Picking the most clutch in NBA playoffs


Dashboard 1 Learn About TableauWith the NBA playoffs starting Saturday, we’re bound to see tight games and pressure-packed situations. The question then becomes, whose hands do you want the ball in?

The top chart above shows each playoff team’s leader in clutch-time usage percentage this season, along with his true shooting percentage (which weighs three-point field goals greater and accounts for free throw shooting). Clutch-time is defined as situations in which the game is within five points in the final five minutes of the fourth quarter and overtime.

The bottom chart shows each of those 16 players’ overall Player Efficiency Rating along with his PER in clutch-time situations.

Kevin Durant less efficient

Kevin DurantDurantFirst, no playoff team leans more on a player in clutch time than the Oklahoma City Thunder do with Kevin Durant. He’s the only one of the 16 who has a clutch-time usage percentage over 40 percent, and Durant’s is nearing 46 percent. However, his efficiency numbers drop off in crunch-time, as his PER drops from nearly 30 in all situations to just over 25 in crunch-time. That's still above league average, but it's below average among these 16 "go-to" guys.

His main opponent for league MVP, LeBron James, increases his already-high efficiency numbers in crunch-time, despite the Miami Heat leaning on him heavily.

Harden: Mister Clutch?

James HardenHardenWatch out for the Houston Rockets and James Harden. Harden has the highest clutch-time efficiency rating of the 16 players, with the second-highest usage rate. Mike Conley also ups his performance in crunch-time, which could put the Thunder on upset alert if the Memphis Grizzlies point guard gets hot late in their series.

Sticking with the Western Conference, Stephen Curry has hit all 31 of his crunch-time free throws this year, but has shot just 28 percent from 3-point range for the Golden State Warriors in those situations.

Who could struggle

Despite the Brooklyn Nets second-half surge, their clutch-time leader, Joe Johnson, is the worst of the 16 team leaders in terms of PER. LaMarcus Aldridge has also struggled in crunch-time for the Portland Trail Blazers, with an effective field goal percentage of 33 percent.

One of the main takeaways is that the crunch-time leader for the eighth-seeded Dallas Mavericks is not former NBA season and Finals MVP Dirk Nowitzki, but instead Monta Ellis, who has taken possessions at a slightly-higher rate than Nowitzki.