If you had your pick of anyone in the NBA to make a play with the shot clock winding down, who would it be? You might think Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, James Harden or LeBron James would be among your best options to hit a buzzer beater. However, going by this season’s numbers, none of these players rank in the top five for end-of-shot-clock scoring efficiency (less than four seconds). Curry is actually the only one of the players mentioned above who ranks in the top 10 in this category (coming in at eighth), per Synergy.
So which NBA players have been the most efficient in these situations this year? While the sample size is admittedly small since it’s still early in the season, some of the names may surprise you. According to the statistics, some of the league’s up-and-comers are the ones absolutely dominating in end-of-clock situations. It’s worth noting that these aren’t ideal scoring situations. End-of-clock points usually come when a possession has failed and a player simply has to create something out of nothing. Still, players who can turn these situations into positives are valuable and it’s an indicator of who can score in the clutch. Below is a list of the most efficient players who have at least 15 possessions in end-of-clock situations:
Rodney Hood – Jazz, Points Per Short-Clock Possession: 1.444
Hood leads the league in this category, scoring 39 points off of 27 short-clock situations, per Synergy. The second-year man out of Duke uses a variety drives, pull-ups and perimeter shots (usually off pick-and-roll action) to score the ball when the clock is winding down. The lefty generally likes to either rock his defender to sleep, or use his step-back to pull-up behind the arc. Hood also loves to use his mid-range pull-up and he has a tendency to create space by fading away from his defender. Most of the time, it is Hood who is the ball handler in PNR situations. However, he has also been effective spacing for perimeter jumpers as well. Hood is shooting a blistering 57.1 percent in short-clock situations, per Synergy.
Brandon Ingram – Lakers, Points Per Short-Clock Possession: 1.438
Ingram almost missed the cut on this list since he has only had 16 end-of-shot-clock situations this season. Despite Ingram’s low volume, the rookie has been extremely efficient, shooting 66.7 percent while also averaging 1.438 points per possession in these situations. More of a true wing than Hood, Ingram usually finds himself feeding off of a teammate’s PNR drive and kick action through spot-up opportunities. In short-clock situations, he will also look to get all the way to the rim via straight-line drives, and he relies on his length to pull-up if his path to the basket is cut off.
Julius Randle – Lakers, Points Per Short-Clock Possession: 1.273
Joining Ingram as the other Laker on this list is Randle. Randle has had more short-clock situations possessions (22) than his rookie teammate, while still remaining highly efficient with 1.273 points per possession, according to Synergy. Randle has generated 28 points off of these types of situations this season and generally has been effective by driving less mobile bigs to the rim. The hybrid big man is crafty and likes to get to the rim by changing directions via crossovers and spin moves, which keep defenders off balance. He can finish with a variety of finishes, such as floaters and up-and-under moves. Although he would rather attack the basket, Randle has also shown that he can knock down a jumper from about 18 feet and in. The Lakers have two young players who are good at getting a bucket when the play breaks down and time is running out, which is never a bad thing.
Derrick Favors – Jazz, Points Per Short-Clock Possession: 1.263
Like the Lakers, the Jazz also have two players who are excelling in short clock situations this season. Favors is shooting a red-hot 71.4 percent in end-of-clock situations thus far this season. His 1.263 points per possession ranks fourth in the league in efficiency, per Synergy. Unlike the previous three players, Favors is more of a true big, who mixes up rolling and popping out in PNR situations and generally finds his scoring opportunities off of short-corner jumpers, duck-ins and dump offs. However, Favors has also stepped out and knocked down mid-range jumpers when the defense has collapsed in short-clock situations when guards like George Hill and Shelvin Mack penetrate and pitch. Favors is also getting to the free throw line 21.1 percent of the time in short-clock situations, which is more than any other player ranked in the top five (next closest is Ingram at 18.8 percent).
Tobias Harris – Pistons, Points Per Short-Clock Possession: 1.222
Harris may not have come to mind when asked who you’d trust as the shot clock expires, but the Pistons forward has been one of the best short-clock scorers in the league this season. He is off to a great start, averaging 16.7 points and 4.8 rebounds per game while also excelling in late-clock situations. Through 14 games, Harris has scored 22 points on 18 end-of-shot-clock situations and is averaging 1.222 points per possession, per Synergy. He is also shooting 61.5 percent with less than four seconds on the clock, per Synergy. Harris mixes in spot-up threes, pull-ups and floaters, and he is athletic and long enough to finish over defenders at the rim, which he has also done late in the clock. At times, Harris has also looked to create from the high post (left elbow) in order finish over defenders.
