The Most Clutch NBA Scorers of 2015-16
by Ben Leibowitz
When NBA teams face stiff competition, they need scorers to step up in crunch time. These 29 guys did that better than anyone during the 2015-16 season.
What does it take to be clutch in the NBA? For the most part, reputation, word of mouth and anecdotal evidence of clutch moments tend to be barometers of this type of success.
But as Henry Abbott wrote for ESPN back in 2011, Kobe Bryant's reputation as a clutch scorer is largely overblown, and more a product of Bryant's unmatched ability to hoist shots in game-tying or game-winning situations regardless of the defense in front of him.
Instead of creating a list based off reputation, PointAfter, a sports data visualization site that's part of Graphiq, used NBA.com's statistical database to find out which scorers performed best under pressure throughout the 2015-16 season.
To do so, we sorted by clutch stats (defined as any moment wherein teams were separated by five points or fewer in the final five minutes of play), then focused only on situations in the fourth quarter. From there, we filtered such that only players who attempted at least 30 clutch field goals made the list, and then ranked them by their true shooting percentage (a combination of field goal percentage, three-point percentage and free throw percentage -- thus accounting for all ways to score in crunch time).
In the event of a tie, the player who attempted more field goals was ranked higher.
Here are players who truly had ice in their veins throughout the 2015-16 season.
#29. Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder
Clutch True Shooting Percentage: 55.8%
For the critics who believe Russell Westbrook is too ball-dominant within Oklahoma City's offense, there was clout to the argument that Kevin Durant should have been taking the bulk of the shots in clutch time this season.
While OKC's dynamic point guard shot 36.5 percent from the field and 22.2 percent from long range in clutch time, Durant hit 42.2 percent of his shots and 36.4 percent of his threes. Those marks aren't spectacular, but they are far better compared directly to Westbrook.
#28. John Wall, Washington Wizards
Clutch True Shooting Percentage: 56.1%
John Wall's Washington Wizards finished the season three games back of the Eastern Conference No. 8 seed. It was a season to forget for a team that notched the No. 5 spot a year ago, but the face of the franchise continued to play at an extremely high level.
For the most part, that extended into clutch minutes. Wall wasn't masterfully efficient, but he did cash in the bulk of his free throws, which is a must for elite guards at the ends of games (looking at you, Rajon Rondo).
#27. Brook Lopez, Brooklyn Nets
Clutch True Shooting Percentage: 56.6%
The more highly touted of the Lopez twins quietly put together another solid campaign for the hapless Brooklyn Nets in 2015-16. For the season, Lopez averaged 20.6 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.7 blocks.
It didn't help the Nets win many games, but when they were faced with a closely-contested affair, Lopez could generally be relied upon late to put the ball in the hoop.
#26. Derrick Favors, Utah Jazz
Clutch True Shooting Percentage: 57.4%
Arguably the most underrated big man in the NBA today, Derrick Favors played a career-low 62 games throughout 2015-16 due to injury. Perhaps that absence played into why Favors continues to be overlooked, but Utah coming up short of postseason play didn't help the cause either.
Favors' field goal percentage in the clutch (51.5 percent) was exactly on par with his shooting percentage for the season overall. It seems the big man isn't fazed by clutch moments.
#25. Evan Fournier, Orlando Magic
Clutch True Shooting Percentage: 57.7%
For those who play fantasy basketball, perhaps you latched onto upstart guard Evan Fournier in the beginning of the season when he averaged 17.8 points through November. He came back down to earth in December, January and February -- disappointing the fantasy players in the process -- but finished the season quite strong.
In clutch time, the 23-year-old showed poise beyond his years by cashing 10 of his 25 three-point attempts (40 percent).
#24. Wesley Matthews, Dallas Mavericks
Clutch True Shooting Percentage: 57.7%
The 2015-16 campaign was a tough one for Wesley Matthews. Coming off an Achilles tear and fresh from inking a four-year, $70 million contract, Matthews faced a lot of pressure and struggled to return to form.
That's certainly not surprising following a devastating leg injury, but Matthews made shots when they mattered.
#23. Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers
Clutch True Shooting Percentage: 57.9%
It shouldn't be seen as much of a surprise that CP3 had to carry the Los Angeles Clippers during the long absence of wingman Blake Griffin.
Still, it should be even more impressive that Paul was able to step up in the clutch, provided one of the team's primary offensive weapons spent the bulk of the season sidelined.
#22. Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers
Clutch True Shooting Percentage: 58.1%
It's safe to say Damian Lillard knows his way around a game-winning shot. The Weber State product isn't afraid to take shots in high-pressure situations, and though he's never been known for his efficiency, he does have a few game-winners under his belt.
In clutch time this year, Lillard was 42-of-46 from the charity stripe (91.3 percent). That will certainly help put games in the old ice box.
