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LeBron James and the Miami Heat are on the cusp of the NBA Finals.LeBron James has the Miami Heat nearing a third straight NBA Finals appearance. But is he actually playing better in the playoffs than he did with the Cleveland Cavaliers?
James was perceived as an underachiever during his postseason career with the Cavs, who won eight series and reached the Finals once in five postseason appearances.
That perception has changed since he joined the Heat, who have reached the Finals twice and won the championship last season. They lead the Pacers 2-1 entering tonight's game and have some wondering if the Heat are the best team ever.
But how much have LeBron James' playoff numbers changed? The overall data shows he has performed nearly identically with each team.
His basic statistics are similar. Playing about one fewer minute per game, his scoring average is down 2.5 points, and his assists have dipped by 1.3 per game, but his rebounds and steals are up slightly.
LeBron James Postseason Career
James' shooting percentage is up 3.5 points, and his true shooting percentage (which also factors in three-pointers and free throws) is up 1.9 points.
All that adds up to a player efficiency rating of 27.3 with the Heat, compared to his 27.1 PER with Cleveland.
Something is clearly different with Miami, because James's Heat have already won nine series and 40 games in three seasons, compared to winning eight series and 42 games with the Cavs.
The obvious answer is that his teammates are better. Only two Cavaliers teammates played in the All-Star Game during James' seven seasons in Cleveland (Mo Williams in 2009 and Zydrunas Ilgauskas in 2005). In three Miami seasons, James' teammates have six All-Star appearances, all by Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
James has scored only 27.8 percent of the Heat's postseason points, down from 31.6 percent with Cleveland.
Points Per 100 Possessions
LeBron James Teams in Playoffs
As a team, James' Heat are scoring 3.5 more points per 100 possessions in the playoffs than his Cavaliers did, and Miami is allowing 1.7 points fewer per 100 possessions, making the Heat a total of 5.2 points better per 100 possessions in the postseason than the Cavaliers were with James.
That difference has been most evident against teams with better regular-season records. James has won both series without home-court advantage with the Heat, compared to a 1-3 mark in such series when he was in Cleveland.
James and the Heat have also advanced five of six times when trailing in the series (by games); the Cavaliers won only one of six series after trailing.
While James' playoff statistics haven't been notably different with Miami, his Heat teams have unarguably performed better. How much of that success can be attributed to James himself remains debatable.