behind All-Star teammate Kevin Love (19.97) and just ahead of Indiana Pacers reserve guard Rodney Stuckey (19.89).

Yes, four games is a very small sample size.  It’s definitely too early to panic in Cleveland, but it’s hard to imagine this is what James expected to start the season.