With the formation of these “Big Threes,” no longer is it commonplace for a team to only have one player who can dominate the game’s final seconds. However, it’s still a luxury to have. Players like this are usually defined as go-to guys. A go-to guy, in my opinion, is someone who can get you that basket your team needs in the game’s closing seconds when every eye in the arena is focused on them. A go-to guy, in my opinion, isn’t someone who shies away from big moments, but walks into them head first. The best way to find a go-to guy is to watch who gets the ball for the final shot in the closing seconds of a tight game.
Go-to guys aren’t perfect and definitely don’t make every shot in these situations. But teams never think twice about who they would give the ball to if the situation presented itself again.
Here’s my list of the 15 best go-to guys in the NBA.
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15. PAUL GEORGE
Paul George doesn’t have some of the numbers that many of the others on this list have to cement his place on this list. During the regular season, there were 29 instances in which George found his club within or ahead five points in the final five minutes and the Indiana Pacers only won nine of those contests. PG only chipped in 0.2 points per game in those situations.
But, George didn’t truly become the Pacers go-to guy until the 2013 Playoffs, specifically against the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals. When you look at those same instances in the playoffs George and the Pacers won three of the five games and George saw his point average during those moments jump to 2.6.
With such a small sample size it’s hard to argue that George deserves a place higher on this list. The Pacers are going to be one of the best teams in the East this year and George is their star player. If he continues to develop like he has the past three seasons, he will steadily move up this list and find himself in discussion with some of the bigger stars in the league.
14. STEPHEN CURRY
Stephen Curry has been clutch since birth it seems. He made a name for himself by leading the Davidson Wildcats to late game victory after late game victory in their almost historic 2008 NCAA Tournament Cinderella run (three of their four games were decided by six points or less).
In the NBA, it took him a bit longer to become the player we saw in college, but now in his fifth season he and the Golden State Warriors are firing on all cylinders. Last season, the Warriors and Curry played in 38 close games. With Curry in the lineup, they won 23 of those games. In his 3.9 minute clutch average, Curry was able to score 2.7 points.
Curry is now one of the most lethal scorers in the NBA. He has range that extends to the exit doors and has tightened his ballhandling to the point where he can get into the lane consistently and has a bevy of floaters and other shots that allow him to finish over taller opponents in the paint. With the addition of Andre Iguodala, the return of a healthy David Lee and the continued development of Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes, Curry can become even more of a weapon in late game situations.
13. DWYANE WADE
Wade made news recently when he tweeted out a “note to himself” about showing Kevin Durant that he is still a top 10 player in the league (hint: it’s not a note to yourself when over four million people can see it). However, I don’t see it anymore. Can Wade still have an effect? Yes. Can Wade takeover a game occasionally? Yes. But gone is the 2006 D-Wade that looked utterly impossible to guard.
Nowadays, LeBron James leads South Beach and Wade doesn’t have to be the every night superstar he once was. However, Wade still put up a respectable 19.6 points per 36 minutes in clutch situations last season.
Wade is far from “over the hill” and if there’s anyone who loves to prove his critics wrong it is Wade — remember bald D-Wade led the 2008 Olympic team in scoring and torched Spain for 27 points in 27 minutes in the championship game. This back and forth with Durant may be the fuel he needs to jump higher on this list next year but for now he’s looking in on the top 10.
12. DERRICK ROSE
Derrick Rose is only this low on the list because he missed the whole 2012-13 season. Rose chose to take as much time as necessary to recover and rehab and enters this year as an intriguing question mark.
For the sake of this article, let’s look at Rose’s 2011-12 clutch stats. Per 48 minutes, Rose’s clutch numbers looked like this: 33.3 points, 7.6 rebounds and 7.6 assists. While those are gaudy numbers at first look, broken down they aren’t as impressive. He ranked 17th in points, 16th amongst guards in rebounds and 19th in assists.
However, he does crack the top 10 in the percentage of assisted baskets. Only 13 percent of his clutch-time scores came off of an assist… meaning that if you put the ball in his hands he can create and make his own shot.
If Rose can be the same player he was then, and with the additional 10 pounds of strength and a better jump shot, he will easily be one of the deadliest scorers in the NBA and could even find himself atop a list like this by year’s end.
11. DIRK NOWITZKI
Dirk Nowitzki’s best days are probably behind him, but his offensive talents are far from diminished. Nowitzki has one of the best shots in NBA history; in today’s NBA, only Curry and Ray Allen are on par with Dirk’s deadeye shooting ability.
Throughout his career in Dallas there have been many players who played sidekick to Dirk (Steve Nash, Jason Terry, Michael Finley, O.J. Mayo) and this year it’s Monta Ellis‘ turn. Ellis is a better offensive version of the JET and his ability to make shots for himself and play off the ball should make it harder for teams to double-team Dirk in the post. And Dirk in the post, especially against single-coverage, is about as guaranteed a basket as there is in the NBA.
Dirk’s one-legged fadeaway is unstoppable; the defender’s only hope is to foul him and send him to the line where he’s a 87.7 percent career free throw shooter and shot 80 percent in the clutch last year. Dirk knows where he is at his best and Rick Carlisle draws up the plays where he can be most effective.