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No stat can measure clutch players like Kobe

Discussion in 'NBA Dish' started by Kwame, Jan 5, 2010.

  1. Kwame

    Kwame Contributing Member

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    No stat can measure clutch players like Kobe

    At this point, Kobe Bryant could rise for a 50-foot fade-away jumper off the wrong foot and, if he releases within the last second of the game, I'm thinking it's good.

    You would, too.

    Admit it.

    I mean, after his buzzer-beater madness these past few weeks, Kobe could shoot a left-handed jump hook from beyond half court for the win and the Lakers would probably start celebrating while the Spalding was still in the air. This Kobe dude can't be serious ... but he is -- he's so serious.

    Last Saturday's buzzer-beating baseline trey against the Kings (one of the few open looks I've ever seen him get at the end of a game) gave Kobe three game-winners in about four weeks. His first was in early-December, an off-balance, semi-runner that he banked off the glass on poor Dwyane Wade. Then there was his little shake-n-bake, turnaround fade-away on the Bucks two weeks later. All these end-of-game shenanigans are adding to Kobe's clutch lore.

    Oh wait ... I forgot, some of these newfangled stats will tell you that Kobe isn't actually all that clutch. My bad.

    There are "stats" out there that say Carlos Boozer and Corey Maggette are better late-game options than Kobe Bryant. John Schuhmann (our numbers expert here at NBA.com) wrote this column at the beginning of the season, which included a list that ranked Kobe 38th in "clutch situations." Give Schuhmann a break though, it wasn't his fault. It's math and science's fault.

    With "clutch situations" defined as "the last five minutes of a game with a scoring margin of five points or less," an equation was used to find each player's True Shooting Percentage (TS%). True Shooting Percentage basically takes all the points a player accumulates during these "clutch situations" and divides it by the product of doubling a players field goal attempts and 44 percent of his free throw attempts.

    It would look like this on Albert Einstein's chalk board: True Shooting Percentage = PTS/ (2*(FGA + (0.44*FTA))).

    Got all that? Good. Now let me tell what you already know: the results are bogus -- especially if we want to call this some kind of "clutch stat." Why? Well, at some point in our cultural history, the word "clutch" went from being just a noun and verb and became an adjective, too. Clutch, as in, "tending to be successful in tense or critical situations." That definition seems like you can regulate it to "stats" and math, but we all know that, in sports, it's more abstract than that. But before we even get into that, there's the reality that there are so many factors and variables that can result in Mehmet freaking Okur sporting a higher "clutch" TS% than LeBron bleeping James.

    For instance, LeBron is probably shooting more contested shots than Okur, who gets more open looks off Deron Williams' dribble penetration. Amar'e Stoudemire converting off a Steve Nash pick-and-roll pass is entirely different than D-Wade needing to make something out of nothing on a broken play against a stiffened, late-game defense.

    Any kind of stat that ranks Kyle Korver 13 spots ahead of Carmelo Anthony shouldn't really have the word "clutch" anywhere near it. Let's call it "late-game accuracy." We, well, "I" use "clutch" in a much more visceral sense.

    For me, clutch guys are the dudes that come up big, in big situations, in big games. Maggette's stats would, I'm sure be useful to a GM thinking about acquiring him and placing a value on his ability to get to the line late in games. But ultimately, who really thinks of Magette as truly "clutch" when he's played for mediocre-to-abysmal teams for much of his career?

    His late-game free throws haven't led to too many late-season wins for a team fighting for playoff position or to a win in a swing game of the playoffs. And here's the biggie: how many actual Ws has he actually led a team to? Maggette has played on only one squad that finished over .500 -- the 2005-06 Clippers -- which was probably because Sam Cassell was taking the clutch shots. So, ultimately, is Maggette truly more "clutch" than Paul Pierce? Come on, son.

    Here's when we can really have a "clutch stat" -- when we have a mathematic/statistical equation that takes into account when a player like 'Bron or 'Melo is 4-for-16 until the last five minutes of a close game and then goes 4-for-5 from the field and 5-for-5 from the line. Or, when we place more weight on games against teams with winning percentages higher than .600; or when the "clutch stat" differentiates between a January game, a regular season "statement games" and a playoff game. Clutch is when Player X's team shoots 30 percent in the second half and in a "we're not losing"-type performance, scores eight straight points in the last five minutes.

