Kobe Bryant and the NBA's Best Shooters with the Game on the Line

Kelly Scaletta@@KellyScalettaFeatured ColumnistFebruary 27, 2012

Kobe Bryant and the NBA's Best Shooters with the Game on the Line

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    Probably the single most imagined incident in sports is sinking that game-winning shot. Nary is there kid in a US neighborhood, perhaps now even a European neighborhood, that hasn't given themselves the imaginary "3-2-1" countdown and then sunk the imagined game-winner to the roar of the similarly imagined crowd. 

    In no other team sport can you, by yourself, lift your team from behind to ahead in single moment. In football, you can score a winning touchdown or throw for one, but that depends on getting blocks, a quarterback throwing the pass or a receiver catching it. 

    In baseball, you can hit the home run, but to take your team from behind to ahead, you need to have someone on base.

    In basketball, it comes down to one pure moment where there is you, the ball and the net. If you get the ball through the net, you're the hero. If you don't, you're the goat. 

    Then, there are the real heroes of the NBA, those who no longer have to conjure imagined audiences. They have real crowds of real adoring fans. They have made that shot, and made it a lot. It gets debated all the time: If you have one player to take a shot with the game on the line, who is it going to be?

    How do you determine who it should be? Different people have different ideas of what should be considered. What constitutes a shot to win it? If you leave time on the clock, does it count or does it have to be a buzzer-beater? 

    How do you weigh a shot that that wins a game that is tied to a three-pointer that ties the game and sends it into overtime?

    At 82Games.com, they've done a couple of studies where they define a "game-winning shot" as the team down two with 24 seconds left. The reasoning behind the 24 seconds is that's the duration of the shot-clock. Ergo, it is potentially the last time you will have the ball. 

    At various times, others have defined it with less time, 10 seconds, seven seconds, three seconds and so on. All of that can create problems of their own. If you call it 10 seconds, why shouldn't the player who made it with 11 seconds make the list?

    With the 24 seconds, there's a logical delineation; that's the length of the shot clock. At the same time, we also know that a team can get two or three possessions in the last 24 seconds of the game by fouling, so it rarely means an actual last possession. 

    The reality is that there are reasons it's defined differently. That's why I've decided to present things by more than just one definition. 

    Through the use of Play Index + at basketball-reference.com, I've compiled the complete list of all game-winning shot attempts over the last five seasons. Following are all the players who have made at least eight shots to either tie or take the lead in a last possession type of situation. 

    I chose five years because I wanted to find a way of balancing the newer players in with the older players. 

    For every player, I will have their career totals though with the exception of players who have been playing since before 2000-2001. For them, since the Play Index + goes back to the 2001 season, I have their totals over the last 11 seasons. 

    I will also have their totals for the last five years. I will include the number of makes, attempts and the effective field-goal percentage with both 24 seconds left and 10 seconds left. 

    One other thing I have is the record for the teams when the player takes a shot. The reason for that is that makes don't always mean wins and misses don't always mean losses. 

    Vince Carter made a huge three with less than two seconds to go earlier this year. Then, Kevin Durant responded with one of his own. Carter made a three-point shot with his team down two with two seconds left. That shot becomes no less "clutch" because of what happened after he shot it. 

    The purpose of the study is to see how well a player performs with the game on the line, so I want to include that data. The pressure on Carter was exactly the same as it would have been if Durant didn't follow up with a miraculous three of his own. 

    Yet the shot did not win the game. Team record in these situations is to address that type of scenario. 

    Finally, there is a link where you can see the complete list of every shot each player took with access to the boxscore and a description of exactly when and where the shot was taken from. 

Just Missing the List

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    Here are the players who have made six or seven shots to tie or take the lead with 24 seconds or less remaining in the game. Travis Outlaw is actually not a mistake. Amazingly, he hit seven straight shots in '08 and '09. 

    Rank Player FG FGA FG%
    18 Travis Outlaw 7 10 0.700
    19 Jose Calderon 7 11 0.636
    20 Brook Lopez 7 15 0.467
    21 Monta Ellis 7 17 0.412
    22 Josh Smith 6 10 0.600
    23 Jeff Green 6 12 0.500
    24 Tim Duncan 6 12 0.500
    25 T.J. Ford 6 13 0.462
    26 Chris Bosh 6 15 0.400
    27 Rashard Lewis 6 16 0.375
    28 Michael Beasley 6 17 0.353
    29 Stephen Jackson 6 17 0.353
    30 Devin Harris 6 18 0.333
    31 Manu Ginobili 6 18 0.333
    32 Louis Williams 6 19 0.316
    33 Joe Johnson 6 34 0.176

    You'll also notice some player that won't be here or anywhere else on this list. I looked at every game-winning attempt over the last five years, so I didn't "forget" your favorite player. Players not on the list and not forgotten include Paul Pierce (five shots made) and Chauncey Billups (four). 

