“Time is a valuable thing, Watch it fly by as the pendulum swings

Watch it count down to the end of the day

The clock ticks life away” -Linkin Park  In the end

In strange reversal of fortune from the last few months, I’ve got a plethora of posts (rankings, the 2011 draft, the talent explosion, a sweet guest post) lined up in the queue and ready for you my dozens of dedicated readers. Not only that, I also managed to find the time to record a podcast this week and get a full night’s worth of sleep. Every night. Add to that the fact that Perkins came back tonight and I’m feeling as good as this kitty.

So good in fact that instead of hitting up the backlog for an easy robo-post, I’m winging it tonight. I’m going to take the time to do brand new tables and expand my analysis on clutch performance. You might just say I was feeling that mythical hot hand and decided to go with it.

As I said in my last post, has a neat little feature where they keep track of clutch stats (which they define as: 4th quarter or overtime, less than 5 minutes left, neither team ahead by more than 5 points).

Yesterday I played with the data by dividing by usage groups, looking at points per shot and  per possesion (FGA +TOV+FTA*.44) and calculating Points created per possesion : (Total Pts scored+Unassisted points scored)/2  +Assists *(Avg value of points per FGM(2.7 pts) /2) (with everything  per 48 of course and I average values for reference).

But giving credit where credit is due, that’s a really addictive little data set.

So much so, that I kept right on tweaking it after the post. The questions came at me hard and fast: Should I use average values in the clutch rather than all the time? (Yes Sir) Should I work out actual Point Margin generation per 48? (Of course) Can I calculate which teams are clutchy? (We’re certainly going to try).This then is Clutchiness the sequel.

Let's hope it goes well. Sequels can be tricky business

Enough chitchat, let’s get to the cool stuff. First off, hows every player for the last 4 years in the clutch sound to you?

Whoa. That’s a little long but I wanted you all to have it for reference. Couple of things do jump out. Nash & Paul are awesome. Lebron (prior to this year but we’ll come back to that) was historically good for a non guard. Brandon Roy was fantastic prior to his tragic injury (this years sees a 16 point swing to the bad for his numbers). Kevin Durant is not clutch while Kobe totally is.

Kobe Love. Durant hate. I feel somewhat nauseous.

Let’s shorten this down to this year only for some more perspective:

That elite point guards makes all the difference in the clutch (and dominate this list). For the non point guards the ranking goes:

  1. Kobe (I just can’t seem to stop throwing up)
  2. Horford
  3. Dirk
  4. Manu
  5. Pierce
  6. Landry Fields (I am not including rebounds here either. Yes New York, let’s make sure to throw him into a Melo trade)
  7. Bosh
  8. Howard
  9. Lebron
  10. Jason Terry (but *Spoilers for a future post* this oddly enough seems to only happen when Dirk is on the court )

The bottom ten is also an interesting radiography:

  1. Chandler             2011NYK
  2. Love                     2011MIN
  3. Granger               2011IND
  4. Outlaw                  2011NJN
  5. Aldridge              2011POR
  6. Anthony              2011DEN
  7. Villanueva          2011DET
  8. Cousins                2011SAC
  9. Bargnani              2011TOR
  10. Landry                 2011SAC

So Melo for Chandler good. Melo for Fields GOOD (for Denver).

Let’s do one final table for today. Teams (at full strength) in the clutch:

So the teams with the elite point guards (Dallas,Boston, OKC, Phoenix and Utah) dominate this list. Miami is a little lower (but I expect once Wade shows up in the numbers they’ll improve). A few top teams have a problem with shot selection in the clutch including the Lakers (for shame Phil) for giving the ball to Fisher, the Knicks and Nuggets at the three (and they just might swap that problem :-( ). Bad teams that have no real option come crunch time (Wizards, Cavs and Wolves) are not a surprise. The somewhat decent teams like the Bucks and Pacers are a surprise (and may in large part explain some of their results).

That was fun and hopefully everyone learned something new and not to upsetting. I wasn’t so lucky. Damn these stats and their irrational Kobe Love!

Try not to get too upset (Image courtesy of

PS. A quick followup is here


  1. some dude
    January 26

    Why would you be shocked that Kobe is clutch? Everyone who watches and plays knows this.

    Your lists make sense. Take Love. He’s not clutch because when the game is on the line, teams defend him. Teams play half-assed versus Minnesota and this affects the stats. In a close game, versus say the Spurs, Duncan is going to say “okay, time for 5 minutes of lock-down D” and it comes to pass.

    The entire list, sans Melo, is made of players who are either the only high-usage option or being dumped the ball stupidly by Sacramento.

    This explains Terry, as well. Dirk’s presence makes Terry a significantly better player. All the numbers you could muster will show this. Watch the games and it becomes obvious. Terry gets all those open looks in the clutch because of Dirk, NOT Kidd.

    I’m a bit confused by Fields being in your list. He’s taken a grand total of 7 shots in clutch time, one of which being a tip and the other a layup. And it’s not like he’s doing other things. He’s 1/3 from the FT line with just 2.3 assists per 48 and .8 steals (though no TOs).

    Now that I look, Bosh has only taken 7 total shots, but at least he’s taken FTs.

    I think you need a possession cutoff point. Landry has what, 12 total possessions on offense in the clutch all season. We can’t call him clutch from that. He shouldn’t be on the list.

    Howard being on the list doesn’t seem right, either. he’s I think 7/10 in the clutch, and I doubt I’m going on a limb in saying most of those are alley-oop dunks, put back dunks, or PnR dunks. Hardly makes him clutch. 66% FT shooting is anti-clutch to me, even if it’s better than his norm. But he gets intentionally fouled and if you make more than 50%, you will outperform the average clutch rate.

