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Random Stat: Game Winning Shots

UPDATED by Popular Demand: 4/13/2006!

Q: I'm pretty sure you guys would keep track of this stat but I can't seem to find it. Game winning shots. Could you send me a link of it to me if you do. -- christaki22

A: This suggestion comes up a lot, but there's really one main issue -- what exactly do we want to define as a game winning shot? If we make it too restrictive, as in a real last second shot at the buzzer, then you are dealing with tiny, tiny sample sizes. So instead, we'd propose the following filter:

Game Winning Shot Opportunity = 24 seconds or less left in the game, team with the ball is either tied or down by 1 to 2 points.

Why use this definition?

  1. With 24 seconds or less, then it truly is a "last possession" situation potentially
  2. With a margin from tied to down 2, the team can take the lead with a made basket (including 3's)
  3. By excluding a down 3 situation, we don't have the "gimme two point buckets" that defenses will sometimes yield to the quick bucket/intentional foul strategy option you often see exercised.
Obviously though this definition means a shot may not actually be a game winner -- it may only tie a game (if down two points) or it may allow enough time for the opponents to get a game winning shot of their own. Still it seems a reasonable compromise.

Data sample
2003-04 Regular Season games
2003-04 Playoff games
2004-05 Regular Season games
2004-05 Playoff games
2005-06 Regular Season games (to April 12th)

Leading "Game Winning Shot" Players
Player
Fgm
Fga
Fg%
Ftm
Fta
Ast
T/O
 League Wide 438  1500 
.292
303  420  191  139 
 Carmelo Anthony 11  17 
.647
 Ray Allen 18 
.444
 Michael Redd 19 
.421
 Steve Francis 20 
.400
 Allen Iverson 20 
.400
 Joe Johnson 23 
.348
 Tracy McGrady 23 
.348
 Vince Carter 31 
.258
 Ben Gordon 13 
.538
 Dirk Nowitzki 19 
.368
10 
 Paul Pierce 20 
.350
10 
 Kobe Bryant 32 
.219
 Jalen Rose 10 
.600
 Derek Fisher 12 
.500
 Pau Gasol 12 
.500
 Damon Stoudamire 12 
.500
 Tim Duncan 13 
.462
 Ricky Davis 16 
.375
 Dwyane Wade 17 
.353
 Jamal Crawford 19 
.316
 Damon Jones
.625
 Zach Randolph
.625
 Richard Hamilton 10 
.500
 Antawn Jamison 10 
.500
 Jason Terry 13 
.385
 Gilbert Arenas 16 
.313
 Mike Bibby 16 
.313
 Chris Webber 17 
.294
 Kevin Garnett 21 
.238
 Chauncey Billups 26 
.192
11  12 
 P.J. Brown
.571
 Yao Ming
.500
 Tony Parker
.444
 Richard Jefferson 10 
.400
 Shawn Marion 10 
.400
 Baron Davis 13 
.308
 Mike James 13 
.308
 Rasheed Wallace 18 
.222
 LeBron James 19 
.211

...other Notable Players
Player
Fgm
Fga
Fg%
Ftm
Fta
Ast
T/O
 Ron Artest
.375
 Jason Richardson 20 
.150
 Shaquille O'Neal
.500
 Chris Bosh
.250
 Rashard Lewis 11 
.182
 Jermaine O'Neal 14 
.143
 Elton Brand
.200
 Corey Maggette 11 
.091
 Stephon Marbury 12 
.083
 Steve Nash 15 
.067
 Sam Cassell
.000



The first thing to note is that these types of shots are very difficult on a league wide basis: a .292 Field Goal percentage doesn't exactly inspire confidence!

Part of this is that game winning chances may come with just a couple of seconds or less remaining in the game from the inbounds. So manufacturing any shot at all in some cases is to the player's credit.

Carmelo Anthony has not only delivered the most "game winning/tying buckets" in the final moments, he's also done it at a rate that's over twice the NBA average!

Kobe Bryant meanwhile has indeed had seven such made shots over the past three seasons (including playoffs), but at a pretty low conversion rate, even factoring in his free throws.

The other thing with Kobe and a number of go-to guys is that they are not looking to pass the ball! Zero assists in these "final possession" states for Bryant with 32 shots taken (the most for any player with zero assists) says something.

Paul Pierce is one of the few star scorers who also dole out assists in the waning moments, with a nice balance of made baskets, free throws, and five dimes.

LeBron James has had some game winners lately to reach the bottom of the leader list, but there are notable players who haven't had the "qualifying" four game winning baskets.

Steve Nash does lead the NBA during this timeframe in most assists leading to game winning/tying baskets. His own shot however has not been falling.

The Clippers may also want to avoid letting it come down to the wire -- neither Brand, Maggette or Cassell have been making the shots at the very end over the past three seasons.

Now if you tweak the settings slightly, say look at the last minute and +/- 3 points max, then some players see dramatic changes...this is the problem with turning a microscope on rare situations!

Onwards and upwards. Other facts of interest --

Leaders in Free Throw attempts:
Billups 12, Pierce 10, Nowitzki 10, Bryant 9

Most game winning/tying shots that were blocked:
Carter 4, Magloire 4, Allen 4

Most game winning/tying baskets that were assisted:
Redd 5, Anthony 5, Fisher 5

Most unassisted game winning/tying baskets:
Joe Johnson 8, McGrady 7, Pierce 7, Nowitzki 7

Ultimately while this kind of thing is fun, it's not to our minds particularly meaningful, other than indicating that the league as a whole could probably get more efficient in "end game" possessions...one easy place to start might be to try and be less predictable! It's nice to have a go-to guy, but when the other team knows without much doubt that a certain guy is getting the ball, it is going to be a lot easier to defend!

Of the ten players with 20+ FGA in these situations five were shooting under .300, and none better than .400, whereas classic second/third option guys like Fisher, Damon Jones, and Jamison were highly effective.

So instead of "does my team have a great clutch go-to guy" you might want to ask do we have a plan B?

For better quality analysis of clutch play, we use a filter of "last five minutes of fourth quarter/overtime, with neither team ahead by more than five points." Each player has a page for the stats accrued under these circumstances, eg see Kobe Bryant in the clutch.


Do you have an idea for a cool "random stat" you would like to see? If so, drop us a line

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