#21. Zach Randolph, Memphis Grizzlies
Clutch True Shooting Percentage: 58.7%
Z-Bo was one of just 11 qualified players (by our qualifications) to make more than 50 percent of his field goal attempts in clutch time this season. The hulking power forward didn't have his best season, missing significant time due to injury, but he showed up in the clutch.
Randolph will be 35 years old in July, so the Grizzlies have to wonder how much he has left in the tank. He's under contract for next season and will earn about $10.3 million.
#20. Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves
Clutch True Shooting Percentage: 59.2%
The unanimous 2015-16 Rookie of the Year put together a historically great first year in the pros. KAT joined elite company (David Robinson, Tim Duncan) as only the third NBA rookie ever to average at least 18 points, 10 rebounds, two assists and 1.5 blocks per contest.
Turns out he was pretty darn clutch as well, showing poise beyond his years.
#19. Thaddeus Young, Brooklyn Nets
Clutch True Shooting Percentage: 59.4%
The Nets were not a good team in 2015-16 (thanks, Captain Obvious). But two members of the team's frontcourt (Lopez and now Thaddeus Young), did their best to battle during close games.
Young made 20-of-38 field goals in the fourth quarter when the game was within five points (52.6 percent). That mark was actually better than his field goal percentage overall (51.4 percent).
#18. C.J. McCollum, Portland Trail Blazers
Clutch True Shooting Percentage: 59.4%
Although Damian Lillard earned a reputation for having ice in his veins after burying the Houston Rockets in the playoffs two years ago, his new wingman, C.J. McCollum, trumped him this season in terms of true shooting in the clutch.
McCollum blossomed in every facet with his new role as the team's full-time starting 2-guard. He won Most Improved Player without much of a contest and helped make up one of the NBA's best backcourts.
#17. Will Barton, Denver Nuggets
Clutch True Shooting Percentage: 59.9%
According to NBA.com, Will Barton led the NBA this season in fourth quarter minutes with 834 of them. That was by far the most minutes played in the final quarter, as Cory Joseph finished second with 761 minutes.
Turns out the Nuggets' coaching staff was right to trust "Will the Thrill" with that big workload, because he played extremely well in the clutch, particularly by knocking down free throws when the game was close.
#16. Reggie Jackson, Detroit Pistons
Clutch True Shooting Percentage: 59.9%
Jackson proved himself worthy of a hefty new contract throughout his first full season in Detroit. He was the maestro of the Pistons' pick-and-roll offense, scoring and assisting with ease on many possessions.
In the clutch, Jackson's three-point shooting was outstanding. A career 31.4-percent shooter from beyond the arc, Jackson made 52.2 percent of his triples in said situations.
#15. Al Horford, Atlanta Hawks
Clutch True Shooting Percentage: 60.7%
Al Horford hoisted a career-high 256 three-pointers this season (his previous high mark was 36 attempts from deep the season prior). That newfound confidence extended to clutch situations, where Horford converted 5-of-13 attempts (38.5 percent).
Provided he made 34.4 percent of his threes overall, it's fair to say the big man relishes high stakes.
#14. Jrue Holiday, New Orleans Pelicans
Clutch True Shooting Percentage: 61.6%
Former All-Star Jrue Holiday only played 65 games this season after recovering from a leg injury. He started 23 of those contests and was ultimately more effective off the bench for new head coach Alvin Gentry.
All told, Holiday made 45.9 percent of his field goals, 36.8 percent of his treys and 93.5 percent of his free throws in fourth quarters of close games -- showing signs of his All-Star former self.
#13. Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors
Clutch True Shooting Percentage: 61.7%
No surprise to see a Splash Brother and one of the game's best all-around shooters on a list of the best clutch scorers. Even though Golden State didn't find itself in many close games throughout a record-setting 73-win campaign, Thompson managed to knock down 9-of-22 threes in those situations.
Sharpshooting from deep and efficiency from the charity stripe propped up the shooting guard's true shooting percentage.
#12. Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics
Clutch True Shooting Percentage: 61.7%
Avery Bradley is, without question, better known for his defense than his scoring abilities. He made the All-Defensive First Team for his efforts on the less glamorous end of the court this season, but it turns out his offense was up to snuff when it mattered as well.
Bradley made 52.1 percent of his 48 attempts when the Celtics were within five points of their opponent in the fourth quarter this season.
#11. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
Clutch True Shooting Percentage: 64.2%
Not to be outdone by Thompson -- his ridiculously talented teammate who doesn't measure up to the otherworldly talents of the two-time MVP -- Stephen Curry finishes higher on the list of 2015-16's clutch scorers.
During his second consecutive MVP season, Curry shot 44.9 percent from the field, 38.2 percent from deep and 92.1 percent from the free throw line in the clutch.
#10. Kent Bazemore, Atlanta Hawks
Clutch True Shooting Percentage: 64.4%
There aren't many statistics in which Kent Bazemore outperformed Steph Curry during the latest campaign. ATL's swingman averaged more blocks and finished the year with more technical fouls … but that's about where the list ends.
