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Past Fantasy Outlooks
James put together another spectacular year in 2016-17. Despite playing in his 14th season, he played a whopping 37.8 minutes per contest, while missing a total of just eight games. His averages of 26.4 points, 8.6 rebounds and 8.7 assists, were up from 25.3, 7.4 and 6.8, respectively. He still got it done on the defensive side of the ball with 1.2 steals and showed some improvement as a three-point shooter with 1.7 per game, while shooting 36.3 percent from deep, which was a vast improvement from the 30.9 clip he shot a year prior. While nearly averaging a triple-double would likely put James into consideration for league MVP honors in previous seasons, he was actually left out of the final vote, with the likes of Kawhi Leonard, James Harden and Russell Westbrook securing the three finalist spots. Still, it was another season where James showed no signs of slowing down. James picked up his 13th straight All-Star appearance and earned his 11th total All-NBA First Team honors, while also leading the Cavaliers to the NBA Finals for the third straight season. Looking ahead to the 2017-18 season, the Cavaliers' lineup will look a bit different, as Kyrie Irving was traded to the Celtics in exchange for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder and Ante Zizic. Thomas should have the biggest impact on James, as he averaged 28.9 points per game last season in Boston, which was good enough for third in the league. While that could potentially take away a shot or two from James, he's still going to be the go-to player and it shouldn't result in much of a change in terms of his production. Heading into his 15th NBA season, the ageless James shouldn't have much of a drop-off in terms of his Fantasy value, making him a top-10 pick in the majority of leagues due to his stellar contributions across a plethora of categories.
James turned 31 last December, but that didn't stop him from putting together one of the most efficient seasons of his 13-year career. Playing in 76 games, James averaged 25.3 points, 7.4 rebounds, 6.8 assists and 1.4 steals per game while shooting 52 percent from the field. It was the sixth time in seven years that James has eclipsed the 50-percent shooting plateau, though his stroke from beyond the arc regressed significantly. After shooting 35.4 percent from distance in 2014-15, James converted only 30.9 percent of his long-range attempts last season, the second-lowest rate of his career. Still, James managed to navigate the Cavaliers through the Eastern Conference playoffs with ease before leading an improbable comeback from a 3-1 series deficit to defeat the Warriors in the NBA Finals. By winning his third ring, James exorcised perhaps his greatest demon: bringing a championship to Cleveland and achieving what he was unable to do during his first stint with the Cavaliers. James enjoyed one of the best Finals performances of all-time, averaging 29.7 points, 11.3 rebounds, 8.9 assists, 2.9 steals and 2.3 blocks in nearly 42 minutes per game to claim MVP honors. After putting up 41 points in Games 5 and 6, James capped the legendary series with a 27-point, 11-assist, 11-rebound triple-double in a hard-fought Game 7 victory. James, who re-upped with the Cavaliers this offseason on a three-year max deal that will allow him to opt out after the second year, joined a number of other marquee players in skipping the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, so he'll enter the 2016-17 season well rested and without the burden of extreme expectations on his shoulders. There's been speculation that it could result in James coasting through the regular season, but even if that is the case, he'll still likely finish around the top 10 fantasy commodities in the league.
Although he fell two wins shy of his reason for returning to Cleveland, James' first season back as a Cavalier was largely successful. The three-time MVP was able to advance his team through the playoffs despite his All-Star cohorts, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving, falling during the postseason. The regular season was not without its bumps and bruises for James because he missed a career-high 13 games, including a two-week sabbatical at the turn of the calendar. For the regular season, James' numbers were down a tic for the most part. He averaged 25.3 points on 49 percent from the field and 71 percent from the line with 1.7 three-pointers, 6.0 rebounds, 7.4 assists, 1.7 three-pointers, 1.6 steals, and 0.7 blocks. His assist average was highest since his last season in Cleveland. The 12-year veteran continued to log heavy minutes at 36 per game, and that number bumped up to 42 in the playoffs. The Cavaliers may need to monitor James' minutes in an effort to keep him somewhat fresh for the postseason. His playing time has been on a slow decrease over the past six seasons, but a dip below 35 minutes per game (and another mid-season break) would have a corresponding reduction in productivity.
