A couple of days ago, in Miami Heat’s first exhibition game against the Los Angeles Clippers, we saw Ray Allen knock down his first 3-point shot for the team. Being recognized as the most prominent 3-point shooter in NBA history, Allen showed just how quickly he can heat up and knock down 3-pointers in bunches. Now that Allen will be playing alongside the best player in the league in James, what kind of synergy can we expect from the two players?
We have seen the play so many times before. LeBron James driving to the basket, drawing double and triple teams, then rising up and finding an open Shane Battier or Mike Miller in the corner with a pin-point pass, and leaving it up to them to knock down the open 3-point shot. James has always been willing to pass the ball and set up his teammates, and the statistics show that as well. In the 2008-09 season, while still playing for Cleveland, James was the tied with Jameer Nelson as the league leader in assists leading to 3-point field goals made (3FG), averaging 2.9 per game. In the following season he averaged 2.5 3FG, ranking 3rd in the league.
Once James joined the Heat for the 2010-11 season, he dropped significantly in this particular category and averaged 1.9 3FG, while dropping even further this past season. Despite this James still ranked highest among small-forwards in this particular category in 2010-11.
Clearly when James is surrounded by great shooters he usually finds a way to set them up for easy shots. The Heat front-office brought in quite a few shooters to surround the big-3, but Mike Miller missed a lot of time in the past 2 seasons. Furthermore Battier was struggling with his shot for a huge chunk of last regular season, which indirectly reflects James’ numbers dropping in this particular category.
Now that Ray Allen has been added to the roster, we can expect an efficient synergy developing between James and Allen. James consistently finds open shooters, while Allen is rarely out of rhythm with his shot. Another contributing factor to the potential success of this combination, is the fact that Allen plays great off the ball. He makes great cuts, and knows how to effectively use screens in order to get that little bit of space that he needs to get himself high-quality looks.
Even though Allen can put the ball on the floor, he is most comfortable when he is being set up, and was assisted on 77.9% of his shots last season. Once Allen and James get in tune with each other, we can expect to see James finding Allen in his comfort spots on a regular basis, much like Rajon Rondo has done for the past few years in Boston.