LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry have dominated the NBA this season. Who is the most clutch player in 2018-2019? We compare shooting percentages to find out.
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During crunch time, everything is amplified. Fans in the grandstand throw down their phones and cease speaking with their neighbors as they leap to their feet, their eyes fixed on the scene below. The players on the court likewise increase their energy in the hopes of securing a victory for their team.
Some superstars have flourished in the close margins of their hotly fought late games in the 2021-22 season. Others have tightened up, missing crucial shots and pushing their teams down to the bottom of the standings with devastating defeats.
We’ll rank the top clutch superstars this season based on their shooting % in the last five minutes of a game in which neither team is ahead by more than five points.
Jimmy Butler is ranked 17th with a 29.5 percent chance of winning.
Total Points: 41 (13-44 FG)
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Throughout the 2021-22 season, Jimmy Butler has combined an unusually bad balance of inside-out shooting during crunch time. During tight end-game scenarios, his overall percentages have dropped from 46.8% to 29.5 percent for the season. His three-point percentage has also dropped from 19.1% for the season to a dismal 9.1% in the clutch.
Jimmy Buckets has been even worse in the clutch for the Miami Heat this season, hitting 0.0 percent from three-point range and 25.9 percent overall. Butler is a superstar, but he’s shown signs of tightening up this season as his teammates have depended on him to carry them up the mountain from a deficit to victory.
We’re going to go a little further into the numbers. Jimmy Butler has ten clutch assists to seven mistakes, and he’s only been to the free throw line 16 times.
Jimmy Butler has struggled at the conclusion of close games this season, but the Miami Heat have the fourth-best clutch winning % in the league, at.606 (20-13), thanks to Kyle Lowry’s superb overall shooting and Tyler Herro’s consistent three-point shooting.
Stephen Curry (16th) has a 36.0 percent chance of winning.
Total Points: 70 (27-75 FG)
Hoops Habit is to thank for this.
As the Warriors’ sole senior playmaker, Stephen Curry has had to do everything for them at the conclusion of games. In comparison, Andrew Wiggins, who is in second position, has 31 field goal attempts. In tight games, he also leads Golden State in assists, rebounds, and steals.
Still, this isn’t a new situation for Steph. He took almost three times as many crucial shots as his second-place teammate, Kelly Oubre Jr., when he battled the world for the Warriors last season, yet he hit on 42.9 percent from beyond the arc and 43.2 percent overall in 98 tight end minutes. Curry is just missing in a very un-Curry-like manner at crunch time this season, shooting an uncharacteristically un-Curry-like 17.9% from three-point range and 36.0 percent overall from the field.
Stephen Curry’s late-game shooting woes haven’t impacted his Warriors all that much. At the conclusion of games, his gravitas counts, and when rival teams have thrown everything at him, he’s found his teammates for clear opportunities. With a 21-14 record in 2021-22, Golden State was one of the top clutch teams, and with Klay Thompson back in the fold, things will undoubtedly become easier for Steph in the fourth quarter.
Jayson Tatum (15th) – 36.0 percent
Total Points: 92 (27-75 FG)
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Although Jayson Tatum’s clutch shooting stats aren’t the worst on our list, his total crunch time performance this season may be the worst of any superstar. Jayson Tatum is a nightmare to stop in the lane at the conclusion of a close game, always forcing the officials to blow the whistle with his bullrushes through contact toward the rack. And when it comes to the charity stripe, he’s hitting 36 out of 37 of them.
The issue for Tatum and the Celtics is that he’s been settling for off-the-dribble three-pointers in crunch time, hitting on just 2-25 from beyond the arc. He’s also taken far too many contested mid-range jumpers rather than attacking the hoop or passing to an open teammate. Tatum has shot 36.0 percent from the field in the fourth quarter while only handing out 5 dimes.
5 dimes clutch!!!!!
Jayson Tatum has tried and failed terribly to be the Celtics’ Kobe Bryant at the conclusion of tight games. In 2021-22, he guided Boston to an abysmal 12-19 clutch record, as he selfishly threw the Celtics out of tight games.
Donovan Mitchell is ranked 14th with 37.5 percent of the vote.
