The 2013-14 Miami Heat, World Class Shot-Makers


Jun 12, 2014; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat forward LeBron James (6) talks with center Chris Bosh (1), guard Dwyane Wade (3), guard Norris Cole (30) and guard Ray Allen (34) during the second quarter of game four of the 2014 NBA Finals against the San Antonio Spurs at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The explosion of new, more detailed SportVU data on has reverberated among basketball nerds everywhere. As detailed in a first pass here by NC’s own Seth Partnow, the exponentially-increased level of specificity now available is unprecedented and offers nearly limitless potential for our further comprehension of the game.

In particular, the way we understand shooting may drastically change. It was no secret, for instance, that the 2010-2014 iterations of the Miami Heat were among the league’s most talented; we can now attach far more quantifiable justification for labeling them as such.

Through the lens of the new shooting data, last year’s Heat were simply remarkable. Using stupendous compiling and filtering by Daren Willman and his site, one can view the enormous advantage Miami had as a collective shot-making unit, specifically on more highly-contested (and therefore almost certainly more difficult) attempts. lists shots with a defender within 0-2 feet of the shooter as “Very Tight” defense, and league average last season for all of such shots (just under 42,000 league-wide) was 45.7 percent. The Heat? They shot 54.01 percent, a spectacular enough number without considering that second place, the Spurs, couldn’t even crack 50 percent. The full list here.

Naturally, the majority of these shots are taken in close proximity to the basket. It makes inherent sense that defenders will typically be closer to shooters as said shooters approach the hoop. The table below shows the distribution of all “Very Tight” shots league-wide from the 13-14 season by shot distance, league average field-goal percentage from each range, and the Heat’s own percentage as well:

It’s not surprising to see over 80 percent of these highly contested shots take place within eight feet of the hoop. What is surprising, though, is just how dominant Miami was, both from the close-in areas and elsewhere. They crushed league average from everywhere on the court when attempting heavily-guarded shots, and were first overall for each of the two high-volume ranges. If such ranges seem somewhat arbitrary, fear not; this writer examined a number of different range combinations, and Miami came out as the league’s best in nearly every conceivable iteration.

In what shouldn’t come as a bombshell to anyone, LeBron James and, to a slightly lesser extent, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh deserve most of the praise here. Of 150 players who attempted at least 100 such tightly-covered shots, all three were in the top 10 for field-goal percentage – King James was first overall (shocker), over seven points better than his closest competitor at 64.2 percent, while Bosh (fifth, 56.29 percent) and Wade (eighth, 55.69 percent) were also elite. James and Wade were especially impressive, seeing as they were the only non-bigs in the top 15 here as the category was mostly populated by frontcourt players who dunk and lay the ball in most frequently by virtue of their role.

Interestingly, the Heat don’t appear to have used their spectacular skill advantage here as a crutch. Quite the contrary, in fact – Miami attempted the fewest number of tightly contested shots of any team in the league over the 82-game schedule last year. They took over eight fewer per game than league-leading Philly here, and over three less than league average. This speaks mostly to the quality of shots the Heat offense as a whole was able to generate regularly, but also to how unfair their advantage in their limited high-contest situations was.

With LeBron back home and the Heat sporting a new look, it’ll be interesting to see if a single team distinguishes itself here this season like Miami did last year. To this eye, it seems unlikely; Wade and Bosh remain supremely talented, but such a spectacular gap as Miami displayed over the rest of the league would seem difficult to sniff without three truly elite tough-shot-makers, including perhaps one of the best ever.

This is but the tip of a Titanic-sized iceberg of new revelations now possible. Be sure to check back to Nylon Calculus regularly as our remarkable team continues to roll out further discoveries and add to our knowledge base as the year goes on.