Which NBA Superstars Do You Call for These Game Situations?
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
There are moments that become chronicled into legend, historical scenes ready to be delivered by the superstar appointed for the situation.
Look ahead five months to Game 7 of the NBA Finals, the game’s greatest theater, set for the biggest moment.
Which NBA superstar do you want ready for that monumental stage?
The Chicago Bulls had Michael Jordan, who is the all-time greatest big-moment scorer. But which of the league’s contemporary greats would you want to take that final shot this season?
There are plenty of situations that call for different abilities within the game, including critical defensive stops, final-second rebounds or highlight momentum-shifters.
For every moment, there’s a particular NBA superstar ready.
When You Need a Last-Second Three-Pointer
Stephen Curry leads the NBA in three-point percentage.
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Stephen Curry is the best three-point shooter in the NBA and the guy you most want taking a shot behind the arc in a game's final moments.
The arguable MVP of the Golden State Warriors is shooting the highest three-point percentage in the league at 46.4 percent of any player averaging two or more attempts per game. He is shooting 56 percent from the three-point corners.
Curry, perhaps still known more as a Bay Area star than a nationwide superstar, is quickly proving the most capable of hitting a crucial three-pointer when necessary.
The 6'3" point guard, who is eighth in the league in scoring at 20.7 points per game, is also ranked as the third-highest scorer in the league in clutch situations (the last five minutes of games within five points), according to NBA.com advanced stats.
Curry has shown ability to create three-point opportunities with his quick release and off-the-ball footwork out of traffic.
He's still proving himself as a star, but he's arguably the game's best pure shooter right now.
When You Need a Game-Saving Rebound
Tim Duncan is still one of the game's best defensive rebounders.
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Kids don't dream of a highlight box-out in their driveways.
Of the legion of game-winning shots that were missed, there was often a game-securing defensive rebound that followed. While it may not result in a poster, it's often the last effort of a defensive stop in a one-possession game.
There is no one more dependable to procure that board than Tim Duncan, a guy who has won four NBA titles.
Age isn't going to slip past the 36-year-old to snipe an offensive rebound. Duncan is one of just five players in the NBA this season averaging eight defensive rebounds or more per game. Duncan is seventh all-time in defensive rebounds at 9,578.
Defensive rebounding is a completely different art than picking up offensive boards. A great offensive rebounder benefits from deep post positioning matched with quickness.
But Duncan, as a great defensive rebounder, is intelligent around the basket, first locating offensive players with a hand or arm and then creating space through his length and footwork.
The defensive rebound isn't provocative—probably part of the reason why few posters of Duncan hang anywhere outside of Texas—but it's as essential as any other big-moment achievement.
When You Need a Defensive Stop
LeBron James can guard any type of NBA player.
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The best defender in the league is also the game's best all-around player, LeBron James.
No one is going to beat him with athleticism.
No one is going to beat him with power or length.
James is the toughest superstar to score on in a moment when you must score.
While Kobe Bryant is probably a close second as a stopper, he doesn't have the legs for it like he once did.
Rajon Rondo and Chris Paul can stick ball-handlers tighter on the perimeter, but neither can battle when an offensive player takes his game inside, and both can be shot over.
James, however, can guard any team's top scorer. He can muscle and deny opponents in the post and can stay tight on quicker players on the perimeter.
When a team needs a stop, James is the best and most versatile option.
When You Need a Lob Pass
Chris Paul provides lobs for Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan.
You wouldn't search for celebrities anywhere else before Hollywood, so why would you go elsewhere than Lob City for your lobs?
Chris Paul is the best at lofting passes, and he has two of the best receivers in basketball in Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan to rip them down.
Whether it's on a last-second backdoor play or a much-needed momentum boost from half court, Paul can provide the lob pass.
The video is evidence enough.
When You Need to Overcome a Deficit
Kobe Bryant can put up points quickly.
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Reggie Miller owns the all-time comeback highlight.
Miller scored eight points in 8.9 seconds in the 1995 playoffs against the Knicks when he hit two three-pointers, one off an inbound and another off a steal, and seconds later made two free throws to earn a victory despite his Pacers trailing 105-99 with 18.7 seconds remaining.
Today, there's just one superstar stubborn enough to keep pushing in that type of moment: Kobe Bryant.
It takes ego and a Jordan-like intensity to pull off that type of feat.
Bryant certainly has no problem launching shots—he's averaging more shots per game than anyone in the league—and he's shooting 46.4 percent.
Bryant has the ability to put a game on his back. He can score in abundant spurts; let's not forget he scored 81 points in a single game.
However, if that comeback requires a last-second shot, well, that might be a different story...
When You Need a Buzzer-Beating Bucket
Kevin Durant is the best option when a team needs a buzzer-beating score.
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Move over, Kobe Bryant; it's Kevin Durant who you want taking the buzzer-beating shot.
That's not to pour purple salt into this season's Lakers' wounds, but as good of a scorer as Bryant is, he is not efficient at the buzzer.
Two years ago, Henry Abbott of ESPN's TrueHoop Blog noted some jaw-dropping stats about Bryant and his ability to hit the last-second shot.
The article from January 2011 revealed the following: "Bryant has attempted 115 shots in the final 24 seconds of a game in which the Lakers were tied or trailed by two or fewer points. He connected on 36, and missed 79 times."
While the article is two years old, it still speaks volumes to the mislabeling of Bryant as a clutch shooter.
Durant, on the other hand, leads the league this season in clutch scoring, a statistic that measures points scored during the last five minutes of a game with a score within five points.
While NBA general managers voted Bryant as the most clutch shooter for the past 10 consecutive seasons, according to an NBA.com poll released in October, the group voted this season for Durant as the game's new best scorer in that final game-deciding moment.
Durant, with his length and versatility, can create his own shot better than any player in the league. He is the league's best scorer and the best guy to shoot a potential buzzer-beater.
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