Total Points: 68 (27-72 FG)
Credit: USA Today Sports/Isaiah J. Downing
In 2021-22, Donovan Mitchell is tied with Jayson Tatum for the worst overall clutch player. In clutch situations, he’s making 22.2 percent of his long shots and 37.5 percent of his field attempts, stats that are hurting his team at the conclusion of tight games. If you’re a Jazz fan, Mitchell’s free throw issues are much more concerning. In what we can only characterize as tight armed bricks, Spida is making just 53.3 percent of his crunch time free throws.
Mitchell’s clutch woes extend beyond his pressure-induced misses all over the court. At the conclusion of tight games, his decision-making has also fallen off a cliff. With the game on the line, Spida has mishandled the ball 10 times compared to just 16 assists, giving the opposition side great transition opportunities and breaking his own teammate’s morale.
This season, the Utah Jazz have gone 15-19 in critical circumstances, and if Donovan Mitchell is going to help his team advance beyond the second round, he’ll have to play better when it matters most.
LeBron James (38.2%) is number 13 on the list.
Total Points: 90 (29-76 FG)
Credit: USA TODAY Sports/Richard Mackson
In 2021-22, LeBron James and the Lakers underperformed (to put it mildly), and things were particularly bad at crunch time. LBJ is normally great towards the end of close games, but he’s struggled this season as AD has been in and out of the lineup due to various ailments and Russell Westbrook’s weak outside stroke has clogged up the lane.
Consider the following comparison of LeBron’s crunch-time stats this year against last:
Clutch Numbers for 2021-22:
38.2 percent field goal percentage, 25.7 percent three-point percentage, -4+/-, and a 12-14 record
Clutch Numbers for 2020-21:
45.8% field goal percentage, 40.6 percent three-point percentage, +57+/-, and a 13-6 record
LeBron James is one of the greatest basketball players of all time. He’s also one of the all-time great clutch players, making game-winning jumpers, setting up teammates for game-winning shots, and grabbing key rebounds. We can’t be too harsh on LBJ this season since the roster surrounding him has plainly set him up to fail. If the Lakers can trade Brodie and surround The King with stronger two-way players next season, he should be able to bounce back in the clutch.
Trae Young is in 12th place with 38.5 percent of the vote.
Total Points: 96 (25-65 FG)
In 2021-22, Trae Young is enjoying his finest season to date. He’s averaging 28.3 points per game, 9.4 assists per game, and 8.0 rebounds per game while hitting a career-high 38.4 percent of his long-range shots and torturing opposing teams with his pick-and-roll expertise. Unfortunately, Young’s rapid growth hasn’t translated to very competitive late-game scenarios.
Through 92 largely terrible crunch time minutes, Young is shooting just 27.3 percent from outside the arc and 38.5 percent overall from the field. Trae Young has struggled away from State Farm Arena in the clutch this season, after playing the villain on the road in last year’s playoffs against the Knicks, silencing the New York crowd with his amazing fourth-quarter heroics in the first round. As the Hawks have gone 4-11 on the road, Ice Trae (awful moniker this year) has shot 1 for 12 and 22.9 percent from the field in key circumstances.
After suffering for the most of the season, Atlanta has steadily moved toward.500, but if they want to go through the play-in round and make a splash in the 2022 playoffs, Trae Young will need to improve his clutch shooting and lead his team to more tight wins.
Kevin Durant is ranked 11th with 40.5 percent of the vote.
Total Points: 86 (30-74 FG)
Credit: Associated Press/Frank Franklin II
Kevin Durant is having one of the best (if not the best) shooting seasons in NBA history. He makes 78.0 percent of his shots near the rim, 59.4 percent from 16 feet to the arc, 37.2 percent from beyond the arc, and 89.6 percent at the line. With sharpshooter Joe Harris out for the most of the season, All-Star Kyrie Irving in and out of the lineup, and James Harden slowing down, KD has finding it increasingly difficult to obtain clean one-on-one shots during crunch time.
As other teams have deployed late-game aid at Kevin Durant, challenging someone else to beat them, he is still shooting a strong 40.5 percent from the field. Our expectations are the issue here. Even if they send three or four people his way, we anticipate two-time champion and four-time scoring leader KD to crush teams in the clutch. We anticipate him extending his Gumby arms and tossing gorgeous sweaters over their extended palms. However, this is not the case.
