This may come as news to you, but LeBron James can score.
Oh you knew that? And you hate people who state the obvious? Sorry, my bad.
For his career, LeBron is averaging 27.6 points per game. Even with the Miami Heat, who have two other top-tier scorers in Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade, The King has never notched fewer than 26.7 points a night. During his Cleveland Cavaliers days, he averaged as many as 31.4 points per game (2005-06), a feat only 25 others in NBA history are able to call their own.
His scoring ability, then, has never been a question. Inquiries have been lodged into his jump shot and ability to score in the post, but never his scoring. Plus, he’s also turned shooting and back-to-the-basket sets into a strength.
Scoring, in a way, however, has become secondary to his playmaking abilities. LeBron has never notched fewer than 5.9 assists per game and helped turn the point forward role into a more respected position. In that sense, he’s overlooked as a scorer. Which, quite frankly is a good thing. I’d rather be known as an all-around offensive (and defensive) player than strictly a scorer.
But what if that was LeBron’s mindset? What if he looked to score before setting up his teammates every single possession? What if he took the Carmelo Anthony approach? How many points per game could he average then?
ESPN’s Chris Broussard asked that same question during an interview for the upcoming issue of ESPN The Magazine, and LeBron’s response didn’t not disappoint:
What could you average if you just went out and looked to be a scorer?
Probably more than that.
Probably more than that. I could get about 35 or 40. I probably could do it. It’d be hell on my body, though, I tell you that, trying to get 40 a night. But I can get 35 a night. I’m averaging eight assists a game. You cut that in half. I’m at 27, 28 points a game right now, with eight assists a game, so …
Thirty-five or 40 points is a lot. Michael Jordan-like even. Though for His Airness, rattling off 35-point seasons was almost routine. He averaged 35 or more points a night twice, topping out at an astounding 37.1 (1986-87). Okay, so not exactly routine, but you get the point.
Imagining LeBron doing the same seems impossible. Not because it actually is impossible, though. Were to he to take 25 shots every game, as opposed to the 20.1 he’s averaging for his career and the 17.8 he attempted last season, I could see him hitting 35. Maybe even 40.
What I can’t picture is him actively seeking to average that much. Passing is in his DNA, more so than most superstar “wings.” Jordan was a great playmaker, and so is Kobe Bryant, but neither had that point guard mentality. They looked to score first, to shoot first and dish later.
There’s nothing wrong with that, obviously. The two have 11 championship rings between them. Their mindsets, their on-court tendencies paid off. But so have LeBron’s. He himself has two championships and I’d be shocked if he doesn’t close out his career with at least a couple more.
Just by looking at him—his size, strength and sheer athleticism—you can see it doesn’t have to be that way. Playmaking doesn’t have to be a priority. He could be a scorer, a 35-40 points per game scorer…if he wanted to. Which he doesn’t.
Knowing all we’d miss out on if he was, I, for one, am happy he isn’t.
Dan Favale is a firm believer in the three-pointer as well as the notion that defense doesn’t always win championships. His musings can be found at Bleacherreport.com in addition to TheHoopDoctors.com. Follow @danfavale on Twitter for his latest posts and all things NBA.