NBA: Who Do You Want Taking the Last Shot?

Haddon AndersonAnalyst IMarch 22, 2012

NBA: Who Do You Want Taking the Last Shot?

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    In the past thirty or so years, the NBA has boasted a handful of players who could take center stage in the waning moments of a game.

    In the 1980s, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson both longed for the basketball as the final seconds ticked off the clock.

    And the 1990s obviously featured the heroics of Michael Jordan, but there were others as well, such as Reggie Miller.

    Unfortunately, the early 2000s lacked players who could make clutch last second plays. Kobe Bryant could enact greatness, but there weren't many potent threats besides him. Perhaps Chauncey "Mr. Big Shot" Billups was the next most fearsome player late in games. Or maybe Robert "Big Shot Bob" Horry.

    Now, there are a handful of players who are formidable in the game's closing seconds. In fact, it's quite a debate to discern which one would most like to take the last shot in a tight game.

    Here are the player rankings of the most fearless competitors in the game's final seconds.

    Who would you most like to take the last shot? 

10. Joe Johnson

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    The Hawks' Joe Johnson is a six-time All-Star who has certainly proven his impressive abilities in the league.

    One of those abilities is his knack for making plays late in ball games. His ability to create his own shot off the dribble combined with his 6'7'' height to unload his jumper make him difficult to defend in clutch situations.

    In fact, Johnson displayed his late-game heroics just last night in Atlanta's overtime win over Cleveland (click here for highlights). 

    Johnson doesn't epitomize a clutch performer, but he's a worthy option to take the last shot in the game's final seconds.

9. Chris Paul

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    Chris Paul has the cold-blooded instinct to want the ball as the clock winds down and his play-making ability is scary for opponents.

    In fact, Paul's fearlessness may be second to none, but he doesn't climb higher on this list because of his style of play and height.

    CP3 knows how to score but he's more of a distributor. While he can create his own shot, he can't do it nearly as well as those listed ahead of him on this list.

    And Paul's 6'0'' stature makes it difficult for him to launch his shot in the game's final seconds. 

    The mental aspect is surely there for Paul, which is why he's on this list, but those other factors keep him behind some of the league's other elite players.

8. LeBron James

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    Okay, before you lash out about LeBron James making this list, take a moment for a deep breath.

    Let's consider a few things.

    First of all, while James has struggled in clutch situations in the past couple of seasons, he's shown the capacity to thrive on other occasions.

    Remember that epic 25-point fourth quarter playoff performance against Detroit in 2007? While it didn't feature a buzzer-beating shot, it was still remarkably clutch.

    Or, how about that fading game-winner in the 2009 playoffs to defeat Orlando?

    The point is that it's not like LeBron has always failed at the end of games.

    Secondly, LeBron has such an intimidating stature. He can create his own shot unlike any other player. Yes, he may lack poise late in games, but we can't overlook his insane abilities.

    Lastly, would one really want a player not on this list to take a game-winner instead of LeBron? Can one really argue wanting the ball in the hands of a guy like Danny Granger or Monta Ellis ahead of LBJ?

    If you think so, fine. Present your argument in the comments. But don't let a couple of lackluster playoff performances blind you from the fact that LeBron is still a legendary player and should undoubtedly be on this list.  

    If anything, he should maybe be listed higher.

7. Carmelo Anthony

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    Say what you want about Carmelo Anthony's defense and leadership, but he can make plays in the game's closing seconds.

    He's proven this throughout his career and these late game exploits will surely reappear in the future.

    Melo may not be a top ten player in the league (that's a debate).

    What isn't a debate is if he's an elite performer in the game's closing moments.

6. Derrick Rose

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    Derrick Rose is still only 23 years old, but he's already received an MVP award and has proven he's as potent as anybody at finding his shot.

    This year, he's begun to display these heroics more often in the game's final seconds. 

    His late game exploits began in Chicago's first game of the year, when Rose dropped a late-game floater to beat the L.A. Lakers, and Rose recently knocked home a buzzer-beating fade-away to beat the Milwaukee Bucks.

    While he's not yet the most feared player at the end of games, he's surely on the rise in this debate because he has no fear and he'll continue to get better with experience.

5. Paul Pierce

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    Paul Pierce epitomizes a fiery competitor and he continues to be Boston's closer late in games. He'll always be feared in this role.

    "The Truth" has a way of creating space and spraying step back jumpers in his defender's eyes. He especially likes to do this late in games.

    Pierce's mentality late in games is exactly what a coach desires from his "go-to" player. Pierce doesn't fear failure and is always willing to hoist another decisive jumper. 

4. Dirk Nowitzki

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    After Dirk Nowitzki's unforgettable playoff performances last season, he's unquestionably a player whose hands the ball should be in late in games.

    Dirk's clutch plays against Miami in last year's NBA Finals as well as the handful of game-winners he's made throughout his career reveal how he can be as trusted as anyone in the game's final seconds.

    While he's not as athletic as the other players on this list, he makes up for it with craftiness and his uncanny ability to create space for his jump shot.

    While he's now 33 years old, he's still as feared as anyone when the game is on the line.

3. Dwyane Wade

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    When Dwyane Wade's healthy, he's the Miami Heat's top closer. He thrives in late game moments and has a knack for finding a mid-range jumper as the clock dwindles.

    He did this just recently to beat the Indiana Pacers, and his track record also demonstrates a history of success.

    Wade is beloved in Miami and one of those reasons is because of the consistent clutch plays he makes down the stretch.

    If the Heat reach the NBA pinnacle this season, expect Wade to make big plays in crucial situations and potentially tally a couple of last-second game-winners. 

2. Kobe Bryant

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    While Kobe Bryant has had his share of misses late in games, he's also had plenty of successes. 

    Kobe craves crucial situations in the game's final moments. He doesn't just accept them; he relishes them and always wants the next opportunity.

    Bryant's ability to shoot off the dribble going in either direction, and his keen way of drawing contact make him so versatile and heady. As the clock winds down, he seems to always find a way to create a shot and opposing teams just have to hope it doesn't go in. 

    Kobe's mentality and ability continue to make him a top candidate to take the last shot. 

    And, quite frankly, how can you argue against his five championship rings? He knows how to win and he's displayed this time and time again in the last seconds.

1. Kevin Durant

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    Kevin Durant has become the most formidable last shot weapon because he possesses all the intangibles.

    Poise? Check.

    Skills? Check.

    Height? Check.

    The "Durant-ula" is a dominant force and has made Oklahoma City a true contender. He's also shown that he possess the psyche to make crucial plays at crucial moments.

    As he's now in his prime, he's become the most feared player late in games. His undeniable talents, 6'9'' frame and unquestioned poise situate him as the No. 1 player to take the shot in the game's final moments. What's not to like about his arsenal?

    Expect him to dazzle NBA fans with his late-game heroics for years into the future.