KD need assistance in the clutch. If Ben Simmons suits up, his ability to get to the rim (I haven’t forgotten about his late-game meltdown against the Hawks in last year’s playoffs, but it was a one-shot fiasco) would provide further help. Kyrie Irving’s home presence will be a huge advantage if New York reduces its immunization regulations.
KD could easily ascend to the top of our rankings as the greatest clutch shooter in the league if he ever gets to play with his complete team.
James Harden is ranked 10th with 41.7 percent of the vote.
Total Points: 66 (15-36 FG)
CNN contributed to this report.
James Harden is no longer the player he once was. In 2021-22, his stats are down across the board, and he’s lost the ability to put his teammates on his back and carry them to victory in the final moments.
This season, James Harden has battled with consistency in clutch situations, making just 20% of his 3-point tries and 41.7 percent overall towards the conclusion of tight games. Even yet, The Beard’s luck hasn’t been all negative. With his ability to draw 42 total free throw attempts, he has guided the Nets and 76ers to an 18-8 clutch record. He’s also one of the best at leveraging his ability to collapse opposing defenders with his rumbles toward the basket to open up easy opportunities for his teammates at the conclusion of close games.
James Harden has a +44 record in critical circumstances, and although I wouldn’t call him Mr. Gametime any more, he’s still clutch enough to not be towards the bottom of our list. His late-game numbers should only improve now that he’s joined up with Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey, as he helps the 76ers win more tight games.
9th place: Ja Morant (42.0%)
Total Points: 119 (34-81 FG)
Nick Wass of the Associated Press contributed to this report.
Ja Morant has had a meteoric rise this season, rising from non-All-Star in 2020-21 to a serious MVP contender in less than a year. He’s averaging 27.5 points per game, 6.7 assists per game, and 5.8 rebounds per game as he aggressively assaults the lane (he leads the NBA in drives with 20.9 per game) and puts pressure on opposing teams. Morant combines his league-leading first step with a fearless mindset to go full Allen Iverson on a weekly basis, collapsing defenses and forcing other teams to make hard decisions.
Ja Morant has carried his get-in-the-paint-every-time-down-the-court mentality into late-game circumstances, scoring 119 total clutch points (3rd in the NBA) and making 57 total free throw tries (also third in the NBA) while leading the Grizzlies to a 17-9 record in close games.
In one-on-one situations, Ja Morant is tough to stop, and although his clutch shooting percentage of 42.0 percent isn’t very impressive, he seems to become braver with his flurry in the lane in crucial games. As the strain mounts, he ratchets up the hammer, causing substantial issues for other teams to deal with. Ja Morant’s late-game outside shooting is still improving, but he’s made enough huge shots to crack our top-10.
Nikola Jokic is ranked eighth with 48.1 percent of the vote.
Total Points: 118 (37-77 FG)
courtesy of USA Today Sports
This season, Nikola Jokic is the undisputed MVP. He’s averaging 26.0 points per game, 13.8 rebounds per game, and 8.1 assists per game, with a 32.4 PER (one of the finest player efficiency rates in NBA history) and 12.7 WS (again one of the best marks all-time at this stage in the season).
Despite this, Jokic’s clutch figures (48.1 FG percent and 20.0 3P percent) don’t pop out at you and wow you. The Nuggets’ recent win against the 76ers is a prime example: Nikola Jokic only scored three points in the fourth quarter while only handing out one meager assist, yet Denver still won by four points.
The problem is that the Nuggets have been missing their second scoring option, Jamal Murray, for the most of the season, and their third scoring option, Michael Porter Jr., for nearly all of it. Opposing teams have been hell-bent on taking away Jokic’s crucial scoring chances due to the dearth of firepower available in Denver. They send double and even triple teams his way on a regular basis, unwilling to let Joker overcome them at the conclusion of tight games.
Nikola Jokic doesn’t need to put up big numbers in the clutch. His teammates get clean looks just by seeing him on the floor. The Nuggets upset the 76ers by four points in the fourth quarter, and Joker’s teammate, Bones Hyland(?) scored 12 points, hitting 4 of 5 from long off WIDE open looks as Philadelphia threw everything at Jokic.
Despite the supermodel-at-a-bachelor-party attention Jokic receives during critical late-game scenarios, he has led the Nuggets to an 18-11 record while accumulating the fourth-most clutch points this season with 118. Imagine Joker’s reaction when Murray and Porter Jr. return.
Luka Doncic is ranked seventh with 49.2 percent of the vote.
