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How the Warriors can find 1600 Shots for Kevin Durant

The Warriors won't have an "only one basketball" problem.

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports


That's how many times Kevin Durant took last season.*

As The Ringer was happy to point out, we've heard a lot of the platitude "There's only one basketball" lately.  It's a common and understandable issue raised to the concern that the Warriors have just added a high-volume scorer to a team that already has two of them. How can there possibly be enough shots to go around which has two of the best high-volume scorers in history (in Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant) and another player who is easily one of the top 10 shooters of all time (in Klay Thompson).

How can there possibly be chemistry on a team where you have two players who can create their own shot and score at any time, at will?

After all, when LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh got together, Wade and Bosh had to sacrifice, and even though the resulting team made four NBA Finals and won two titles, there was definitely a sense that the pieces were a rough fit. There was no question that the whole was slightly less than the sum of the parts, even though the individual parts were so great that the loss didn't matter much.

Wade and Bosh sacrificed shots to make it work, the saying goes, but if Curry, Klay, and Durant have to do the same thing, then you're not really getting full value for them. Klay is a great shooter, but if he's not shooting, does he bring enough else to the table? Will egos get bruised if players have to give up too many shots? And what about Draymond, used to getting a fair number of opportunities with the ball in his hands. And if the Warriors aren't getting full value out of their offensive stars, does the loss of best defensive player in the league (by RPM) Andrew Bogut, as well as the #40 defensive player in the league (Festus Ezeli) mean that the team could actually be worse?

Surely, this super-team can't quite be as good as everyone fears, right? Egos will get in the way. Players will want to get their numbers. Who takes the last shot?

This is wistful thinking on the part of the league. The Warriors won't have a problem getting their players their shots, and the math is straightforward. The only requirement is that Steve Kerr staggers his rotations.

Kevin Durant took 1600 shots last season. If the team can find 1600 shots, somewhere in its rotation, then it should be able to keep everybody happy.

I'm going to go with KD's number for last season because, although he missed some games, he also played more minutes per game than he's likely to play for the Warriors. I expect his total minutes load to be about the same. The question is, where do those shots come from?

Harrison Barnes is gone, and so, obviously, KD is going to take his shots. HB took 633 FGA and had 134 FTA, for a total of about 691 shots.

But Harrison missed a bunch of time due to injury. And while he was hurt, Brandon Rush started. Brandon Rush's other minutes came during garbage time, so they shouldn't count (KD won't be paying much garbage time), but if we only count Rush's time as a starter, we find another 134 FGA and 6 FTA for another 136 shots.

So far, so good, but we've just filled in the bulk of KD's minutes and we've only got a deficit of 731 shots. We're only about halfway there! Does this spell trouble for the Warriors?

No, it doesn't. Because hidden in the Warrior's PPG numbers are two departed players who shot the ball a ton. When the Warriors bench was on the floor, Leandro Barbosa and Marreese Speights shot, and shot, and shot. In fact, Speights was #5 in the league in FGA/36 among regular rotation players (total minutes >= 800). - the only players who shot more frequently than him, on a per minute basis, were Curry, Cousins, Kobe, and Lillard. That's it.

This is undoubtably why the team preferred Varejao over Speights. They needed to find shots for Durant, and boy, did Speights offer them: he took 456 FGA, with 114 FTA, for a total of 506 shots. That brings the Warriors' shot deficit down to 267 shots. (This is also why adding David Lee would have made very little sense for the Warriors, if he was even an option. His primary value is on offense, and the team doesn't need scorers.)

And while Speights was #5 in the league in FGA/36, (minutes > 800), the team also had another bench gunner, as well.  Leandro Barbosa was a respectable 164th. In other words, he shot, per minute, on par with players like Dion Waiters, DeMarre Carroll, and Darren Collison. Barbosa took 370 FGA and 62 FTA, for a total of 399 shots.

Just taking the shots of those four players (Barnes, Rush as a starter, Speights and Barbosa) and giving them to Durant, the Warriors don't have a shot deficit, they have a shot surplus of 132 shots!

Unfortunately, things are a little more complicated than that, because the Warriors made other roster changes, too. They replaced the low-volume Andrew Bogut and Festus Ezeli with the mid-volume Zaza Pachulia and David West. A team can't distribute it's shots exactly how it wants to, in any event, and clearly whatever big man plays with Curry, Klay, Draymond, and KD is going to get a ton of open looks.

The Warriors replaced Andrew Bogut (301 shots) and Festus Ezeli (286 shots) with Zaza Pachulia (591 shots) and David West (483 shots), creating a shot deficit of 487. Subtract the 132 surplus shots we had from Durant replacing Barnes, Rush, Speights, and Barbosa and we're still at -355.

So the Warriors' players are going to have to find a way to sacrifice 355 shots. If they can do that in an acceptable way, there shouldn't be any problems due to the limitation of only playing with one basketball. So let's talk about what that looks like.

Let's start with the Warriors' three volume scorers: Durant, Curry, and Klay. Do we think they'd have ego problems sacrificing a single shot per game each? I don't. They've all seemed pretty selfless and are enthusiastic about playing with each other. One shot per game each, for 82 games, for three players takes us down to a deficit of 109 shots.

To give you a sense of what this looks like, understand that last season Curry took 1598 FGA. That is, by far, the highest number in his career. His first MVP season he only took 1341. In other words, Curry can shoot more than he did in his first MVP season. I don't think he'll mind.

Klay dropping a FGA a game will keep his number, also, higher than it was in the Warriors' championship season.

For Durant that might be a bigger sacrifice (since he had a relatively low shot total, by his standards, last season), but remember he's used to playing with Westbrook, who dominates the ball. He's going to see a lot more ball movement, and a lot more easy shots. In fact, that's a big part of the reason he came here.

Zaza and West are probably going to take fewer shots, at least in part because they're going to play fewer minutes. They shoot less often, though, so there are less shots for them to give up. Let's assume they each give up half a shot a game. Is there any doubt these players would be willing to do this? West, who gave up $10m a year to play for the minimum? Zaza, who gave up an eight-figure salary to play for the room exception? It seems like that shouldn't be a problem. (This actually seems like a conservative estimate, particularly for West.)

That leaves us with a deficit of 27 shots, and we haven't asked Draymond or Iguodala to sacrifice yet. If they, combined, give up one shot every three games, then the team has completely erased it's shot deficit. Only one basketball, ha!

So there you have it: The Warriors big three offensive players give up a single shot per game each. Their two new centers give up half a shot per game each. Draymond and Iguodala give up a third of a shot per game, combined. That's it. That's the only sacrifice the players need to make to fit Durant right in.

I don't think it'll be a problem. So long as Kerr staggers the rotations to allow Durant to take the shots that Barbosa and Speights took last year, there will be no problem feeding all the hungry mouths on this team.

*For the purposes of this article, we'll be using the estimate of total shots used by TS% and PPS: 1 FTA = .44 FGA.

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