When you've won back-to-back championships and look to be the favorites in your quest for a third straight title, you don't really need to add much to your résumé. Your accomplishments have already separated you from most teams in NBA history and finding new ways to impress your observers could be challenging. A new way impress the basketball viewer is to become the best shooting team in NBA history.
Last season, the Miami Heat made 49.6 percent of their shots with an effective field goal percentage (accounting for the extra point on a 3-point shot) of 55.2 percent. That effective field goal percentage was the highest of all time, topping the 1984-85 Los Angeles Lakers that put up a 55.1 effective field goal percentage. During that season, the Lakers had the highest field goal percentage by a team in NBA history with 54.5 percent.
No other team has ever approached a field goal percentage that high. One reason they shot so high was they didn't use the 3-point line all that much. As a team, the '85 Lakers took just 295 3-pointers on the season. To put that in perspective, Ray Allen, Shane Battier, and Mario Chalmers all individually shot more than 300 3-pointers in 2012-13. Because of the 3-point shot, last year's Heat team ended up having the best shooting season in NBA history.
It's something the Heat have managed to do through the first 35 games of the season. As a team, they're shooting 51.1 percent from the field, which is historically ridiculous. There have been 17 teams in the 3-point era (since 1979) that have posted a field goal percentage of at least 51.1 percent from the field. The Heat are at the bottom of that list of 17 teams. So if they're 17th of 17 teams on this list, how can you possibly call them the best shooting team in NBA history?
The 51.1 percent from the field the Heat are shooting this season is historic on its own. But they're doing it with a volume of 3-point shooting we've never seen before. Here are the 17 teams that have shot at least 51.1 percent from the field in NBA history and their 3-point volume attached to it:
The Lakers of the 1980's dominated field goal percentage but we never saw many 3-point attempts from them. That was just part of the era. While the 3-point shot was there, it wasn't very prevalent in terms of teams taking a lot of shots from downtown. It was nowhere entrenched in the game like it is today. This is part of the reason the Heat's field goal percentage is so historically impressive.
Not only is the 51.1 percent from the field incredibly rare, but they've more than double the 3-point attempts of the next most voluminous team, the 1994-95 Utah Jazz. By the way, the Jazz took over nine per game when the league moved the 3-point line in. The Heat currently have an effective field goal percentage of 56.4 percent. Guess how many teams have put up at least a 56.0 effective field goal percentage.
The only team is this current Miami Heat squad.
A big part of this historic shooting performance is LeBron James. His 58.9 percent from the field on nearly 16 shots per game doesn't even seem possible. His true shooting percentage of 66.9 percent has never been done by a player taking at least 15 shots per game. Only two other players have ever had a true shooting percentage at least 66.0 percent while shooting 15 times each night and one of them never took a 3-pointer.
But Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh have been incredibly efficient as well. Wade takes 14.7 shots per game and makes 53.8 percent of them. Chris Bosh takes 11.4 attempts each night and makes 53.0 percent. The Big Three account for 49.4 percent of the Heat's total attempts while pouring in a success rate of 55.6 percent. There is only one area of the court in which they struggle and everywhere else is around league average or far above it.
Percentage-wise, the Heat are the best team in the restricted area, the best in the paint on non-restricted area attempts, 11th in midrange shots, and the best corner 3-point shooting team. The only spot they struggle is on above-the-break 3-point attempts in which they're 23rd in the NBA but shoot the fifth fewest attempts per game.
The Heat excel with the players they're supposed to excel with and shoot from the spots they're supposed to shoot from. Considering their biggest roadblock in the Eastern Conference is the Indiana Pacers (the league's stingiest defense in field goal percentage and 3-point percentage allowed), being able to make shots at a historic rate seems to be pretty important.
If the Heat are able to be one of the few teams in NBA history to successfully execute a three-peat, it may just simply come down to making shots in a way we've never seen before.