Kevin Durant and the 10 Most Deadly Snipers in the NBA
Kevin Durant had the single greatest Olympics, from a statistical standpoint, of any man in the history of the men's basketball tournament. He scored the most points, hit the most three-pointers and had a 30-point game in the gold-medal matchup.
What's great for the US, and also scary for the rest of the world, is that Durant currently isn't the greatest clutch shooter in the NBA just yet. While he's a matchup nightmare for teams to defend late in the game, he hasn't quite mastered the ability to do whatever he wants when the game is on the line (although he hit three game-winners in 2011-12).
The rest of the NBA is riddled with veterans who want the ball in their hands. Much like we use the term sniper to designate the best in the NHL at putting the puck in the net, these NBA snipers are the guys who rip the net wide open when the clock is running down and the pressure is on.
While guys like Glen Davis certainly have some late-game cred, this list is looking specifically at guys who use their long jumper to beat defenders and win the game for their squad. Sniper could be taken in the context of guys who are deadly from three, but it's used here as a sniper that kills the game with his ability to use one shot to strike the opponent dead.
Vince Carter, Dallas Mavericks
Aaron Afflalo, Orlando Magic
James Harden, OKC Thunder
Manu Ginobili, SA Spurs
Jason Terry, Boston Celtics
Deron Williams, Brooklyn Nets
Kevin Love, Minnesota Timberwolves
Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls
The best of the rest is a solid list to choose from and ranges from one of the most prolific finishers in the history of the league (Carter), to a guy that could be the No. 1 option for the next 10 years if he decides to change teams (Harden).
The reason Rose gets left off is due to his poor shooting percentage in clutch situations, defined as down by two or less with 24 seconds or less, including OT and the playoffs (25 percent as of February 2012). He's the guy who gets the ball in a one-on-one situation if he's healthy and on the court in Chicago.
Afflalo's name might surprise some people, but Denver fans would attest that this guy wasn't afraid to take, and make, the game-winning shot for the Nuggets over the past few seasons, even with all the other talent in Denver.
Love isn't a true sniper, but he's added the three-pointer and is the most clutch player on his team. Ginobili and Williams are deadly from three-point land in the fourth quarter, as is one of the NBA's best in the final period, Jason Terry.
10. Monta Ellis, Milwaukee Bucks
Ellis sneaks into the top 10 with some amazing plays to give the once-lowly Warriors victories in tough situations. Pound-for-pound, to steal a reference from MMA, this guy could be the best scorer in the league, but he's been hampered by lack of depth and poor shot selection.
In his defense, he's been asked to do a lot for the Warriors over the years, and now that he's with the Milwaukee Bucks, he has a chance to take a step back and re-evaluate his shot selection.
Either way, you can bet he will get the ball late in the game with a chance to win. From his ability to get to the basket to his nifty step-back jumpers, Ellis is tough to defend, whether you have a height and weight advantage or not.
9. Rudy Gay, Memphis Grizzlies
Is there a player mentioned less in the league that has the stats that Rudy Gay puts up? Nineteen points, six rebounds from the small forward position while shooting over 45 percent from the field and 31 percent from three are great numbers for any player in this league.
Throw in his ability to hit the clutch shot, and he's right up there in the conversation with the guys most likely to make an All-Star team in the next two years.
Gay doesn't get much press, but he's one of the key pieces that make Memphis a title contender. With him and Zach Randolph leading the way, the Grizzlies always have options late in the game.
8. TIE Joe Johnson, Brooklyn Nets; Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat
After much deliberation of whom to cut from the top 10, I just couldn't bring myself to make that call and feel good about it. However, these two guys have similar stats in clutch situations, and are both downright deadly with the ball in their hands under two minutes.
The entire Eastern Conference knows Joe Johnson can go off. He's slick with the ball, and he knows what shot he's going to shoot before the defense can ever really react.
Same goes for Wade, who was arguably the most clutch player in the league several seasons ago. He's cooled down with the arrival of LeBron James and Chris Bosh to help diffuse some of their late-game situations, but he's still lethal with the ball in his hands.
Both guys used to be the centrifugal pieces to their offenses late in games but now figure to take a less expanded role going forward. Still, you won't find many guys that scare defenders like these two do.
