Shane Young: LeBron just had the second-most efficient Finals of his career, outside of only 2014. He converted 72.1% of his paint attempts and 41.7% of his threes — on his lowest Finals usage since the 2011 loss to Dallas. Lakers were +7.3 per 100 possessions with him on the floor:
To be sure: Green has struggled in these Finals, and especially at the one shot he was great in most of his previous Finals appearances: catch and shoot 3s. Per NBA.com, almost 72 percent of Green’s field goal attempts in the first five games against Miami have been catch and shoot 3s – the look he got in Game 5. But Green is making just 28.6 percent of those looks so far against the Heat. His percentage hasn’t been any better on zero dribble 3s: 27.6 percent. (That wasn’t his MO during the regular season, when he shot 36.9 percent on catch and shoot 3s, and 37.1 percent on zero dribble 3s.) Green missed, and Miami lived, for 48 more hours, at least. The Heat isn’t one iota tougher, or smarter, or better, than it would have been had he made it. But because he missed, it gets to play again.
In an era where wing players are universally expected to launch 3-pointers because of quantitative insights, Butler’s style of play stuck out as a cudgel against analytics. While Butler was taking over the game in the first half, ABC broadcaster Mike Breen made reference to Heat coach Erik Spoelstra labeling Butler as an anti-analytics player. A discussion about Butler’s competitive fire and intangibles ensued. The actual quote from Spoelstra came during a Game 1 pregame press conference in which he said of Butler, “He’s the anti-analytics guy because he can’t really, you can’t put a number to how much he impacts winning.”
But the analytics believed in Butler. The Tomball, TX., native was a darling of the analytics community well before he stepped foot in the NBA. His reputation has only caught up to what the numbers projected. In his junior year at Marquette, Butler averaged a pedestrian 14.7 points and 6.4 rebounds for a team that finished fifth in the Big East — nothing mind-blowing. However, analytical measures loved his game.
In 2009-10, Butler ranked No. 1 in the NCAA in Offensive Rating thanks to his impressive shooting percentages, keen ability to get to the line and microscopic turnover rate. Synergy Sports tracking mirrored that assessment that season, placing him in the 97th percentile in efficiency. Butler ranked fifth in PER (Player Efficiency Rating) ahead of Syracuse’s Wesley Johnson (No. 4 pick in the 2010 Draft) and Georgetown’s Greg Monroe (No. 7).
Butler joined a juggernaut Bulls team that won 62 games the year before. In his rookie season, Butler struggled to get off the bench and his traditional box-score numbers didn’t scream “star.” By conventional methods, you would have never have guessed by his early NBA work that Butler possessed an elite offensive quality to his game — getting to the free throw line. In 2011-12, Butler averaged just 1.3 free throws per game, which ranked 10th on his own team.