"Clutch" Players from the last 2 seasons

On pbpstats.com they have a feature where you can look at players on/off ratings during the low/medium/high/very high leverage that they added over the off-season. I used that to look at players from the 2020 and 2021 seasons during the regular season and playoffs to see how they perform in "high" and "very high" leverage situations. For a better description of what of determines leverage, you can read on the creator's blog about it: https://dblackrun.github.io/2020/12/22/pbpstats-leverage.html, but basically a close game in the 4th quarter in high leverage, a one possession game in the final 2 minutes is very high leverage. I went through my own subjective list of the top players over the last two years to decide who to look up. This is a fairly small sample size for all players, but for some who have had injuries or been on two teams it's a very small sample size and you can't particularly take much away from it. I wrote up the ORTG/DRTG for each player, but I'll list them in a rough order of who I think has performed the best, and have a small discussion on each person. Some of it's beyond the player's control, some of it is pretty re-affirming of fans thoughts, and some are pretty surprising. LeBron James - +31, +29 with Anthony Davis, +39 without Anthony Davis It's not necessarily surprising that LeBron is #1, but +31 is absolutely destroying teams, and he does even better without Anthony Davis on the court. While that last part is probably just small sample, the fact he isn't missing a beat without him is really impressive. James Harden - +20 in Houston, +27 in Brooklyn, +28 with Kevin Durant, +33 without Kevin Durant In Harden's short Houston stint this year he was +42.77 with an ORTG of 161.29 which is pretty crazy when people were mostly saying he has given up on his team. I agree with those who said it, but it's just interesting how he was still able to turn it on if the game was close. His offensive rating has been absurdly high in all his stops in high leverage situations. Kevin Durant - +25, +28 with James Harden, +27 without James Harden Durant has probably the 2nd most impressive high leverage numbers, but with only 47 minutes played it's still such a wild variable. He's been fantastic though, and the trio of Harden/Durant/Irving has had an absurd 161.9 ORTG in their 22 high leverage minutes. Damian Lillard - +16 When you consider how average Portland is as a team these last two seasons, it's pretty impressive that Lillard has them as a +16 team. I've always considered him a playoff choker so I was expecting worse numbers, but he's tied for the 2nd most high leverage minutes of the players listed, so it's definitely legitimate. Joel Embiid - +15 The offensive rating is the same with or without Embiid, but his presence on the court drops the 76ers defensive rating from 121.68 to 101.08. I think a lot of people label him as a heavy-footed defender because of his size, but I think it's important to remember he's arguably a top 5 defender in the NBA who can still carry a team offensively to league average. Right now he's +38.5 in 27 minutes this season, so if he can keep that up he'll look even better. Rudy Gobert - +15 I'm a big defender of Rudy Gobert, so I was very nervous this would expose me, but I am relieved to see Gobert's impact still hold up in close games. While 112.97 isn't a good defensive rating, he's been part of an elite 127.68 ORTG in high leverage, but the surprising part is how atrocious Utah has been without him. Their ORTG is 111.11 and a 148.64 DRTG while he sits. For any curious, Mitchell without Gobert is a -25.49, Gobert without Mitchell is a -9.09, both with fairly small sample sizes (15 and 11 MP). Pascal Siakam - +14 Another one I was worried about, but +14 is very good. But it's also worth noting that Toronto has been a very good team for the most part, they're +6 without him too. I still personally believe Siakam is the best Toronto player despite his bubble and early season struggles, but I could have gone with either Lowry who was probably better last year, or VanVleet who has been better this year, but both are significantly worse than Siakam in high leverage. Lowry + Siakam is +41.65, VanVleet + Siakam is +29.41, and VanVleet and Lowry without Siakam is -14.91. Lineup data has always shown that VanVleet and Lowry don't really work together, which is really frustrating to watch happen every day, and it looks like it's even worse in important situations. Kawhi Leonard - +7 +7 is good, it's fine, but the Clippers have been -20 without him in 58 minutes missed, which is a pretty decent sample size compared to what we have for most players. A lot of his, and Paul George's, high leverage minutes have been without one another, but in 56 minutes together they've been a fantastic +23, so I think the Clippers are a little scarier than this ranking might have them at when both are healthy. Nikola Jokic - +6 With 230 high leverage minutes, Jokic is leading this pool of players, and that just feels right. He's always in close games. +6 is about what's expected, he's neither surprised or disappointed, I would say. With Murray he's only +3.67, and +12.1 without him in 58 minutes, and Murray is -43 without Jokic (in only 10 minutes). Never really thought of Murray as unclutch, but interesting to see. Jimmy Butler - +2 Now we start to get the surprising area for a lot of guys. So much of Jimmy Butler's closing, but +2.45 isn't absurd, and -5.34 without him isn't that big of a gap either. In 47 playoff minutes he was +32.84, but still, I expect a little more from him in the regular season (-10 in 103 minutes). Anthony Davis - +21, +29 with LeBron James, -45 without LeBron James Now, +21 is fantastic, 4th best in the league, but that's with LeBron, who has been even better in 42 minutes without Davis, and Davis has been worse than everyone on this list without LeBron. While the ORTG of 85.71 is abysmal, the very defensive-minded Lakers being 130.77 is even more concerning to me. It just feels like Davis can't handle on-ball responsibilities and defend at the same time. Chris Paul - +14 in OKC, -15 in Phoenix, -23 with Devin Booker, -6 without Devin Booker Paul's an interesting one, he was one of the best clutch players last year in OKC, +14 with them, and they were -8 without him, but this year they're -15 with him +6 without him. I think a lot of that is Booker's fault, but they've also been +11 this season with Booker and Paul off. Luka Doncic - -4 Luka has been worse than Giannis, but Dallas is a much worse team than Milwaukee too. A lot has been made about Doncic's terrible shooting in clutch moments, so I kind of expected this, but the fact Dallas isn't any better in his minutes off and the fact he's actually played in a lot of high leverage situations makes me give him the nod over Giannis. Giannis Antetokounmpo - -2 Giannis has been -15 this year, -62.5 last year in the playoffs (only 9 minutes), which is very concerning, but honestly they're all really small sample sizes. Milwaukee generally blows out teams enough that he's only played 64 minutes of high leverage minutes, but he's also sat 44 high leverage minutes and they've been +34 without their MVP. Trae Young - -15 -15 is bad, but so are the Hawks. Honestly this is a little disappointing, I didn't expect him to be above 0 just because of the talent he's been next to, but the Hawks have only been -0.26 worse than they are with him, so he's hardly made any difference. The ORTG is only 100.81 while Trae's on the court, and I have a lot of faith in the guy that I expect better from him (at least 110) regardless of who he shares the court with. Stephen Curry - -30 While he has the worst rating of the guys I listed, Curry has also not played much. 27 minutes of high leverage should balance out to a little more palatable as he gets more games under him. Right now the Warriors are 101.92/132.14 in their last two seasons with Curry, but Curry is a +11 for his career, so I'm willing to give him the benefit of avoiding my doubt for now. Devin Booker - -22, -22 with Chris Paul, -22 without Chris Paul This one is surprising to me. I know Booker has a "loser" label like Trae and Beal, and he is in the same category of them being elite one-way players, but I feel like Booker has at least okay defence, the other two are kind of lost causes, but Phoenix has been posting 128.52 DRTG with Booker on the court in these high leverage situations, and a 106.12 ORTG. Phoenix is also the best defensive team of the three (ATL/WAS/PHX) so for them to be the worst team defensively is a real problem. I know a defensive collapse isn't really on Booker, nor would it be on Trae or Book, but it still is part of his responsibility and Phoenix has been a better team than either of those other teams. Bradley Beal - -23 This one isn't particularly surprising to me, I've been low on Beal and personally wouldn't have included him on this list, but I know most people think he's a top player. Much like Trae Young, his ORTG has been really bad which is the one thing I expect from him, but it's only 99.11, and the defense 122.97, which is about average for the Wizards to be honest, but yeah, he's been getting shut out with the ball in clutch moments. Interestingly enough the Wizards have been really good without him in 27 minutes. They post a marginally better offensive rating of 100.00, and somehow have the best defence of all time at 62.26. That's obviously a lot of luck to have a rating that low, guys just missing shots on the other team, but even the fact the offence has been better without him screams choker to me. Written by W. Smith, all stats are from pbpstats.com. If you'd like to look up players on your own, go to the on/off drop-menu and click "Wowy Combinations." Lots of interesting data to look at.

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