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NBA Clutch Players, part II

In yesterday's look at clutch performance, we stayed on the subject of Clutch Scorers but today we will broaden the range of statistics we are considering. Again, please note that we have defined "Clutch Moments" as the last five minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime, where neither team was ahead by more than five points.

Please Note:
- All stats reflect games played through March 15th of the 2004-2005 season
- Generally we require a player to have some minimum numer of minutes of clutch playing time on the year
- You can see detailed clutch stats for every player in the league by going to the team page, clicking on the player's name and then clicking on the "Clutch Play" link (for instance, see Dwyane Wade in the clutch).

1) NBA Top Plus/Minus in Clutch Situations
Rank
Player
Team
+/-
1
 D.Jones
MIA
+82
2
 Wade
MIA
+79
3
 E.Jones
MIA
+71
4
 Radmanovic
SEA
+69
5
 O'Neal
MIA
+67
6
 Daniels
SEA
+65
7
 Lewis
SEA
+59
8
 Griffin
MIN
+58
9
 Allen
SEA
+58
10
 Garnett
MIN
+55
11
 Terry
DAL
+52
12
 Arenas
WAS
+52
13
 Peterson
TOR
+49
14
 Jamison
WAS
+45
15
 Tinsley
IND
+44
16
 Pachulia
MIL
+44
17
 Nowitzki
DAL
+43
18
 Carter
NJN
+43
19
 Cassell
MIN
+42
20
 Hughes
WAS
+42

The list is dominated by players on some of the top teams in the league, as while the number of games that reach a "clutch" stage varies by team, there's little doubt that the squads with good records generally win more than their fair share of the close ones.

You might think that Miami has been the best clutch team, since four of the top five players wear Heat uniforms. In fact, eight out of the top ten come from "Shaq town" and Seattle.

Given that last year's two best represented teams in this department were Detroit and Minnesota, that may bode well for the playoff chances of the Sonics and Heat.

Two names stand out for being highly ranked despite a lack of teammates nearby in the standings -- Pachulia (the next best Bucks player ranked #150), and Peterson (the next highest Raptor was at #88).

Unfortunately On/Off splits are fairly useless for clutch performance analysis since most of the good players play virtually all of the clutch minutes.

2) NBA Clutch Won-Lost Records
Another way to use plus/minus data is by focusing on the game-by-game performance -- every time a player has a +1 or better clutch time game, we give him a clutch "Win" and every time he has a -1 or worse +/- game then he gets saddled with a "Loss". There is some unfairness to this in that certain players get substituted in for defensive possessions and taken out for offensive ones (and vice versa) which biases these things some. Still, this stat gets a little bit at consistency.
#
Player
Team
W
L
%
1
 Dampier
DAL
10  90.9 
2
 Griffin
MIN
16  80.0 
3
 Daniels
SEA
18  78.3 
4
 Nash
PHO
17  77.3 
5
 O'Neal
MIA
20  76.9 
6
 Terry
DAL
20  76.9 
7
 Fortson
SEA
10  76.9 
8
 Wade
MIA
22  75.9 
9
 Pachulia
MIL
75.0 
10
 Lewis
SEA
20  74.1 

The big man pickup in Dallas has paid some dividends so far, as Dampier heads the list. In fact four of the top ten are ostensibly centers (Damp, Shaq, Fortson, Pachulia).

Then you get the "mighty mites" who can take over at the end -- Nash, A.Daniels, Terry, Wade. These four clearly make things happen...and make things exciting!

And finally, we do have to wonder why Eddie Griffin doesn't get more minutes on a Minnesota team that is battling for that 8th and last playoff spot.

3) Top Clutch Rebounders
Moving on to more conventional numbers, let's break down the ultimate crunch time glass-cleaners:
Player
Team
Off%
Def%
Tm%
Rtg
 Duncan
SA
12%
30%
51%
93.2
 Randolph
POR
19%
18%
55%
93.2
 Gooden
CLE
9%
29%
55%
93.1
 Chandler
CHI
6%
26%
55%
86.8
 Griffin
MIN
15%
19%
53%
86.8
 O'Neal
MIA
15%
19%
53%
86.5
 Nocioni
CHI
10%
23%
53%
86.4
 Ilgauskas
CLE
18%
15%
53%
86.1
 Mihm
LAL
16%
15%
55%
85.9
 Garnett
MIN
9%
24%
51%
83.6
 B.Wallace
DET
9%
22%
52%
83.6

If you go simply by the player's own rebounds divided by chances (balanced for offense versus defense), the order doesn't change much: Duncan, Gooden, Randolph, and the O'Neals, Jermaine and Shaq.