    If you want to know, and you ask nicely, though, I'll look it up for you if you want to know about someone else. 

17: Dwyane Wade, 8

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    Career to Tie or Take the lead: 17 FG, 70 FGA, .279 EFG

    Last Five Years with 24 Seconds: 8 FG, 42 FGA, .238 EFG%

    Last Five Years with 10 Seconds: 2 FG, 14 FG, .212 EFG%

    Team Record When Taking Shot: 12-21 (.364)

    One thing that gets lost in the debate about whether LeBron James should be giving up the ball to Dwyane Wade with the game on the line that gets lost is this—Wade misses a lot. In fact, the only player in the NBA who has missed more shots in the last five years has made more than twice as many (and you have to read on to know who that is).

    Wade also has the lowest effective field goal percentage of anyone on this list—including James.

    Wade has made a few, but he's missed a lot more. 

16: Andre Iguodala, 8

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    Care to Tie or Take the Lead: 10 FG, 54 FGA, .250 EFG%

    Last Five Years with 24 Seconds: 8 FG, 35 FGA, .229 EFG%

    Last Five Years with 10 Seconds: 2 FG, 10 FGA, .269 EFG%

    Team Record When Taking Shot: 4-31 (.114) 

    What's interesting here is that Iguodala has the worst luck ever. Of his eight makes with the game on the line, the 76ers eventually only won half of those games. This doesn't change that Igudodala made the shots, though. 

    It's not that he's making them with too much time left, either. In three of the four losses, there was less than nine seconds left on the clock. 

    It's important to remember here that we're measuring the players mentality here. Can he make the shot with the game on the line? 

    Whether it's his "fault" that Philadelphia loses those games after he made the shots is another issue.

15: Danny Granger, 8

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    Career to Tie or Take the Lead: 20 FG, 65 FGA, .384 EFG%

    Last Five Years with 24 Seconds: 8 FG, 23 FGA, .229 EFG%

    Last Five Years with 10 Seconds: 5 FG, 17 FG,  .294 EFG%

    Team Record When Taking Shot: 6-16 (.273)

    Danny Granger had one extraordinary season, and apart from that, it's been pretty much less than exciting. He hit 7 of 11 attempts in the 2008-2009 season. Since then, he's gone 1-of-11. 

    So where is the "truth" when it comes to Danny Granger? Probably something in the middle. The seven makes is huge. It was tied for the most made in one season for at least the last five seasons. The rest is forgettable. 

14: Hedo Turkoglu, 8

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    Career to Tie or Take the Lead:13 FG, 32 FGA, .484  EFG%

    Last Five Years with 24 Seconds: 8 FG, 22 FGA, .477 EFG%

    Last Five Years with 10 Seconds: 8 FG, 17 FG, .618 EFG%

    Team Record When Taking Shot: 5-11 (.313)

    Hedo does which is why he do. His effective field goal percentage with the game on the line and less than 10 seconds remaining in the game is the best of anyone on the list. He's also the only one who had all of his makes come with less than 10 seconds left. 

    Five of his eight makes were also from deep giving him the most threes made 10 seconds or left. The further away you get from the net and the closer you get to the end of the game, the better Turkoglu seems to do. 

13: Derrick Rose, 9

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    Career to Tie or Take the Lead: 9 FG, 37 FGA, .257 EFG%

    Last Five Years with 24 Seconds: 9 FG, 37 FGA, .257 EFG%

    Last Five Years with 10 Seconds: 5 FG, 24 FGA, .208 EFG%

    Team Record When Taking Shot: 12-18 (.400)

    Derrick Rose was awful shooting with the game on the line the first two seasons, hitting on just 3 of 24 attempts. In the last two seasons, he's had as many makes as anyone in the NBA with the game on the line, hitting on 6 of 13 shots, with one being a three-point shot. That gives him a .500 eFG% in the Thibodeau era. 

    This is a product of two factors. First, it's just a part of Rose growing as a player. It's pretty standard that as players mature you see their numbers improve, especially when the game is on the line. 

    The other reason is that the Bulls no longer have Vinny Del Negro, whose offense is about as complex as the one I played on my YMCA team in fifth grade. They pretty much just had Rose forcing up bad shots. 

    Look for his numbers to continue to improve over time. 

    Edit: This was amended to include the game winner that Rose hit against the New Orleans hornets on Feb 28. 