7. Ray Allen, Miami Heat
It doesn't really matter what team Ray Allen plays for, what city they are playing in or who is guarding him. You don't become the all-time league leader in three-point field goals for no reason, and Allen's been an effective shooter his entire career.
He's now a member of the Miami Heat, where his talents will be used to close out games while people are focusing on Wade and James.
But don't let his decline over the years fool you. Even playing with Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, he was the go-to guy from the outside when they needed a big bucket.
With the Heat, yes they'll have three guys that can win you a game, which should tell you just how valuable Allen is as he approaches 40 years of age.
6. Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks
With the high-arching shot, the penchant to shoot from the outside and the ability to make virtually any shot on the court, Nowitzki is the definition of an NBA sniper.
Criticize him for not taking it to the basket over the years or for being a poor rebounder, but Dirk makes the most of every shot he takes, especially when the game is on the line.
From pump fakes at the free-throw line to straight daggers on the inbound, Nowitzki might have the deepest arsenal of offensive moves available to him when he wants to create space and get off a jumper.
He's also done it with a relatively high percentage, and quietly been "the guy" in Dallas for over 10 seasons, having the ball in his hands more than any other player in franchise history during crunch time.
5. Chris Paul, LA Clippers
Is there a point guard any colder than Chris Paul? He's usually the smallest guy on the court, but usually the one with the biggest amount of talent to spare.
Whether he's taking on a bigger defender or making a smaller one look flat-out slow and dumb, Paul knows how to use his body and does a great job of creating space for the last look at the basket.
Here's a look at his top 5 game-winning plays of the 2011-2012 season, which included four game-winners for the Clippers with the clutch designation attached (24 seconds or less, down by two or less, fourth, OT or playoffs).
4. LeBron James, Miami Heat
James shucked the idea that he can't make a game-winner with his first-ever NBA Finals MVP award in 2012. While Wade has more credentials with the Heat, LeBron has plenty of his own with Cleveland and now with Miami.
The best player in the league is also one of the toughest to guard late in the game, as expected with a player of his stature. He's been criticized for not attacking the basket late in the game, because no one can really stop him, but he's also developed a nice jump shot that is quite deadly.
When you add up the hunger that was eating him to win his first with the hunger that will be eating him to surpass Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan on the all-time lists, there won't be many guys that feel the hunger that LeBron does when he touches the ball with the game on the line.
Good thing he has the skills to back it up.
3. Kobe Bryant, LA Lakers
The Black Mamba is the definition of clutch. You wouldn't have to say much about his exploits in the NBA to put him on this list, even at age 35 next season and on his last leg as the elite athlete he once was.
But the five titles, two Finals MVPs and numerous game-winners are plenty evidence to put him near the top of the list.
With the addition of Steve Nash, Bryant can now focus on not having to shoot the ball quite as much, which bumps him down a little bit at the end of the game and gives way to the top two players on the list.
2. Kevin Durant, OKC Thunder
Although he graces the headline, Durant hasn't quite overtaken the league as the deadliest sniper around. He took as many steps as he could in 2012, banishing the demons from his poor 2011 playoffs that saw him struggle against the Dallas Mavericks late in games.
He more than made up for that in 2012, beating the Mavs twice at the buzzer and finishing off the Lakers in the playoffs, too. Durant is slowly ushering in the era where he and LeBron face off in the most anticipated matchups of each season as the best two players on the planet.
That starts with his ability to lead this young, yet seemingly veteran Thunder team by demanding the ball late and telling everyone else to get out of his way.
1. Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks
What? Carmelo Anthony, the problem athlete formerly of the Nuggets and now with the Knicks, is the deadliest sniper in the league? You bet he is.
Look at the numbers. His percentage is high, he has the ball in his hands with the game on the line and he usually comes up with the big three whenever his team needs it.
Credit Jeremy Lin with the Knicks' resurgence last season; he was responsible for some of it. But Anthony absolutely lit a torch under himself during the final two months of the season, and almost did enough to make the Knicks serious contenders.
He always shows up for big games, and although his shot selection is suspect at times, he puts the three in at a high clip with a hand in his face and the decision in the balance.
Watch closely in 2012-13, Anthony will continue to give the Knicks an edge with his ability to blow up the final score in less than five seconds.