There’s a big hullabaloo going on about a comment LeBron James made referring to a Kevin Durant box score where KD shot 30+ field goal attempts. James essentially said that he’d like to know how good a scorer he would be right now if he had the green light to take contested shots. His exact quote was:
“I’m not much of a forced-shot guy. But there are games where I have it going, and then at the end of the game, I’m like, damn, I shot just 12-for-16? Why don’t I get up at least six or seven more? I definitely notice it.”
We’ve covered in this space the way that the Heat are built to maximize LeBron’s efficiency with a cadre of three point shooters to space the floor and keep double teams at bay, a commitment to pressure defense and transition scoring, and no big men clogging the lane with help defenders. LeBron is playing in a set-up not unlike Shaquille O’Neal with the Lakers but he’s supplementing his one-on-one basket attacks in the post with easy fastbreak dunks. Also he makes his free throws. It’s abominably efficient.
However, if LeBron shoots the ball too much more, he might actually undermine that carefully constructed floor balance and spacing. If the defense believes LeBron will force more contested shots, they would send more help defenders. Right now they can’t leave the shooters because they know James prefers to pass the ball.
Obviously there’s a balance to be reached. There are certain games where the Heat could use more scoring from LeBron. If he’s shooting 80% from the floor and only gets 15 shot attempts in a loss, then maybe a couple of contested shots from LeBron would have been better than leaving those possessions in the hands of Mario Chalmers or Michael Beasley. But right now LeBron is conserving energy, and he has the one-on-one scoring ability in his back pocket for the tough defenses in the playoffs.
I’m more interested in just how efficient Kevin Durant could be playing in the Heat system. How good a shooter would Durant be if he only took the 16 best shot attempts available to him every night? Would he be shooting 60% from the field?