Oddly enough, however, Bazemore was actually a better scorer in the clutch by true shooting percentage. Small sample size or no, this is just weird.
#9. Jimmy Butler, Chicago Bulls
Clutch True Shooting Percentage: 65.4%
"Jimmy Buckets" poured in 45-40-90 shooting splits in clutch situations this season. Although he saw his three-point prowess dip about as much as any other star in the league, Butler proved why he's Chicago's alpha dog when games were close.
His two-way play puts him among the game's elite.
#8. Darren Collison, Sacramento Kings
Clutch True Shooting Percentage: 65.9%
Darren Collison lost his starting gig to Rajon Rondo in Sacramento this season, but he made the most of his time on the court by upping his shooting percentages to career highs from the field (48.6 percent) and three-point range (40.1 percent).
He was even better from long range with the game hanging in the balance, as he knocked down 47.1 percent of his treys in those situations.
#7. Jeff Green, Los Angeles Clippers/Memphis Grizzlies
Clutch True Shooting Percentage: 66.2%
Jeff Green has been maligned for having plenty of potential and not capitalizing on his many gifts. After disappointing with the Memphis Grizzlies through 53 games (converting a paltry 30.9 percent of his threes), Green was traded to the Los Angeles Clippers for Lance Stephenson and a 2019 first-round pick.
He didn't perform much better in LA, but his clutch stats are rather astounding even given the small sample size. He made 52.8 percent of his shots, 8-of-14 threes (57.1 percent) and all four of his free throws with his team within five points during fourth quarters. Now if only Green could extend that stellar clutch play to all of his minutes.
#6. Isaiah Thomas, Boston Celtics
Clutch True Shooting Percentage: 66.6%
The 2015-16 campaign was a validating one for former "Mr. Irrelevant" Isaiah Thomas. The diminutive point guard made his first All-Star team and led the Boston Celtics to a playoff berth, all while averaging a career-high 22.2 points.
Although some fans may get frustrated when Thomas resorts to his hero-ball style of dribbling the ball up the court, isolating one-on-one and shooting a long jumper, he more often than not justified the long leash head coach Brad Stevens has provided him.
#5. Greg Monroe, Milwaukee Bucks
Clutch True Shooting Percentage: 67.6%
The beginning of Greg Monroe's first season in Milwaukee was far more promising than the season's closing months in March and April. Nevertheless, "Moose" earned his keep continually in the clutch.
Monroe converted 22-of-31 shots in the clutch for an NBA-leading 71 percent shooting among players who attempted at least 30 shots in such situations. The reason he didn't rank higher by true shooting percentage is because he made a putrid 47.1 percent of his free throws.
#4. Deron Williams, Dallas Mavericks
Clutch True Shooting Percentage: 70.3%
Deron Williams' best days are absolutely behind him. A former All-Star point guard, D-Will now functions as a steady role player for a Dallas Mavericks team a star or two away from contention.
But while Williams isn't the elite floor general he once was, he posted absurd 50-50-90 shooting splits in the clutch. More specifically, 53.6 percent shooting from the field, 52.2 percent shooting from three-point range and 91.3 percent shooting from the free throw line. Not bad for a guy who has admitted lacking confidence in the past.
#3. Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans
Clutch True Shooting Percentage: 70.7%
Fans around the NBA no doubt sympathize with Pelicans fans when Tyreke Evans plays hero-ball in clutch time by isolating and taking tough, contested shots over letting Anthony Davis work his magic. If your favorite team is facing off against New Orleans, this is absolutely the scenario you want, because "The Brow" is excellent in clutch time.
In addition to knocking down 59.6 percent of his field goals, Davis made 5-of-12 three-pointers (41.7 percent).
#2. J.J. Redick, Los Angeles Clippers
Clutch True Shooting Percentage: 73.3%
The Los Angeles Clippers' backcourt doesn't garner as much respect as Golden State's, Portland's or Toronto's, but perhaps it should be held in the same esteem if we give J.J. Redick his due.
The sharpshooter from Duke led the league in three-point percentage this past season (47.5 percent). And while he was actually significantly less effective from deep in clutch minutes (41.7 percent), that's still really good. Add in Redick missing just one of 31 free throws in the same situations and he finds himself all the way at No. 2 among clutch scorers for the latest season.
#1. Jae Crowder, Boston Celtics
Clutch True Shooting Percentage: 75.5%
As it turns out, perhaps the biggest reason for Boston's success with a relatively young roster was the team's clutch scoring. Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley and now Jae Crowder at No. 1 all make the top 12 of the list of 2015-16's most clutch shooters.
Crowder made 55.9 percent of his field goals and 10-of-21 threes (47.6 percent) when his team was within five points late in games. The dreadlocked small forward blossomed along with his teammates, hinting at a very bright basketball future in Boston.
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Article: Courtesy PointAfter.com.
NBA Basketball: "The Most Clutch NBA Scorers of 2015-16"