    Ask yourself this: If Shawn Marion -- ranked 31 spots ahead of Kobe on the "clutch situation" list -- would have taken that 3-pointer against the Kings, would Paul Westphal have had the same nonchalant, resigned, arms folded, "I-know-this-is-going-in, so-I'll-just-look-down-and-check-to-make-sure-he's-in-bounds-and-behind-the-3-point-line" posture? Doubt that, too.

    Would Kings fans have had the same beach ball-sized lump in their throats? Nah. You know why?

    Because -- and no disrespect to Marion and his obvious talent and value -- he ain't Kobe. Kobe's clutch.

    Vincent Thomas writes "The Commish" column for SLAM Magazine and is a contributing commentator for ESPN. You can e-mail him here or follow him on twitter.

    The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

    http://www.nba.com/2010/news/features/vince_thomas/01/05/kobe.clutch/index.html?ls=iref:nbahpt1
     
  2. showtang043

    showtang043 Member

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  3. Carl Herrera

    Carl Herrera Contributing Member

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    Frankly, I think a lot of the "clutch stats" are just a matter of luck because of the relatively limited amount of "clutch minutes" in NBA games. Being "clutch" is kind of overrated, too. Kobe Bryant is great not because he's good in the last 2 minutes of close games. He is great because he's generally excellent in all 48 minutes overall and his team usually have big leads in the last 2 minutes that "clutch shots" are not even required.
     
  4. durvasa

    durvasa Contributing Member

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    If being "clutch" is indeed immeasurable (a sensible position), people should stop using language like "Kobe Bryant is the most clutch player in the league." If you can't measure "clutch", there's no sense in saying one player is more clutch than another.

    Instead, say: "Kobe Bryant is the last player I want to taking a last shot." or "Kobe Bryant is the first player I want on my team when I need a big play."

    That's the issue I take with this article. He wants it both ways. On one hand, he wants to be able to say, definitively, that Kobe Bryant is the most clutch player in the league. On the other hand, he doesn't allow for anyone to challenge that view by attempting to quantify what it means to be clutch.
     
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  5. foodworld

    foodworld Member

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    Kobe is a great player, and I don't want to take anything away from him. But game four of the 2007 Finals should have dispelled any comparisons of his "clutchness" to Jordan and Bird--players who wouldn't have let their teams collapse so unbelievably in the biggest games of their career.
     
  6. bugerking3

    bugerking3 Member

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    what about the other way around?

    What if, in a hypothetical game, Kobe played spectacularly, going 10-15 from 2, 2-3 from 3, and 11-11 from the free throw line, which almost directly causes his team to be up by 1, and he gets fouled.

    and he goes 1-2 from the FT line.

    And Trevor Ariza hits the game winning 3 pointer for the rockets after having gone 4-13 with 5 turnovers.

    I'm not saying Kobe's production up until that point were below average causing him to be in that situation. The point I'm trying to make is that the reason you're in a situation for potential clutch is directly related to your performance leading up to said situation. Why is the timing so important? Should overall performance matter the most?

    Would Kobe be unclutch just because he missed the free throw, even though without him the Lakers would have already lost?

    Would Ariza be super clutch just because he made the game winning 3, even though it was his fault the Rockets had not already won?

    In the words of Daryl Morey, good teams don't win close games. They avoid them.
     
  7. JimRaynor55

    JimRaynor55 Member

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    Gotta love a professional writer using his position to undermine objective analysis of the game.
     
  8. ibm

    ibm Member

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    a handful of players have the skills and composure most other nba-ers don't possess, so the odds of them making big plays in tight games towards the end are better.

    that is all there is to it for the much over-used notion "clutch".

    the first point a team put on the scoreboard mathematically is equally important as the last point of the game.
     
  9. Shroopy2

    Shroopy2 Contributing Member

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    I've said about Tracy McGrady, another way to overvalue late game performance is that all you need to do to "come up big" is simply start flat. Being lazy the first 3 quarters then turning it on late is cleverly disguised complacency appearing as clutchness.