    This is why I wanted to take FTs out of the equation because of intentional fouling. A player shooting 52% in the clutch while being fouled intentionally and not actually shooting should not qualify.

    At the end of the day, the “clutch” list looks mostly like a “whose hands is it in” list when the game is on the line. That’s why PGs are rated so high. Lebron, Wade, Kobe, Dirk, Manu, Pierce, S-Jax, etc basically are the PGs are their respective teams in crunch time. This is why they lead the list.

    Last note on Durant. It’s been the “elephant in the room,” regarding Durant. He’s been horribly unclutch in his NBA career to this point (i live international ball out). Especially at the end of games (not including FTs, of course). I can only remember a shot in his rookie year to send a game to OT vs the Lakers and the NY buzzer-beater as actual last minute big shots of his. I’m sure he has a couple more, but I remember a ton more clangs and he doesn’t pass a lot. Most NBA fans have been waiting for him to become clutch. Maybe he’ll turn the corner, now. His problem is he takes horrible shots at the end of a game. Like 33 foot 3s.

  2. entityabyss
    January 26

    Clutch is a small sample, so I don’t believe it says too much, but lol at some dude’s comment on kevin love. Teams just let him detroy them and get all those rebounds until the game’s on the line?

    I tend to not like clutch stats, because it’s a small part of the game and being very clutch doesn’t make you very good.

    Anyways, good post. We need more posts that suggest that chris paul is just the man, and no one can stop him. :-)

    • some dude
      January 26

      I don’t want my comments to be misinterpreted. I don’t mean teams just let Love get everything he wants. If that were the case, all bad teams would have someone like Love.

      What I mean to say is that good teams in the league play just well enough for 3 quarters against bad teams so that they can just close em out when it matters. No team plays hard every game. It’s not feasible. The truth is, teams often take “nights off” against teams like the Cavs, Wolves, Kings, etc. That’s not always the case, but more often then not.

      Obviously Love is playing very well. But if all teams actually cared to stop him, his stats wouldn’t be as impressive. Tim Duncan isn’t going to put in the extra effort when the team is up 12 in the 3rd against the Wolves. Heck, he won’t do it against them until it’s the 4th unless his team is down big. That’s exactly how all 3 games basically went for those 2 teams. KG isn’t going to go all out against the Wolves either, especially in Boston. When Timmy and KG go against each other, I’m sure they will both play hard all game.

      So no, teams aren’t letting him get all those rebounds. He earns most of them. But a few of those rebounds and points, I’m sure, is a result of teams not giving Minnesota their A or even B efforts. Also, it’s often a consequence (in terms of points) of shutting everyone else down, ala Boston vs Miami last season when Wade went off but they didn’t care since they just focused on not letting him get help (doesn’t apply to rebounds, just shooting).

  3. ilikeflowers
    January 26

    So now we just need to determine whether or not a team’s clutchiness is just another way of measuring being lucky in close games. What’s the four year for teams?

    I doubt that you have the dataset handy for this, but I would imagine that this is an area where coaching (strategy) can make a big impact. How do the coaches impact team clutchiness?

    Also I would think that a team’s highest usage clutch player might be a proxy for end game coaching ability.

    This would seem to be saying that elite point guards help you win close games which is another way of saying elite point guards help you overperform your point margin (very testable).

    Kobe is who we though he was. At or near the top for his position but far from the best in the league and exceeding far from being the best all time. Very good and very overrated.

  4. Judd
    January 26

    Really interesting. One thought – I’m curious about the overwhelming distribution of ball handlers at the top (with the exception of high-percentage scoring big men, who we’d expect to be the ones we want taking the “clutch” shots). It seems like Paul, Nash, etc. (even James and Kobe, who are more pass-oriented than the norm at their positions) would be likely to have the ball and take a high-percentage shot if it were available, or pass to a “scorer” (Nash to Richardson or now Carter, Paul to whatever they’re calling a scorer in NO these days, Westbrook to Durant, etc) if not. The scorer would then take a lower percentage shot because that’s his “job” on the team. The “scorer” would have suppressed scoring stats due to taking lower percentage shots later in the possession, and would have suppressed assists because of the shot clock and because they were deemed responsible for shot creation.

    I guess what I’m asking, statistically, is whether there’s a ‘fall guy’ scenario in which the good clutch players have less successful buddies on their team, who take the statistical hits, and also whether the spread is compressed if you look at collections of players on the same team, players who would essentially distribute the bad shots unevenly.

    Just a thought. Nice work here.

  5. January 26

    Hey Arturo,
    Love the article. Man Nash is tearing it up. Fine fine Kobe is “good” but even in clutch time only stats he still isn’t top 5 :) One column I’d love to see is minutes played.

  6. some dude
    January 26

    minutes played for ya.

    Judd makes a good point and leads back to how overrated an assist actually is in basketball.

    Again, the list is basically a list of guys who have the ball in their hands the most for their team, really. Note the lack of big man at the top. Outside Horford, the only back to the basket player (Dirk is a SF in style) is Dwight, and he’s only on here because he gets intentionally fouled or makes alley-oops.

  7. Daniel
    January 28

    Long comments do not display intelligence. If you can’t say what you feel you need to say in two paragraphs, write your own article. Or split up your comments thematically. Your input isn’t going to be read if it’s longer than the article you commented on.

  8. Johannes
    March 15

    “Jason Terry (but *Spoilers for a future post* this oddly enough seems to only happen when Dirk is on the court )”

    I could not find the post you were referring too.

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