When LeBron James entered his first season with the Los Angeles Lakers last year, he surely knew he would not be contending for a title. The Lakers had a young, strange roster that didn’t seem to fit, and a groin injury that sidelined James for a month between December and January ended any chance Los Angeles had of making the playoffs.
But now, things are quite different in Lakerland. L.A. landed Anthony Davis in a blockbuster deal in June, completely changing expectations for the Lakers going into next season.
Still, for Los Angeles to have a shot of winning a title, James will, believe it or not, have to be better than he was this past season.
Here are four ways he needs to improve in 2019-20:
4. Accept a Minutes Restriction
While this isn’t technically a method of improvement, it is imperative for James to preserve himself as much as possible, and that means accepting a minutes restriction from head coach Frank Vogel.
James averaged 35.2 minutes per game this past season and led the league in minutes per game the preceding two years. For a guy who is going on 35 years old and missed extensive time with a groin issue this past year, that is too much.
LeBron may not like it, but for the betterment of the team and his long-term future, he should understand that not playing 35 minutes per game will be the best course of action, and with Davis now on the roster, the Lakers can probably get away with playing James just 30-32 minutes a night as long as he is willing.
3. Cut Down on Threes
James took a career-high 5.9 3-pointers per game this past year, making 33.9 percent of them.
Because the Lakers did not have much perimeter shooting, LeBron may have felt he had to take more triples than usual, but now, with shooters Danny Green and Quinn Cook on the roster, James should pull in the reins.
James has never been known as a great perimeter shooter, and his lifetime 3-point percentage of 34.3 is indicative of that.
The three-time champion is most effective when he is putting his shoulder down and making things happen inside, so with more weapons on the roster next season, he shouldn’t be taking as many treys.
2. Make Free Throws
James made just 66.5 percent of his free throws this past season, which was a career low.
LeBron has never been the greatest free-throw shooter, but he is a career 73.6 percent shooter from the charity stripe, so 66.5 percent is certainly too low.
It should be noted that James shot under 70 percent from the line in two of his last three seasons, but that doesn’t mean he has to do it again next season.
In order to maximize his effectiveness and his efficiency, LeBron needs to hit at least 70 percent of his foul shots in 2019-20, or he will be leaving too many points on the table.
1. Actually Try on Defense
Let’s call it for what it is: James did not put forth a great effort defensively during the 2018-19 campaign, so much so that Kyle Kuzma once had to give James a shove to get him to contest a 3-pointer.
While it’s understandable for James to want to conserve himself, not even giving an effort on defense is inexcusable. There were countless instances throughout the season when he missed rotations primarily because of laziness.
This isn’t to say that LeBron needs to go balls to the wall every second he is on the floor, but he also needs to be better than this.