LeBron James has returned to Cleveland after four years in Miami. While James gave up the position as the top ranked fantasy basketball player to Kevin Durant over the last couple seasons, he still put up excellent all-around numbers last season. Through 77 games, James averaged 27.1 points, 6.9 rebounds, 6.4 assists, 1.6 steals, and 0.3 blocks (a career low) in 38 minutes. The four-time MVP hit a career-high 57 percent of his field goals, while hitting 38 percent of his three-pointers (1.5 three-pointers per game), and 75 percent of his free throws. His value should not change significantly in his return to his home state. Even with teammates like Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving, James should be the focus of new coach David Blatt's Princeton-style offense. He should have the ball in his hands a great deal, and his counting numbers should remain excellent. The one concern is that James has played very heavy minutes through his 11-year career, and Blatt may want to manage his minutes in a Spurs style that utilizes a deep rotation to limit his players' minutes. James looked like he lost significant weight this offseason, which may allow the superstar to play more minutes, but he may also spend less time in the paint. After spending four years as the NBA's villain after The Decision, James should revel in the love of his well-received homecoming.
It's common knowledge that James is the best player in the league, and has been for several seasons, which makes it a little scary that he set career bests in rebounds (8.0 per game), field-goal percentage (57 percent) and three-point shooting percentage (41 percent) in 2012-13. His improvement in rebounding was marginal, but he took great leaps in his shooting efficiency, up from 53 percent from the floor and 36 percent from downtown in 2011-12. Considering he has basically never regressed, an optimist could expect further improvement this season, as crazy as those numbers would theoretically be. But it should also be noted that his counting stats are unlikely to increase, considering that the Heat will have no reason to play James as much as his talent dictates. Miami's 27-game winning streak required the stars to play more than they otherwise would have last season, and assuming the No. 1 seed will be all but in the bag at some point in the second half, coach Erik Spoelstra could start resting guys in a Popovich-esque manner. If the only knock on a guy is that his team might be too good, then we're clearly nit-picking, but it is worth noting that James only played in four of Miami's final 10 games last season, which could prove disastrous in weekly leagues if it happens again.
James played the most efficient basketball of his career last season, shooting 53 percent from the floor – easily a career high. By taking more shots in the post and shooting a career-low 2.4 three-pointers per game, the NBA’s three-time Most Valuable Player found a way to become even better. His counting stats are always gaudy, and last year he averaged a career-high 7.9 boards to go with 6.2 assists, 1.9 steals and 0.8 blocks per game. It was clear throughout the regular season, and especially in the postseason, that Miami is James’ team and Dwyane Wade has taken a back seat to the king. He proved last season that he is always trying to get better, and after helping the U.S. Olympic team win a gold medal in London, James will be back with the weight of having won his first NBA championship off his shoulders. In addition to always putting up incredible numbers, James has never missed more than seven games in a season, so his productivity comes with some assurance. He is certainly worthy of consideration for the No. 1 pick in fantasy.
James saw his numbers dip ever so slightly during his first season in Miami, but that should have been expected. Playing next to Dwyane Wade, James had to share the ball for the first time in his career, so there were fewer opportunities to dominate his team’s stats. James’ assists, points, and blocks regressed slightly last season, but with James just 26 years old entering next season, there’s reason to believe he could regroup to post career-best numbers in the future. The Heat overhauled their roster in free agency last season, and even though they finished with the second-best record in the East, they had their share of road bumps. With a full season under his belt to learn how to play with his teammates, and a devastating collapse in the NBA Finals to provide motivation, it’s a safe bet that James will have a chip on his shoulder this season. While Kevin Durant is considered the consensus top pick in fantasy – thanks in part to his superior free-throw shooting – there’s an argument to be made that James’ contributions in the assist department make him nearly as valuable.
There might be people who don't know their David Lee from their David Lee Roth, but LeBron James is an icon. Of course, the chances of his notoriety artificially inflating his draft position are low: he's likely the second-best player available right now, and isn't a crazy stretch at number one. In other news, there are reasonable questions to ask about how LeBron's Decision – and how being partnered alongside two regularly elite fantasy producers in Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh – will affect his numbers. The quick answer is: not much. The slightly longer answer is this: LeBron and his owners might see a small drop in his scoring. There's an equal likelihood that some other things will increase, like his assists and his field goal percentage (already pretty excellent last year at 50.3). Furthermore, those in 9-cat leagues might very well be happy with LeBron's move, which will likely help his turnover numbers, too. The thing likely keeping James from topping the fantasy charts in 2010-11 is the same thing that's depressed his fantasy value in the past –
James is coming off one of the most impressive individual seasons in recent memory, leading a less-than-stellar supporting cast to 66 wins with off-the-scale numbers in the advanced stats like PER and on-court/off-court plus-minus. But the Cavs lost earlier than expected in the playoffs. That’s a great thing for James’ fantasy owners this year because he will be playing with something to prove. James remains the most physically gifted player in the NBA, combining Karl Malone-like size (6-9, 260 pounds) with Allen Iverson-like foot speed. There is nothing that he can’t do on the basketball court, which means that he can (and does) fill every stat on the roto sheet as well as anyone. James was second in the NBA in scoring last season at 28.4 points per game while also notching well over seven boards and seven assists per. He also added almost three combined steals/blocks and 1.6 treys per game while shooting career-bests of 48.9 percent from the field and 78.0 percent from the line. The shooting percentages are key because James led the NBA in free throws made and finished third in field goals made – meaning his percentages yield high impact. And amazingly, despite being six years into the league, the 24 year-old James still has upside to his game. If he were to add a post-up game on offense any time soon he would be completely unguardable. Even failing that, James should continue to put up video game numbers and deserves consideration as the top pick in fantasy drafts.