    Kobe is a good last 3 possessions player IMO...he can both ice a game and bring a team back in the game.
     
  10. Chinahype

    Chinahype Member

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    I thought this was your work for a minute and was about to compliment you! Anyways, good article, and I totally agree. However, there wouldn't be a need for clutch moments if you don't make any mistakes to lead up to the situation. However, of course being clutch is awesome :)
     
  11. Steve_Francis_rules

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    Kobe might be the best player in the league in the last couple minutes of the game. I would definitely feel as confident with him taking the last shot for my team as any other player in the league today.

    But first off, he's still not perfect. Apparently this guy missed the end of regulation in the Lakers/Bucks game earlier this year. Kobe hit the game winner in OT, but missed it in regulation. And second, with the number of times that Kobe and the Lakers have come up completely empty in HUGE games the past five years or so, I have a hard time calling Kobe that clutch, as foodworld mentioned a few posts above.
     
  12. showtang043

    showtang043 Member

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    yea hes missed many, but to bring up MJ that guy who said kobe shouldnt be even in the breath as those guys bc of the finals, mj lost in the playoffs for years before he started winning, hes missed as many game winning shots as hes made as well..."I succeeded...because I failed" MJ

    its a part of it, but yea kobe has the composure and skills to be one of the deadliest and cold blooded when you need a basket
     
  13. Easy

    Easy Boban Only Fan
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    Yeah, clutchness is overrated. But that's probably the only way Robert Horry could get into the HOF.
     
  14. Steve_Francis_rules

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    It isn't all about winning or losing. How many times did MJ or Bird quit on their teams at halftime of playoff elimination games, like Kobe did in game 7 against Phoenix and game 6 against Boston?
     
  15. McGradySNKT

    McGradySNKT Contributing Member

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    LOL@ him ignoring real life data and numbers then tries to call Kobe the most clutch anyhow.

    No the problem is his hero is not leading clutch categories and he's reaching for something that isnt there. Hope he didnt pull his arm out of socket in the process.

    You cant be that great if someone is always continually trying to prove it.

    Kobe is a baller but they need to come to grips that there are other great players in this league too
     
  16. McGradySNKT

    McGradySNKT Contributing Member

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    sure is awesome, especially when your last second shot percentage is below the league average and you sit at .250

    This guy needs a new hobby
     
  17. juicystream

    juicystream Contributing Member

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    Kobe is clutch, but Jordan is the only player I expected every buzzer beater to be good. I was stunned the one time I recall watching Horry missing a big shot.
     
  18. Sweet Lou 4 2

    Sweet Lou 4 2 Contributing Member
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    We all know what clutch is, but no one can come up with a measureable metric for it. It doesn't mean it doesn't exist, it just means you can't measure it easily.

    Clutch isn't the last five minutes. It's when your back is against the wall or the shot you are taking will be the difference between losing and winning. It's when there's seconds left, not minutes. When the pressure causes many players to crack and make mistakes - or put up those atrocious shots that make you wonder if they belong in the NBA.

    How many really terrible shots have we seen in "clutch" situations? Too many. Just look at our own Rockets at times.

    Kobe is hands down the best clutch player in the NBA. Not because he always hits the shot. Not because he can make the pass to win the game. It's because he always makes SOMETHING happen. Even when he misses in those situations, it looks as if it might go it. It's CLOSE.

    Any guy can hit an open jumper from the arc and be called clutch. But man, the stuff you see guys do when there is no open man, when they just create and somehow get a shot off and make it.

    How many players can do that even once a season? Kobe does it once a game. At least.

    That's clutch.
     
  19. Easy

    Easy Boban Only Fan
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    Battier missed all game last night and then hit two huge 3s in a row to bring the Rockets within 2 points in the last minutes. That's clutch too. Just saying...
     
  20. durvasa

    durvasa Contributing Member

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    If you can't measure it easily, then it makes no sense to say any one player is "hands down" better at it than anyone else at it. It just begs the question: based on what?

    My view is that if you're going to deny any and all attempts to measure it, you forfeit the right to call any one player the best at it.
     

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