However, we like to include the team rebounding % while the player is on the court (thus factoring in boxing out skills, tips to teammates, etc) and with that added in it's a very tight race for top billing, with Tim Duncan holding the slimmest of leads.

4) Passing "In The Clutch"
Trying to conjure up some kind of passing rating in clutch moments is tricky in light of the small sample sizes we're dealing with, however the primitive "Rating" below takes the "assists per 48 minutes" and adds it to the assist/turnover ratio.
Player
Team
Ast
T/O
A48
Rtg
 Nash
PHO
27
8
17.8
21.2
 Knight
CHA
21
3
13.0
20.0
 Ridnour
SEA
10
1
7.6
17.6
 D.Jones
MIA
12
1
3.9
15.9
 Hughes
WAS
19
3
8.3
14.6
 Bibby
SAC
31
5
8.3
14.5
 Dickau
NO
21
5
10.2
14.4
 Daniels
SEA
17
4
9.7
14.0
 Cassell
MIN
13
3
9.2
13.5
 Peterson
TOR
8
1
5.2
13.2
 Lue
ATL
14
6
10.2
12.5
 James
CLE
19
6
9.1
12.2
 Fisher
GS
17
4
8.0
12.2
 Kidd
NJ
19
6
9.0
12.1
 Stoudamire
POR
20
5
8.1
12.1

It's clear that Steve Nash is doling out more assists per minute than anyone else in the league during the high pressure stages of games, even at the cost of a few turnovers (although only six of the eight have been on bad passes). Brevin Knight could still topple the king by season's end on this metric however, in light of his stellar passing numbers.

Ah, though but what of the "quality" of an assist? After all , feeding a teammate the ball for a contested jumper that goes in may get you the 'feed credit' but does not measure up to weaving a pass through traffic to someone underneath the hoop for a dunk. In terms of clutch "close shot" assists Nash is the clear raw leader with 14, followed by Stoudamire at 11, Garnett, Bibby, Kidd and Knight at 9.

5) Creating Shots
Speaking of assists, another point to ponder is to what extent a player creates his own shot versus feeding off a pass from a teammate. The conventional wisdom is that in the waning moments of games the importance of being able to manufacture a shot increases, which if so, would place an emphasis on the following new stat -- "Unassisted Field Goals Made per 48 Minutes" (UFG48):
Top 10 Shot Creators
Player
Team
FGM
Ast%
UFG/48
 Wade
MIA
32
16%
10.2
 Francis
ORL
32
19%
9.8
 Arenas
WAS
31
10%
9.5
 Nash
PHO
16
13%
9.2
 Iverson
PHI
25
4%
9.2
 Bryant
LAL
30
23%
9.1
 Rose
TOR
27
26%
8.4
 Marbury
NY
29
17%
8.4
 Richardson
GS
43
49%
8.0
 Tinsley
IND
16
19%
7.9

Yup, these are clearly the names you would think of when it comes to the players given the ball and told to "go to work" at the end of games.

Could it be that Dwyane Wade is actually a better sidekick for Shaq than Kobe Bryant? Perhaps we will find out over the next few years...but they make a dynamite duo already as Shaq is #12 in the league currently in UFGM48, thanks in part to a plentiful helping of offensive rebound putbacks.

Many other notables are just off the top ten cutoff, including Gordon, Ray Allen, Ginobili, Nowitzki, LeBron...

6) What's in store for the Stunning Conclusion to this Series?
You may well be thinking, "when are these clowns going to get to the point and give us an overall rating for clutch ability?"

Well, that will happen tomorrow when we unveil more comprehensive ratings that take into account efficiency, team influence, and yes, even a modicum of individual defense! The Hollinger inspired 'PER' ratings will get us warmed up, and then we will move on to the grande finale...see Part III: PER Ratings, Counterpart PER, Overall Ratings


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