This summer, James lost a game of H.O.R.S.E. to some guy who works in a warehouse. That’s the only indication we’ve seen in a while that King James is actually human. LeBron is an evolutionary version of Magic Johnson – a remarkable combination of speed, size and skill who would be equally effective at point guard or center. He’s coming off a season in which he led the NBA in scoring (30 ppg) while posting career-highs in boards (7.9) and assists (7.2). Those are “MJ in his prime” numbers. James also posted a career-best 48.4 shooting percentage from the floor. For a mere mortal, we’d call it a career year – but the King won’t see his 24th birthday until Christmas week, and still has plenty of room for improvement. He’s on the very short list for “top overall pick” in any fantasy NBA format… except Fantasy H.O.R.S.E. For that, type “the warehouse guy” and “LeBron” into your favorite search engine.
With James coming off a career season, you might wonder whether he can still get better. But James only shot 71 percent from the foul line and 31 percent from long range. These are the two main areas in which LeBron should improve significantly. If that were to happen, he'd be worthy of the number one overall pick – his scoring, rebounding and assist combination is totally unmatched. Keep in mind that if he doesn't improve at the charity stripe, his below average shooting hurts more than usual because he attempts more than 10 per game.
At the tender age of 21, LeBron established himself as the most complete player in fantasy basketball last year. He averaged 31.4 points, 7.0 rebounds, 6.6 assists and 1.8 steals on 48.0% shooting from the field and he’s only going to get better. It’s scary to think what his ceiling could be when you look at last year’s numbers, but LeBron can do it all for your fantasy team. He was second in the league in minutes played last year (42.5 minutes per game), and despite averaging 41.5 minutes a game in his career, has only missed eight games in three years. At 6-8, 240 lbs., he has the three-point range (1.6 threes per game last year) to stretch the defense but can also get to the rim at will (average of 10.3 free throw attempts last year). LeBron is the best all-around fantasy player in the game and will be a perennial number one pick for years to come.
We're going to spend the next 10 years or so looking for new and better ways to say what's most simply put thus: King James. LeBron was arguably the best fantasy player in the game last year, only the fifth player in NBA history to average better than 25 points, seven rebounds and seven assists in the same season. So where do his numbers go from here? James can seemingly score at will and vie for the league scoring crown, having improved greatly in shooting from the field and beyond the arc. But it's likely that a reinforced Cavs squad, with ball-hungry Larry Hughes on board, will take some touches and scoring chances away from the pass-first star. Scottie Pippen never stopped Michael Jordan from scoring, but Hughes is higher maintenance and in a less structured offense. The addition of spot-up three-point shooters like Donyell Marshall does bode well for a bump in assists. The one area in which James is below replacement level is his 75% free throw shooting. An improvement there alone could easily make him king of the fantasy ranks. That he's entering just his third year itself argues for further all-around development.
James answered all his critics last season and then some, claiming stake to the NBA Rookie of the Year award. James showed flashes of his much-hyped brilliance, tickling his owners with his uncanny ability to distribute the ball and score points. James will certainly be looked upon to up his points per game this season, as Cleveland management fumbled the ball with Carlos Boozer. The arrival of Eric Snow shouldn’t affect James’ assists totals too much, as James is an unselfish player who looks pass-first frequently. James will be even better in his sophomore campaign, as scary as that may be, and has the talent to play at a first round pace as soon as this year. James figures to be taken in the mid second round, but don’t be surprised if a team with a late first round pick snags him and banks on his seemingly unlimited potential.
After indicating that James would be the Cavs' starting point guard in 2003-04, coach Paul Silas backed off on that, fearing it would be too much for the rookie. James will now start the season as the shooting guard or small forward. He'll still receive plenty of touches and the offense will often run through him, so he still may be a source of assists. If the Cavs find a comfortable spot for James, he could blossom into their leading scorer, but will have to fight for shots with Ricky Davis. There will be lots of pressure on him, and he may be overhyped at your draft or auction.
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