Total Points: 75 (27-56 FG)
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Luka Doncic has provided a fantastic illustration of what a player can achieve when he doesn’t press the issue late in tight games by playing his regular style of terrific all-around basketball.
During 86 total take-what-the-defense-gives-him crucial minutes, Doncic is shooting 49.2 percent from the field. He destroys his defender with his exceptional mid-range footwork if opponents let him to work one-on-one during crunch time, either slipping into the lane for a shot at the basket or releasing an off-the-dribble jumper from beyond the key. He readily tosses the ball to Jalen Brunson or new acquisition Spencer Dinwiddie if opponents offer assistance, letting them to take control of the attack.
Luka Doncic’s superb shooting stroke and selfless play have led the Mavericks reach a fantastic 19-8 clutch record with their superstar on the floor.
6. Zach LaVine has a 50.0 percent chance of winning.
Total Points: 89 (27-54 FG)
This season, Zach LaVine has gone from a vicious rim slasher to one of the league’s greatest shooters. He’s averaging 24.6 points per game while shooting 48.1 percent from the field and 39.3 percent from three-point range. LaVine’s superb jumper has served him well in crunch time, hitting on precisely half of his 54 total field goal tries and 37.5 percent of his long-range efforts.
When his buddy DeMar DeRozan gets bogged down in the mid-range with a double team, LaVine has played very effectively with his teammate DeMar DeRozan in the clutch, offering a long-distance outlet for his partner. LaVine hasn’t turned into a glorified spot-up shooter overnight. He’s still one of the greatest at getting to the basket, utilizing the threat of his outside shot to send adrenaline-fueled rival defenders racing for a late-game battle as he sprints down the lane for a layup or dunk.
During the 2021-22 season, Zach LaVine has been courageous in crucial circumstances, refusing to allow the pressure of the moment get to him.
Joel Embiid (50.0%) is the fifth best player in the NBA.
Total Points: 141 (43-86 FG)
Credit: USA Today Sports
Joel Embiid is enjoying an MVP-type season for the Philadelphia 76ers, averaging 29.9 points per game, 11.3 rebounds per game, 4.3 assists per game, and 9.8 rebounds per game. Throughout 2021-22, he’s also been pretty darn excellent in the clutch.
Embiid has used his usual mix of post plays, mid-range jumpers, and long-range bombs over the course of 127 crucial minutes. He leads the NBA in fourth-quarter points, with 141 total buckets on a 50.0 percent field-goal percentage, and he’s gone Reggie Miller on the league, hitting on 45.5 percent of his long-distance Js.
Embiid has faced his fair share of clutch-time double teams, and he’s often wisely swung the ball to an open teammate (16 total clutch assists) rather than forcing things through two players in the post, which is one of the reasons the 76ers have been so difficult to beat in close late-game situations.
With his overall performance and ability to go into double-clutch mode during tight late games, Joel Embiid has maintained the 76ers atop the Eastern Conference rankings for the greater part of the year. He’s a serious stumbling block for the rest of the group.
Giannis Antetokounmpo ranked fourth with 51.2 percent of the vote.
Total Points: 65 (21-41 FG)
Throughout 2021-22, Giannis has been true to form in clutch occasions. Last year’s Finals MVP has slashed the opposition’s neck viciously at the conclusion of tight games, shooting 51.2 percent on primarily difficult shots in traffic at the basket.
Last season, the Greek Freak made just 68.8% of his clutch free throw attempts, taking some of the sting out of his late-game two-step drives to the basket. During the offseason, he reportedly went to the lab to address another of his few flaws. Giannis has improved his clutch free throw shooting this season, nailing 81.5 percent of his attempts from the line, making him an even more dangerous clutch player.
At the conclusion of tight games, no one puts greater pressure on the opponent than Giannis. The Greek Freak shreds defenses like a giant walking on a beach ball, forcing opponents to choose between preventing him from loading the rack or dishing to one of his sweet-shooting colleagues from beyond the arc.
Another reason the Bucks are looking strong in their quest for a two-peat is Giannis’ clutch performance this season.
DeMar DeRozan is third with 51.4 percent.
Total Points: 129 (38-74 FG)
courtesy of USA Today Sports
DeMar DeRozan has been a typhoon throughout the league this season, averaging 28.0 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 5.1 assists per game, but he’s taken his cluthocity to hurricane levels in tight end-game scenarios, blowing opponents away like they’re nothing.
