Report: Erik Spoelstra told Kevin Durant in 2016 that Heat could ‘unlock his efficiency’ just as they did with LeBron James

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Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Back in 2016 — when Phoenix Suns forward Kevin Durant was a free agent — Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra allegedly told Durant that Miami could “unlock his efficiency” just as the team did with LeBron James during his four-season stint with the franchise.

It’s important to note that Durant was supposedly unhappy with how he was utilized on offense with the Suns during the 2023-24 campaign.

“Meanwhile, Durant, among the best scorers in NBA history, was not always happy with how he was used,” Shams Charania and Doug Haller wrote. “Sources briefed on the matter told The Athletic that Durant never felt comfortable with his role in Phoenix’s offense alongside [Devin] Booker and [Bradley] Beal this season. Those sources said Durant had persistent issues with the offense, feeling that he was being relegated to the corner far too often and not having the proper designs to play to his strengths as the offense was built around pick-and-rolls. At the same time, some teammates and people close to the organization believed Durant needed to voice his concerns more adamantly and directly with [Frank] Vogel and his coaching staff.”

Despite the notion that Durant was not satisfied with Phoenix’s modus operandi on offense, he was still one of the more prolific scorers in the NBA this season. He averaged 27.1 points per game during the regular season, which was was tied with Booker for the highest scoring average on the Suns.

Durant also was in a tie for the fifth-highest scoring average of any player in the NBA and ahead of dominant offensive players such as Jayson Tatum, Stephen Curry and Nikola Jokic.

The 35-year-old’s scoring efficiency in his second season with the Suns was arguably just as impressive as his scoring average. Durant shot 52.3 percent from the field and 41.3 percent from 3-point range in 75 games played during the regular season.

The 14-time NBA All-Star managed to keep up his efficient and effective scoring production during Phoenix’s first-round series versus the Minnesota Timberwolves. Durant scored 26.8 points per game on 55.2 percent shooting from the floor, but the Suns were swept by Anthony Edwards and the Timberwolves.

The Heat could use a scorer of Durant’s caliber in their first-round series against the Boston Celtics. Miami has had trouble scoring the ball against a stingy Celtics defense, as the Heat have dropped 100 points or more in just one game since the start of the series.

Furthermore, the Heat mustered just 84 points as a team in their 20-point loss to Boston in Game 3 on Saturday.

It’s fun to imagine what a Heat team led by Durant, Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo could accomplish together as a trio.

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Jesse is a 23-year-old sports journalist with extensive experience covering the NBA.