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LeBron James is chasing history from behind the arc

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LeBron James is shooting a career-high from three this season, and could join do something only Steve Nash has done.

NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers at Philadelphia 76ers Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

LeBron James is shooting 41.6 percent on three-pointers on 4.7 attempts per game. In his 15th season. When his current career-high is 40.6 percent on 3.3 attempts per game back in 2012-13.

This is borderline unbelievable. Perhaps more so if you can think back to a time just two short years ago when he shot 30.9 percent from beyond the arc and critics called his jumper “broken.”

These are the facts you know. But what you might not know is LeBron is putting together a historic season in terms of how he creates his three-pointers.

Pull Up Jumpers

James has always been a player who creates more three-point attempts off the dribble as opposed to catch and shoot. This trait is not uncommon for high-usage, on-ball creators.

In the past, LeBron has taken slightly more three-point attempts off Pull Up Jumpers, never exceeding 60 percent. (Note: the values do not add up to 100% due to some 3PA being cataloged as ‘Other’ by NBA.com). This year, he has reached new heights, taking 70.8 percent of his threes off the dribble.

The 70 percent Dribble Jumper threshold for three-point attempts that is one typically only seen in high usage point guards like James Harden (77 percent), Russell Westbrook (75.4 percent) and Chris Paul (74.4 percent last year).

Even more impressive is James shooting 41.3 percent on these attempts, showing remarkable improvement over two seasons ago.

In fact, James’ 57.3 eFG% on Dribble Jumpers ranks second in the NBA, only trailing the resurgent Tyreke Evans (59.2 eFG%).

James is one of just 12 players to attempt at least one three-pointer per game after taking 7+ dribbles in a row on a possession. He is shooting 17-40 (42.5 percent) on these shots, a dramatic increase from shooting 21-71 (29.6 percent) last season.

Here is one such possession against Charlotte:

LeBron has employed a flurry of stepback jumpers to beat switches this season, shooting a scorching 7-10 from downtown on these shots.

Chasing History

Fueled by his success and commitment to off the dribble three-pointers, James is shooting 41.6 percent from three, good for 30th in the NBA. An already impressive accomplishment for a career 34.3 percent three-point shooter, even more so if you consider James is shooting 78.9 percent from the restricted area this year.

But when you consider James’ attempts compared to those who rank above him on the 3P% leaderboard, a strange trend emerges.

Only 29.8 percent of LeBron’s made three-pointers have been assisted this season, a full 19% fewer than the next-closest player on the leaderboard (fellow pull-up artist Tyreke Evans).

The follow-up question becomes: how rare is it for a player to shoot over 40% from 3 with such a high proportion of unassisted three-pointers?

The answer: nearly unheard of.

Only three players since play-by-play data became available in 2005 have shot over 40 percent from 3 and had under 40 percent of their threes assisted.

If LeBron James kept up this pace for the rest of the season, he would join Steve Nash as the only players who shot over 40 percent from three despite under 30 percent of their threes coming off an assist.

If this holds, 6-foot-8, 250-plus pound LeBron James would join 6-foot-3, 195 pound Steve Nash as the only players to accomplish this shooting feat. James would join peak-of-his-powers Nash, who achieved the feat in his third consecutive 50-40-90 season. And Nash did it on 3.6 3PA/game, 1.1 fewer than James is currently averaging.

So LeBron James shooting 41.6 percent from three this season is not only impressive, it is on pace to be a truly historic season for a player in his 15th season that continues to re-write the NBA record books.