The NBA’s Top 10 Best Clutch Shooters This Season

04.09.12 5 years ago
Rudy Gay

Rudy Gay (photo. Douglas Sonders)

Carmelo Anthony‘s clutch instinct, seemingly in hibernation most the winter, came alive Sunday to will the Knicks past Chicago. Given two chances, he rattled in threes from the near elbow to tie the game in regulation and take the lead in overtime (if you haven’t watched TV in two days, it would hold up as the game-winner).

But two jumpers don’t make a trend. We wanted to find out who should be given the ball to if you want the best chance to win, and we know it won’t stop the debate, but we have stats to back it up. Thanks to Basketball Reference’s Play+ index, we found out this season’s best clutch shooters. The definition of “clutch” is key here, and here’s the constraints: the best effective field-goal percentage in a game’s final two minutes or less where team is either leading or trailing by five points or less, minimum of 25 attempts (Effective field-goal percentage weighs that a three is worth more than a two).

Now, we won’t tell you you’re wrong if you have a gut instinct about a certain player in the final moments over one of these 10. Nope, all we’ll say is that this year, they’ve proven they’re the most lethal down the stretch. Agree or disagree with the method? Well, you can’t argue with the stats — including the surprising No. 1.
10. Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City: KD’s eFG rate is .431, going 22-of-58 overall. Dragging that number down is going 6-of-24 from three. Then again, one of those threes he hit was huge, to beat Dallas in January.

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9. LeBron James, Miami: He’s at .442 for his eFG%, including 3-of-11 from three, where he was so maligned last year during the playoffs. Overall he’s 10-of-26. Part of why he gets criticized so heavily is because of how he passes on final shots. Well, he’s hit one to either tie or win in the final 15 seconds. It was March 10 to tie Indiana at 95 on a three.

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8. Al Jefferson, Utah: The man known in Utah as Big Al is 16-of-36 on his clutch attempts for a .444 eFG%. His most recent make was a game-winner in the last second against Sacramento on March 22, but he also tied Minnesota with a 16-foot jumper with seven seconds left back on Feb. 22.

7. Chris Paul, L.A. Clippers: CP3 has an eFG of .447 this season, including two to take the lead in the final 4 seconds. He’s 20-of-47 in these constraints, which means he has Vinny Del Negro‘s full confidence to win it; only Kobe Bryant (20-of-57, .404 eFG) has more attempts in this time span.
Here’s Paul’s J to take a lead over Philly back on Feb. 10.

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6. Paul Millsap, Utah: If you’re Tyrone Corbin, you have options when it counts for Utah, which has played in 37 games decided by five points or fewer. Millsap’s eFG is .484 on 14-of-31 overall and 2-of-5 from three. In a Jan. 25 loss to Toronto, Millsap’s putback with three seconds left tied the game in OT.

5. Kyrie Irving, Cleveland: The only rookie on the list arrives after posting a .484 eFG, all from inside the arc (15-of-31). He’s clutch when it really matters the most, too, making two shots in the game’s final 10 second this season to take the lead. Once was against Denver on March 7, taking it nearly the length of the court with the ridiculous runner.

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4. Joe Johnson, Atlanta: At 17-of-39 overall and .526 eFG%, he’s who the Hawks use as their default late-game option. And why not? Johnson’s nailed three shots to tie or take the lead in the final 10 seconds. He was a clutch-seeking missile in late March, tying or winning games at home four days apart against the Cavs and Jazz. Here’s the former, where he not only forced OT with a three (one that left Byron Scott smirking at his team for leaving Johnson open on a screen), but got another clutch hoop in OT.

3. Jason Terry, Dallas: JET is 12-of-25 overall and 4-of-11 from three for an eFG of .560 this season. Yep, he carried all the momentum from last year’s playoffs through. Three of his shots either took the lead or tied in the final 10 seconds; you can’t forget this one to go up one with 5 seconds left on the Clippers on Jan. 18.

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2. Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City: And you thought Utah had options late. Yes, Westbrook (.586 eFG) not only forms one of, if not the best, two-player tandem in the NBA this season with Durant, he also can knock down clutch shots. His shot selection was the talk of the 2011 playoffs and his relationship with KD sparked “debate” this year. Bottom line is he makes shots when there’s the least room for error, shooting 15-of-29 overall and 4-of-7 from three.

1. Rudy Gay, Memphis: By the percentages it’s not even close with Rudy, who’s at .638 eFG on 17-of-29 shooting overall and 3-of-5 on three-pointers. His calling card this year isn’t the shot at the game’s end, but doing all the things right before the final possession.
The one notable exception? On March 16 against Toronto, his pull-up 25-footer on a fast break with two guys around him tied the game with 0.8 left in regulation.

If you don’t agree with the top 10, here’s what our search on Basketball-Reference brought up.

Who would you have take the last shot?

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