Los Angeles — Nick Young doesn't call himself "Swaggy P" for nothing.
Really, he doesn't.
"If you look good, you play good," the Los Angeles Lakers' leading scorer recently said on NBA TV's Gametime. "The Swaggy is sort of how I come in the arena, how I dress, the shoes I wear. And the P is a mystery."
Young has been a pleasant surprise for the Lakers this season, and he'll surely take plenty of shots against the Miami Heat on the Christmas stage at 5 p.m. ET. He'll probably even hit a few, since he's making them at a respectable rate of 43.1 percent this season. But he may have misfired after Monday's 37-point loss to the Phoenix Suns, by answering reporters' questions related to LeBron James, and the Heat's shooters.
James hasn't been thrilled with the league's latest marketing gimmick—tight, sleeved jerseys that the Heat and Lakers will wear Wednesday—first saying that "I can't have my shooters out there worrying about some sleeves and not shooting the ball," only to settle down somewhat after the Heat practiced in them without too much trouble on Sunday.
"I hope his shooters is messing up. I hope Ray Allen ain’t making shots. Right? So, I hope (James) is worried."
He shouldn't hope too hard.
At this point, it would take a straight-jacket to slow the Heat's shooters down.
Simply, Miami is having one of the most efficient shooting seasons in recent memory, a product of an evolved offensive system, an unselfish group of players (from the first roster spot to the last) and a thorough collective understanding of individual and team strengths and weaknesses.
Entering Christmas, the Heat are first in the league in field-goal percentage, at 51.4, with the San Antonio Spurs a distant second at 48.7. If that holds, Miami would become the first team since the 2008-09 Phoenix Suns to shoot over 50 percent for the season and would post the highest percentage since the 1987-88 Boston Celtics shot 52.1 percent from the field. The Lakers of 1984-85, coached by the current Heat president, Pat Riley, hold the top spot of the post-shot clock (1954-55 to present) era, at 54.5 percent.
The Heat have three of the NBA's most efficient shooters from the field, with LeBron James ranking fourth at 59.9, Dwyane Wade ranking ninth at 54.1, and Chris Bosh ranking 14th at 52.7. No other team has two players in the top 15, and only Houston (Dwight Howard, Chandler Parsons) and Washington (Nene, Marcin Gortat) have two in the top 20. James ranks first among small forwards, and Wade ranks first among all guards. Even after a season-high 28-shot outing Monday against Atlanta, James is taking fewer shots per game from the field (15.6) than any of the NBA's other top-15 scorers.
This comes after James, Bosh and Wade ranked 5th, 14th and 19th, respectively, in field goal percentage last season, making Miami the only team to place three players in the top 20.
Six Heat players (James, Wade, Chris Andersen, Norris Cole, Michael Beasley, Roger Mason Jr.) are shooting career-high percentages, while Bosh, Mario Chalmers and Allen are close.
"It just kind of transformed into this thing, where everybody just started taking good shots," Bosh said. "We didn't complain about the shots we were getting, we just had to make it count. Because we know that ball has to go around. In the beginning, it was tough, because we couldn't figure it out, but now it's like, 'Hey, man, if you're going to take 'em, make 'em.' It's very important that we get good shots. No throwaway shots anymore for us."
Let's throw out some "advanced" stats, since they're even more impressive.
- First in effective field-goal percentage (which accounts for the extra value of three-point shots) at 56.8, more than three percentage points clear of the Spurs. Last season, the Heat were also first, but slightly lower, at 55.2. In the first two seasons of the "Big Three," the Heat were at 52.4 and 50.5, respectively.
- First in true-shooting percentage (which accounts for three-point shots and free throws) at 60.4, three percentage points ahead of the Houston Rockets. Last season, the Heat were also first, but at 58.8. In the first two seasons of the "Big Three", the Heat were at 57.3 and 54.9, respectively.
- Second in offensive rating (which records the number of points scored per 100 possessions) at 109.6, right on the heels of the Portland Trail Blazers. That's just below from what the Heat posted last season (a league-best 110.3). In the first two seasons of the "Big Three," the Heat were at 109.3 and 104.3, respectively.
The Heat were a very good offensive team in the 2010-11, slipped some in 2011-12 (when most teams did due to the compressed post-lockout schedule), were outstanding in 2012-13, and have been even more exceptional so far in 2013-14.
This isn't just about the Heat's stars either:
Miami's starters rank second in offensive rating, first in field-goal percentage, first in both effective field-goal percentage, and first in true-shooting percentage.
Miami's reserves rank first in offensive rating, second in field-goal percentage, first in effective field-goal percentage, and second in true-shooting percentage.
Dig a little deeper, from short to deep distances.
According to the NBA's official stats site, the Heat are first in shooting from the restricted area (69.7 percent), first in shooting from the rest of the paint (46.9 percent), seventh from mid-range (41.6 percent, while taking the second-fewest attempts), and second on corner three-pointers (47.3 percent, while taking the most attempts). The only blemish? Miami is 26th (31.9 percent) on above-the-break three-pointers. But the Heat don't overdo it from that area; they rank 25th in above-the-break three-point attempts.
Offensive efficiency isn't just about shooting form.
It's about understanding how a particular offense should ideally function.
It's about taking the right shots, the ones that fit your personnel.
That doesn't figure to change, even if a Christmas shirt doesn't fit all that well.
Ethan Skolnick covers the Heat for Bleacher Report.
*All statistics obtained from NBA.com
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