Sunday, March 10, 2013

LeBron James is More Clutch Than You Realize

A deep-dive analysis of the NBA's most "clutch" players...

But, being "clutch" isn't purely defined by game-winners; it's about making the right basketball plays when it matters most, such as creating for your teammates, making shots, grabbing important rebounds and making key stops on defense. 

And possibly the most important factor, something that seems to get overlooked, is making the aforementioned plays in the final minutes to ensure the game DOES NOT have to get to the point where a last-second shot is necessary.

LeBron may not be known for his buzzer-beaters, but there is no denying that he is one of the most clutch players in the game. Let's look at the NBA's best players this season, shall we?

Criteria: For sake of this exercise (and based on my personal belief), I have defined the "clutch period" to be in the last five minutes of the game when a team is either ahead or behind five points or less. I then took their stats during these periods and calculated them on a Per 36-minute basis to give us some sort of reference point if these players were to play an average game entirely entrenched in the aforementioned "clutch" criteria.

Results (per 36-minutes of "clutch" time):

    Player PPG FG% 3FG% FT% RPG APG
Kyrie Irving  41.3 47.8% 32.1% 78.9% 4.6 4.3
Kevin Durant  39.7 39.7% 31.8% 90.8% 5.3 2.8
Chris Paul  38.1 45.2% 22.2% 91.9% 3.1 5.7
Kobe Bryant  37.0 43.9% 33.3% 87.5% 7.4 4.2
James Harden  33.2 42.2% 31.6% 85.5% 6.5 4.0
LeBron James  28.5 46.4% 29.2% 76.2% 11.7 11.2
Stephen Curry  26.4 39.7% 30.0% 88.9% 6.4 3.2
Russell Westbrook 23.9 35.7% 25.0% 91.7% 5.9 4.0
Tony Parker  23.8 48.5% 50.0% 75.0% 4.9 5.2
Dwyane Wade  19.3 50.0% 0.0% 58.1% 7.0 4.3

Interesting stuff here. Yes, LeBron isn't as prolific a scorer in the clutch, but you should notice that he averages a TRIPLE DOUBLE - 28.5/11.7/11.2 - per 36 minutes of clutch game time. Furthermore, notice his FG% is better than noted "media clutch" players such as Kobe/Paul/Durant.

There are infinite ways to define "clutchness," but this is what I believe to be the most accurate. While LeBron may not score as much, he's also pulling down nearly 12 rebounds and dishing out more than 11 assists in this span - totals nobody else can match. Add in the fact that he's guarding the opposition's best player (no matter the position), he wins my vote for the most clutch player in the NBA.

Also...Kyrie Irving is insanely good. Cleveland has a propensity for young superstars.  Let's hope they don't screw this one up. 

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