Miami Heat: Why LeBron James Is Not a Closer

Pete Schauer@@Pete_SchauerCorrespondent IMarch 9, 2012

ORLANDO, FL - FEBRUARY 26:  Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers and the Western Conference chats up LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat and the Eastern Conference after James turned the ball over in the final seconds of the game during the 2012 NBA All-Star Game at the Amway Center on February 26, 2012 in Orlando, Florida.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

LeBron James of the Miami Heat is not a closer.

It used to be that James would take the final shot, missing or losing the ball driving to the rim, but lately, he hasn't even had the confidence to take the game-winning shot.

After passing up the last shot and turning the ball over in the 2012 NBA All-Star game, questions have resurfaced about the lack of clutch performance surrounding LeBron.

During the final seconds of the All-Star game, Kobe Bryant was yelling at LeBron to "shoot the [expletive] ball," something Bryant most definitely would have done.

Don't get me wrong, I am one of the biggest LeBron James fans out there. He's one of the best regular season players in the history of the NBA, but when the game is on the line, you don't want the ball in LBJ's hands—and there are statistics to prove it.

Basketball-reference.com has a tool called the "Shot Finder" that tracks every shot taken in the NBA since the 2000-2001 season. For this example, the cut-off date is March 7, 2012, and I will refer to the criteria below as a "game-winning shot." When tracking James' shots, this is the criteria that I used:

  • Game: regular season and playoff
  • Shot Value: two and three points
  • Shot Result: makes and misses
  • Quarter: fourth quarter and overtime
  • Time: five seconds or less in the game
  • Game Situation: shot to tie or take the lead
  • FGM= Field Goals Made and FGA= Field Goals Attempted

The Results 

2011-2012: hasn't attempted any

2010-2011: FGM: 0  FGA: 4 

2009-2010: FGM: 0  FGA: 7 

2008-2009: FGM: 2  FGA: 6 (.333)

2007-2008: FGM: 1  FGA: 8 (.125)

All in all, James sports a .165 shooting percentage in game-winning situations for his entire career. 

It's no wonder why James hasn't attempted any game-winning shots this season, given his 3-25 (.012) track record during the past five seasons.

But he's still a top-three scorer in the NBA this season, averaging more than 27 points per game, while adding 8.4 rebounds and 6.7 assists per game. He's averaging career high shooting percentages, shooting 55 percent from the field and 39 percent from beyond the arc.

So who should close a tight game for the Miami Heat? Let's take a look at Dwyane Wade's numbers using the same criteria that we did for James.

2011-2012: FGM: 2  FGA: 2 (1.000)

2010-2011: FGM: 0  FGA: 4

2009-2010: FGM: 2  FGA: 7 (.286)

2008-2009: FGM: 1  FGA: 11 (.091)

2007-2008: FGM: 1  FGA: 6 (.167)

For his career, Wade doubles LeBron, posting a .321 shooting percentage in game-winning situations.

If I'm coach Erik Spoelstra in the huddle of a close game, I'm drawing up a play for Wade to take the game-winning shot.

But before I exit, I would like to dismantle the notion that Kevin Durant is a clutch performer in the NBA. Using the same criteria that we did for James and Wade, Durant has attempted 23 game-winning shots in his young career. And guess how many have gone down?

Three. Kevin Durant is a mere 3-23 (.130) when attempting a game-winning shot.

Think Derrick Rose is clutch? He's 3-16 (.188) in these situations.

LeBron James may not be the most clutch player in the NBA by any means, but he's still likely to take home the 2012 MVP trophy.


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