Lebron James in the Clutch

I just need to start by saying thank goodness for 82games.com.  Their statistical analysis is some of the most intriguing if not the best available on the Internet.  I use that qualifier as I am guessing the statisticians that Mark Cuban has working for him in Dallas come up with some interesting stuff that isn’t available to the general public.  Anyway, 82games.com has come up with a section on their site dedicated to clutch stats.  These stats are compiled in game situations in the 4th quarter or overtime with less than five minutes remaining and neither team is ahead by more than five points.  The stats are then extrapolated out to 48 minutes in order to give them perspective of a regulation NBA game.  The idea being, that a player who can perform late in games when the game is still on the line is truly “clutch.” Lebron James has plenty of opportunities in the clutch, but how has he performed?

First of all Lebron has had clutch opportunities this season in a pedestrian 29 games.  This is due to the fact that the Cavs have had their fair share of blowouts and relatively “easy” wins.  By contrast, Kobe Bryant has had 37 clutch opportunities, Dwyane Wade has had 41, and Paul Pierce has had 40.  When that is broken down into clutch minutes, the numbers are closer as LBJ has had 108 minutes, while Bryant has had 131, Wade has had 170, and Pierce has had 164.

When it comes to points in clutch time, Lebron is second with 55.9 points to Kobe’s 56.4 and Wade’s 51.2.  But I don’t think this tells the complete story, so I decided to take these numbers and do a compilation stat.  I added up Points + Rebounds + Assists + Blocks + Steals + (Three Point Shots * Three Point %) – Turnovers.  The outputted number is meaningless except as a tool for ranking the players, of course, but I think it lends some visibility to complete performance in clutch time.  Sometimes when you only look at scoring, stats are skewed to those players who take over and hit impossible jumpers over other players’ heads.  While that is valuable, we Cavs fans know just how valuable it is to rise up and grab that defensive rebound, or draw a double team to dish to a wide open teammate for three.

Here’s how the rankings came out for the top twenty.


Given the stats provided Lebron James might just be the most complete clutch performer.  While maybe not the best pure scorer like Wade or Bryant, Lebron seems to make up for that with his passing and rebounding.  Another interesting stat is when Lebron shoots three pointers in the clutch he does so at a 44.4% rate.  For the season in total, Lebron’s three point percentage is 34.2%.  So, when it is on the line, Lebron actually shoots the three better.

The bottom line is that Lebron is having a heck of a season.  We all know it.  Most of the rest of the NBA knows it.  It is nice to see it backed up by the numbers.  Also, I know Rock hates when the +/- stat is used in a vacuum, I found this interesting.  The +/- ratings in clutch time when sorted from high to low actually look like this.

  • adam

    that last tidbit is really interesting. with bron and bryant anchoring the two best clutch teams in the league, there are two teammates ahead of them. West and Andy are key to our last minute runs, as gasol and ariza are for LA.

    the cavs have shown the ability to step it up in the final minutes of games, and even tho they havent played many close ones, when they do they look excellent. just gotta avoid road duds like orlando firday, but im confident come playoff time, this team will take it to another gear.

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com RockKing

    Great stuff here Craig. Excellent analysis of the numbers.

  • BillLegarm

    In the final minutes of a game, I want LeBron with the ball in his hands. But the bottom line is this: If I have one shot to win a game and a championship, I want Dwyane Wade taking it (even over Kobe). He’s a totally different player in the fourth quarter. That’s not an insult to LeBron. I think he’s the better player, but like I said, if I have one shot, Wade’s taking it.

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com Scott

    I wonder how much the comeback wins against LAC and SAC helped boost those +/- numbers. I’ll take it nonetheless.

  • http://serandez.blogspot.com Ezzie

    West’s advantage is leading one of the best benches in the game against every other team’s subs for 10 minutes a game. It’s easier to get a skewed +/- when you have a great bench demolishing other teams’ benches.

  • Tsunami

    he’s been doing this for the last few years. clutchest player in the league by far.

  • Cjz

    Last 5 minutes of a game I take Lebron hands down. Last shot I think is a bit trickier. I want Kobe if he’s angry, but if kobe doesn’t want it bad enough at that moment, I think Wade wins.

  • http://cursedcleveland.com cursedclevelanddotcom

    Interesting that in the gold medal game, it was still Kobe taking the final shot, and it looked like LeBron didn’t want the ball.

    /just sayin’

  • http://cursedcleveland.com cursedclevelanddotcom

    And as far as taking the last shot, it depends. If it’s against an elite level defense, I’m taking Kobe. If it’s against a run of the mill d, I’m taking LeBron b/c he’ll just get to the basket.