Before you read this post, I recommend that you read Daryl Harkin’s post from 08/03/12 – “Shoot or Pass”, which has sparked a lot of debate and is the inspiration behind this post.
Last Saturday, Belfast Star played against North Star, which is the team I coach. At the end of the game, with only three seconds remaining, Star had the ball on the sideline out-of-bounds, game tied at 63. Instructions were issued to pick up in man, switch on all screens and be aware of screens being slipped. We knew if they wanted a jump-shot, McKillop was likely to be the main option. In anticipation, I decided to put our longest defender, Michael Brennan, on him. Star run the same play as they did in the previous season: a classic screen-the-screener option. They ran the play with McKillop cutting towards the inbounder off a screen by Paddy Mullan followed by Conor Johnston screening Mullan who cuts to the basket. Daryl Harkin had Paddy Mullan covered and the only real option for Star was to hit McKillop as he cut towards the ball-side. McKillop makes the catch, pivots to square up, and shoots. Brennan is closing out fast and in position to contest the shot. McKillop has to lean back and launch a rainbow three. The height and arch on the shot meant it was impossible to tell if it was going to be a swish or an airball. The ball starts to descend towards the rim and then — PAUSE —
not after she’s left and the crowd goes home
tell it when he can still be the last-second hero
a hometown Jesus on the shoulders of adoring men
tell the story before she cried, before he made her
tell it while the boy in the nosebleeds
clutches a program to his chest and yells because
this is what men do
tell the story so we can all cheer and buy the jersey
so we can tell the guys at the bar that we were there
tell the story when the ball is in the air -Jason Crane
From a coaches viewpoint, it shouldn’t really matter whether or not McKillop’s shot went in or not [Editor: really?]. It went in and Star won.
As Stan Van Gundy originally said, we should “tell the story when the ball is in the air”. I feel that we made the right decisions on the defensive end. The best case scenario would be forcing a five second violation or stealing the inbounds pass. Otherwise, forcing a contested, turn around, fade away three pointer is about the toughest shot we could give the opposition. At any other stage of the game, this would have been a terrible option. In this instance, it was the only option available, although it is not really a matter of being a ‘good shot’ or a ‘bad shot’. There have been far too many times that I have seen players take, what I would consider, a terrible shot only to hear from the coach on the sideline shout, “great shot!” Simply because the ball happened to go drop through the rim. It’s a percentages game. No-one considers a shot, which a player would only make 10% of the time, as a ‘good shot’ or a ‘good option’. I believe that it doesn’t mean it’s a good shot the one time it goes in and a bad shot the nine other times it doesn’t drop: it’s a bad shot every time but it just happens to go in once in a while.
When we take a look at the Miami Heat’s last possession versus the Utah Jazz, whether or not Udonis Haslem makes the shot is irrelevant [Editor: again… really?]. Any potential game winning shot attempt can go in but we must decide the best option which would, in theory, have given the Heat the highest percentage chance of scoring and winning the game. Check out the video of the final possession:
In the previous discussion on this topic, many of our followers stated that LeBron made the right basketball play. I strongly dispute this.
The correct basketball play, in my opinion, would be Lebron attacking the basket. I discount the fact that people claim he was double teamed as, at best, it was a very weak double team. Josh Howard has got caught up in the screen and Lebron easily gets his shoulder past him and has Howard trailing him. LeBron has a running start on a flat footed Paul Milsap, who is the only player between him, and an open lane to the basket. In this situation, I think LeBron attacking the basket is clearly the best option. Firstly, if he manages to draw the foul he is a 77% FT shooter, which gives the Heat an excellent chance of at least tying the game (94.71% chance that he makes at least one free throw) and a 59.29% percentage chance of making both free throws and getting the win. The chances that LeBron misses both free throws is only 5.29%. This is without even factoring in the chance of going to the basket and making the shot while drawing the foul. In this situation, I think it is very likely that if there is contact that he gets the “superstar” call [Editor: interesting – Paul Bullock may disagree with this one] and if he cleanly evades Milsap, LeBron converts 75% of his shots at the rim.
I would contend the next best option would be LeBron going to his pull up jump shot while going to his left. LeBron is shooting 41% from mid-range this season but I think you have to factor in the game situation. LeBron was on fire for the entire fourth quarter and had brought the Heat back into the game almost on his own. He has just made two ridiculous off-the-dribble jumpers going to his left and is clearly feeling it. His confidence is high and he is shooting over 80% in the fourth quarter.
The worst play that he could have made in this situation was make the pass to Udonis Haslem.
One of the arguments’ put forward is that ‘this is Haslem’s shot’ and ‘you make the correct basketball play to pass the ball to the open man.’ It can all depend on how you define it but this is definitely Haslem’s “shot” but only in the sense that he takes a lot of them. Out of 232 total shot’s so far this season Haslem has shot the ball from mid-range (defined as outside of the key and inside of the three point line) 120 times, while just over 50% of his total shots have been attempted from this range. However, of those 120 attempts he has only made 44 of them and is shooting 37% from this range. This may well be his shot, which I argue is due to an inability to extend his range or create any sort of offense for himself, but that does not make it a good shot. Haslem isn’t really a feature of the Heat’s offense and only has a usage rate of 13% when he is on the floor. Passing to a player shooting 37% from that range and a player who is not used being involved in the offense cannot be considered a good option for a game winning shot.
The best option statistically would be for LeBron to attack the rim to try and get an extremely high percentage shot at the rim or draw the foul for the high percentage freethrow option. If he can’t get to the basket, pulling up for the jumper would be his next best option and finally, the pass to Haslem would be the third option.
If you are a Heat fan you should want LeBron starting to make his first game winning shots now in meaningless regular season games.
Now that I have stated my case, I’m about to potentially blow it out of the water with an interesting stat courtesy of Scott Carefoot (@scottcarefoot ) at TBJ. The following table lists shots from the past three seasons based upon the following criteria: regular season or playoffs, fourth quarter or overtime, 0:05 or less remaining, shot to tie or to take the lead. The table is sorted by total number of field goals made.
As you can see, this table does not make good reading for Lebron James. Eleven attempts and zero makes. What does this say about my argument above that Lebron should have taken the shot versus the Jazz? I think it makes it stronger than ever. If you are a Heat fan you should want LeBron starting to make his first game winning shots now in meaningless regular season games in March so that when the playoffs come around he has the confidence to match his ability. It is imperative for the Heat that LeBron develops the same sort of mentality as a Jordan had or Kobe has and believe he can, and should, make clutch shots. LeBron is having a historic season and is on course to break Jordan’s record for the highest PER of all time. If he keeps passing the ball in these sorts of situations, can he ever be compared to the likes of Jordan?
Let us know what you think in the comments below!