12: David West, 9

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    Career to Tie or Take the Lead: 12 FG, 30 FGA, .400 EFG%

    Last Five Years with 24 Seconds: 9 FG, 17 FGA, .529 EFG%

    Last Five Years with 10 Seconds: 7 FG, 12 FG, .583 EFG%

    Team Record When Taking Shot: 11-6 (.647)

    David West is certainly a surprise appearance on this list. His .529 eFG percentage with 24 seconds left is third best, and his .583 eFG percentage with less than 10 seconds left is second best. 

    The Hornets are also 11-6 when he's taken that shot, which is second to only Chris Paul's Hornets. It's safe to say the Horents were pretty good in the clutch. 

11: Ray Allen, 9

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    Since 2001 to Tie or Take the Lead: 23 FG, 72 FGA, .417 EFG%

    Last Five Years with 24 Seconds: 9 FG, 22 FGA, .591 EFG%

    Last Five Years with 10 Seconds: 4 FG, 13 FG, .462EFG%

    Team Record When Taking Shot: 8-12 (.400)

    I'm surprised to see that Ray Allen's total number is lower than I thought they would be. His .417 eFG percentage is not bad, but his 23 makes are fewer than I would have expected. 

    Having said that, Allen has the best effective field-goal percentage with the game on the line over the last five years. That's certainly enough to put him in the conversation for the "right" answer to who would you want to take the shot. 

10: Chris Paul, 10

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    Career to Tie or Take the Lead: 15 FG, 36 FGA, .431 EFG%

    Last Five Years with 24 Seconds: 10 FG, 25 FGA, .420 EFG%

    Last Five Years with 10 Seconds: 8 FG, 22 FGA, .386 EFG%

    Team Record When Taking Shot: 13-7 (.650)

    Chris Paul makes the second former Hornet to be on this list. All but one of his go-ahead shots came with New Orleans. However, one of his was with the Clippers, and one of West's came with the Pacers.

    As stated earlier, the 13-7 record that Paul has with the game on the line is the best of any player in that span with at least eight shots made.

    If winning the actual game is the goal, then you have consider putting the ball in Paul's hand. He seems to either be able to get it himself or facilitate it. For West, six of his seven makes with the Hornets were assisted by Chris Paul. 

9: Vince Carter, 10

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    Since 2001 to Tie or Take the Lead: 30 FG, 95 FGA, .405 EFG%

    Last Five Years with 24 Seconds: 10 FG, 25 FGA, .420 EFG%

    Last Five Years with 10 Seconds: 7 FG, 17 FGA, .441 EFG%

    Team Record When Taking Shot: 5-13 (.278)

    Among the players on this list, Allen has the second most makes since the year 2000. I think this could be a surprise to some people, as Carter doesn't have the reputation that some players do. When you talk about the players to take the shot, he doesn't usually get brought up. 

    Consdier that he has about the same percentage as Ray Allen, but he has about 30 percent more makes. Carter probably deserves more of a "clutch" reputation than he has. 

8: Brandon Roy, 12

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    Career to Tie or Take the Lead: 16 FG,  38 FGA,  .500 EFG%

    Last Five Years with 24 Seconds: 12 FG, 28 FGA, .482 EFG%

    Last Five Years with 10 Seconds: 8 FG, 21 FG, .452 EFG%

    Team Record When Taking Shot: 10-13, .435

    This just makes me sad to see Brandon Roy this high on the list. It does so because it just reminds me what a great player he could have been. Roy was a truly clutch player that consistently stepped up and played his biggest minutes in the biggest moments of the biggest games. It's too bad his knees couldn't support him. 

7: LeBron James, 13

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    Career to Tie or Take the Lead: 21 FG, 76 FGA, .296 EFG%

    Last Five Years with 24 Seconds: 13 FG, 41 FGA, .329 EFG%

    Last Five Years with 10 Seconds: 6 FG, 30 FGA, .217 EFG%

    Team Record When Taking Shot: 12-21 (.364)

    Well, let all the hate begin! You're either thinking he's "too high" or "too low," but this is where he is because that's where he belongs based on how many he's made.

    There's a couple of things worth noting here. First, it is not true that he has a great field-goal percentage with the game on the line, or even a better one that what Kobe Bryant has over the course of his career. 

    Over the last four years, he's really struggled with the game on the line, hitting on just six of 26 attempts. 

    His team also has only won 12 of 33 games. 