This season, DeMar DeRozan has participated in 35 clutch games, second only to Russell Westbrook, who has appeared in 39 tight end games. When given the chance, DeRozan has out-Kobe’d the NBA, shooting 51.4 percent from the field in critical circumstances on primarily unstoppable off-the-dribble mid-range shots, while also sinking 66.7 percent of his trey tries and earning 58 free throw attempts.
During crunch time, DeMar DeRozan transforms into a 12-sided Rubik’s cube, providing an unsolvable conundrum for opposition defenders to solve. He combines his great playmaking talents with an exceptional first step and an unstoppable arsenal of spin moves and fadeaway jumpers beyond the key to create a fearless soup that he swallows down before entering crunch moments.
DeRozan has a couple of game-winning baskets this season, and his ability to cause chaos in crunch time offers the Chicago Bulls a genuine opportunity at the crown.
Chris Paul is in second place with 56.4 percent of the vote.
Total Points: 71 (22-39 FG)
The Valley of the Suns is a place where the sun shines brightly
Chris Paul is out due to a thumb injury. CP3 exerted his will on the league like a magician playing horseshoes with a bunch of unsuspecting muggles before being benched. He shot 72.7 percent at the rim and 57.7 percent from 10 to 16 feet, averaging 14.9 points per game and a league-high 10.7 points per game.
Chris Paul also wowed the league with his clutch shooting, connecting on 40.0 percent of his three-point tries and 56.4 percent of his field goals. By a country mile and a half, CP3 led the Suns to a 22-3 clutch record, the best in the league by a country mile and a half. Despite playing 78 clutch minutes to Brodie’s 159, CP3 is at the top in assists with 28 total clutch tosses, behind Russell Westbrook (29 total assists) by one dime.
Chris Paul had the league on a string this season, quietly picking apart opposing defenders throughout the game, but he’s somehow managed to provide even cleaner looks for his teammates in pressure-packed crunch situations while simultaneously improving his overall shooting stats. If CP3 is healthy before the playoffs, his ability to run the show in the fourth quarter propels the Suns to the top of the Western Conference standings.
Devin Booker is in first place with 57.5 percent of the vote.
Total Points: 74 (23-40 FG)
Devin Booker has played like a clever lioness in the 2021-22 season, deciding when to strike with a knowledge that belies his 25 years. Book’s exceptional athleticism is seldom used to attack the rim. Instead, he uses his mid-range game to annihilate opposition defenders. Booker has made the most of his great jumper this season, averaging 25.6 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 4.9 assists while converting on the second most jumpers from the key out to the arc in the NBA.
Booker’s overall averages are outstanding, but his clutch numbers are out of this world. Book has a 20-5 record in tough late-game situations with the Suns. He’s also poured in a total of 74 crucial points while shooting 40 percent from three-point range and 57.5 percent overall from the field. Devin Booker has also improved his defensive effort at the conclusion of games, keeping his assignments to a 39.5 percent hit rate in the fourth quarter, which is among the best in the league among all wings.
This year, Devin Booker is the league’s greatest clutch shooter, and he’s teamed up with Chris Paul, who has the league’s second-highest clutch field goal %. They create the finest clutch tandem of the past decade, causing the other 29 NBA teams to feel like they’re in the middle of a cyclone of end-game death.
Winning In The Postseason Requires Clutch Play
Tightly fought postseason games have frequently come down to whose superstar plays the best in the clutch, as we’ve seen throughout the NBA’s lengthy history.
Jimmy Butler, Stephen Curry, Jayson Tatum, Donovan Mitchell, LeBron James, and Trae Young have all failed in crunch time this season, putting their title hopes in jeopardy.
Kevin Durant, James Harden, Ja Morant, Nikola Jokic, and Luka Doncic make up the second clutch tier, demonstrating that they have what it takes to make a majority of their late-game attempts.
The Bulls are a difficult out for any team with Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan both ranking among our top-6 clutch players, while Joel Embiid has shown to be an exceptional crunch-time inside-out player. Giannis’ improved clutch free throw shooting, as well as his drive to the rims, make him difficult to contain. In our clutch rankings, Chris Paul and Devin Booker are ranked first and second, giving the Suns a huge edge coming into the NBA’s second season.
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