LeBron James is probably sad to see the calendar turn to March.
James, who has won five consecutive Eastern Conference Player of the Month Awards in February, just completed another February to remember. And this may have been his best one yet.
He ended the month averaging 25.9 points per game, 7.2 rebounds per game, and 10.6 assists per game. LeBron shot 63.7% from the field, 56.8% from 3 and posted a True Shooting Percentage of 71.1%.
His 56.8% shooting on 37 attempts from behind the arc was the single best month from 3-point range of his entire career. Meanwhile, his overall percentage and True Shooting percentage were his best in a month since February 2013—arguably the greatest month of his career—when he shot 64.1% from the field and had a 72.7 TS%.
The Cavs posted a 9-2 record in February (9-1 in games LeBron played), helping to put a lackluster 7-8 January in the rearview mirror.
MAKING THE PASS
LeBron’s 10.6 assists per game in February were a career-high for any single month, surpassing his previous mark of 10.5 assists per game set in (you guessed it) February 2010.
He posted a career-high 17 assists in the 140-135 thrilling victory over Washington, including passes like this dime to Kevin Love:
Overall, James assisted on 51 of the 161 Cavs made 3s in the month (31.7%), using the gravity of the bolstered LeBron and bench unit to find open shooters.
THE NEW GUYS
The rebirth of the LeBron + Bench lineup was a key to James’ increased passing efficiency. In 190 minutes with Kyle Korver on the floor, James averaged 12.9 assists per 36 minutes (68 total assists). In the 185 minutes Korver sat, he averaged 7.4 assists per 36 minutes (38 total assists).
It certainly helps when you have a guy who can make shots like this:
Overall, Korver shot 19-28 (67.9%) from behind the arc on passes from LeBron in February.
But it wasn’t just the continued acclimation of Korver to the offense that helped open passing lanes.
Newly-inked Derrick Williams added an extra dimension to the bench unit with his strong rolls and cuts to the basket. Overall, 10 of Williams’ 24 made shots as a Cavalier have been assisted by James.
On top of it all, LeBron was up to his usual tricks passing the rock in February, including this wizardry to Richard Jefferson.
Overall, LeBron assisted on 44.2% of all Cavs baskets when he was on the floor in February and posted a season monthly-best 2.41 assist/turnover ratio.
And it would be incomplete to talk about his passing without including his best dime of the month, this nutmeg of Andrew Wiggins.
GETTING TO THE BASKET
James also bolstered his February by putting pressure on the defense going to the bucket.
He shot 80.3% from the restricted area (61-76) in the month and got there in a variety of different ways.
One area where he was successful was utilizing back cuts when his defender was in help position or fell asleep off the ball.
Another way LeBron puts pressure on the defense is in transition, taking the ball strong to the basket until the defense stops him. He shot 20-25 at the rim on transition opportunities in February.
Finally, he continued to be aggressive attacking the hoop in the half-court, especially on switches. Overall, he shot 48.4% of all field goal attempts from inside the restricted area in February.
SHOOTING THE 3
LeBron is in the middle of his second-best year ever shooting the 3 and February did nothing to change that tune.
While his 56.8% from behind the arc was the best month of his career, he’s getting his 3-point attempts in an unconventional way.
Most shooters in the NBA prefer to take 3s off catch and shoot opportunities, but LeBron prefers to fire away off the bounce.
LeBron went 14-25 (56%) on all 3s off the dribble in February. He seems to be incredibly comfortable taking step-back 3s to his left, using the extra dribble to solidify his footwork.
The added confidence off the bounce has led to him being a more willing shooter in Catch and Shoot opportunities. While only taking 8 such attempts in the month (going 5-8), watch as he fires away from the corner without hesitation against the Pacers.
LeBron traded mid-rangers for 3s in February, taking 37 shots from behind the arc as opposed to only 29 long 2s. This continues a season-long trend where, for the first time in his career, he has attempted more 3s (238) than midrange jumpers (205).
Additionally, James has also made more 3s this season (92) than he did all of last year (87).
Looking at the numbers, it’s hard to argue that LeBron won’t win his 6th consecutive February Eastern Conference Player of the Month Award.
This February stands as one of the greatest single months of his career, though it’s hard to argue against his 29.7/7.5/7.8 on 64/43/81 in February 2013 (oh and the Heat started a 27-game win streak that month).
More importantly, the added weapons off the bench have optimized LeBron’s ability as a passer and his continued success from behind the arc adds yet another dimension to an already dangerous offense.
February is typically the month LeBron starts to ramp it up with an eye on the playoffs and this year was no different. It remains to be seen if his minutes decrease and he rests more games down the stretch, but it’s safe to say he has the Cavs clicking right now.
While the MVP Award may be out of the question, this February proves once again that there’s no mistaking who is the best player in the NBA.