    The reality is that LeBron James had a good year where he hit 7 of 15 attempts in 2008, but since then, he's been pretty bad. It's not something that started in Miami

6: Dirk Nowitzki, 13

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    Since 2001 to Tie or Take the Lead: 22 FG, 62 FGA, .371 EFG%

    Last Five Years with 24 Seconds: 13 FG, 31 FGA, .452 EFG%

    Last Five Years with 10 Seconds: 9 FG, 22 FG, .455 EFG%

    Team Record When Taking Shot: 11-15 .423

    Dirk Nowitzki is a player who really helped his clutch reputation last year in the postseason. He's been much more clutch at the end of games for the last few years too. SInce 2009, he's gone 11 of 22 for an impressive .500 winning percentage. 

5: Carmelo Anthony, 14

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    Career to Tie or Take the Lead: 26 FG, 56 FGA, .500 EFG%

    Last Five Years with 24 Seconds: 14 FG, 31 FGA,  .484 EFG%

    Last Five Years with 10 Seconds: 10 FG, 24 FGA, .438 EFG%

    Team Record When Taking Shot: 14-12 (.538)

    Carmelo has the reputation as being the one who is the most dependable with the game on the line. That's a well earned reputation. He's 14-of-27 over the last four seasons. 

    Weirdly, he had a two-year cold streak form 2007 to 2008 where he missed on all nine of his attempts. Apart from those two seasons, he's 26-of-47 with four three-pointers made. 

    You know how those two-year slumps go. Everyone has them. 

4: Rudy Gay, 15

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    Career to Tie or Take the Lead: 16 FG, 41 FGA, .451 EFG%

    Last Five Years with 24 Seconds: 15 FG, 36 FGA, .486 EFG%

    Last Five Years with 10 Seconds: 10 FG, 24 FG, .438 EFG%

    Team Record When Taking Shot: 14-12 (.538) 

    This is a name that will probably surprise some people to see him this high on the list. He's actually made that many shots, though. What's more impressive than that, though, is how clutch this due is with time ticking down. 

    Of his 16 field goals with the game on the line, he's made 11 of them with three seconds or less remaining and eight of them with 1.3 seconds or less remaining. Three were pure buzzer beaters, and one left just a single 10th of a second on the clock. 

3: Deron Williams, 15

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    Career to Tie or Take the Lead: 17 FG, 45 FGA, .411 EFG%

    Last Five Years with 24 Seconds: 15 FG, 34 FGA, .542 EFG%

    Last Five Years with 10 Seconds: 10 FG, 24 FG, .438 EFG%

    Team Record When Taking Shot: 13-11, (.542)

    From now on in every conversation about the best clutch shooters in the game, Deron Williams should have his name brought up. You can't help but believe that Tom Thibodeau, who literally know everything about basketball that there is to know, knew this yesterday when he drew up the play to go to Williams.

    Williams has both the volume and the percentage. 

2: Kobe Bryant, 16

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    Since 2000 to Tie or Take the Lead: 40 FG, 128 FGA, .371 EFG%

    Last Five Years with 24 Seconds: 16 FG, 40 FGA, .475 EFG%

    Last Five Years with 10 Seconds: 13 FG, 29 FG, .517 EFG%

    Team Record When Taking Shot: 18-16 .529

    There is a statistic which has been passed along to the point of being legend, but it ignores one thing. Sometimes, statistics change. For awhile, it was true that Kobe Bryant's percentage in the clutch wasn't very good, but lately, he's been much better. 

    His eFG percentage of .517 with 10 seconds or less is third best in the NBA, and that's with him having as many attempts as David West and Hedo Turkoglu put together. 

    When you take the combination of his 40 field goals made to tie or take the lead with the game on the line and you combine that with his success rate over the last three years, it's hard to ignore. 

    When you combine experience and the success rate, the Black Mamba is as lethal as they come. 

1: Kevin Durant, 17

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    Career to Tie or Take the Lead: 17 FG, 59 FGA, .364 EFG%

    Last Five Years with 24 Seconds: 17 FG, 59 FGA, .364 EFG%

    Last Five Years with 10 Seconds: 9 FG, 40 FGA, .313 EFG%

    Team Record When Taking Shot: 19-29 (.396)

    Probably right now the player who is getting the benefit of getting away with a low percentage because of a high volume of makes and opportunities is Kevin Durant. His 42 misses are the most in the NBA over the last five years. 

    Of course his 17 makes are also the most in the NBA over the last five years. Similar to Derrick Rose, he's also shown the element of growth though. This year he's 5-of-11 compared to 2-of-14 last year. Look for him to continue to make these shots at a higher rate as he matures. 

    Is he the guy you want taking the shot when the game is on the line? He's certainly one that belongs in the conversation.