Kawhi Leonard – Spurs, Points Per Short-Clock Possession: 1.207
One of the many ways Leonard adds value to the Spurs is through his late-clock play. Coming in as the NBA’s sixth-most efficient player in these situations, Leonard has scored 35 points on 29 such possessions and 51.9 percent shooting, per Synergy. The versatile Leonard has attacked in a variety of ways this season when the clock is low including as the ball handler in PNR action, relocating as a spot-up shooter when Tony Parker is in PNR, and using his athleticism and length to slash to the rim off of the dribble (just to name a few). Leonard is one of the bigger names on this list, so you may have guessed correctly if you had him in mind. He is averaging 24.8 points and 6.2 rebounds through 13 games, and the Spurs are off to a hot start (10-3).
Dejounte Murray: The Spurs’ Latest Steal
The Spurs have a history of drafting talented players late in the draft. Dejounte Murray is emerging as their most recent steal, writes David Yapkowitz.
It seems like almost every NBA season, the San Antonio Spurs end up selecting a player late in the draft who unexpectedly goes on to become a valuable contributor, sometimes even a star. The entire draft in itself can often be a crapshoot, but the lower the pick, the lower the chances of a team finding a solid rotation player. But with the Spurs, it’s as if they hit far more often than they miss.
Their pick from a year ago is shaping up to be no exception as the injury to starting point guard Tony Parker has opened up a huge opportunity for Dejounte Murray; one that he is taking advantage of.
There is a lot of preparation by analysts leading up to the NBA draft. Several mock drafts are created up until draft night itself. Murray was often projected to be a high first-round pick, possibly even a lottery pick. He had a solid freshman season at the University of Washington where he averaged 16.1 points per game, six rebounds, and 4.4 assists.
Draft night arrived and he ended up slipping to the bottom of the first round (29th overall), far later than he had anticipated. Following his selection, LeBron James himself, who is represented by the same sports agency as Murray, tweeted out some words of encouragement for the young rookie. He let Murray know that he may not have been drafted where he wanted to, but that he was with the best organization in the league.
Murray pretty much rode the bench last season as a rookie, which is not at all uncommon for a first-year player on a veteran team with championship aspirations. He was inactive for most of the final two months of the season. In the first round of the playoffs against the Memphis Grizzlies, and most of the second round against the Houston Rockets, he was relegated to garbage time duty. Perhaps if he’d been drafted as high as initially projected, he might have had a bigger opportunity at getting minutes right away.
That all changed, however, against Houston in Game 2 when Parker went down with the injury that he is still recuperating from. Murray was thrust into the starting lineup and he responded as well as an inexperienced rookie under the bright lights of the playoffs could. In Game 4, although the Spurs lost, he had eight points on 50 percent shooting along with three assists. He actually didn’t play in Game 5, but in the Spurs closeout Game 6 win, he poured in 11 points, ten rebounds, five assists and two steals while shooting 50 percent from the field.
Even though the Spurs were ultimately swept in the Western Conference Finals against the Golden State Warriors, Murray continued his steady play with 8.3 points, 3.8 assists, and three steals.
At the start of this season, Murray has taken his momentum from the end of last season and carried it over. He was given the starting point guard spot in place of Parker on opening night against the Minnesota Timberwolves. He responded on national television with 16 points on 7-8 shooting from the field, five rebounds, two assists and two steals.
It’s still too early to tell, but it’s highly possible that the Spurs have found their starting point guard of the future once Parker eventually decides to hang it up. At 6-foot-5, Murray is a tall point guard and his length gives him the potential to develop into an elite defensive player. He can score the basketball and he is improving his court vision and playmaking.
One area he could improve in is his outside shooting. Although he did shoot 39.1 percent from the three-point line last season, he only took 0.6 attempts. In his lone college season, he shot 28.8 percent from downtown. If he can improve his range and really begin to put together his entire package of skills, we’ll be talking yet again about how the Spurs bamboozled the rest of the league and found a draft-day gem.
NBA Saturday: Jabari Bird Experiences The NBA Whirlwind
Jabari Bird entered a hostile environment Friday night after being on his couch just three days before.
When Gordon Hayward suffered a season-ending injury six minutes into the Boston Celtics’ season on Wednesday, he wasn’t the only player who saw his season changed in the blink of an eye.
“I was at home in California watching the game as a fan,” Jabari Bird said.
Bird was the 56th overall pick in last June’s NBA Draft. After playing his college ball at the University of California, the Celtics gave the 6-foot-6 swingman a shot to continue his career. After impressing throughout the preseason, Bird was signed to a two-way contract with Boston and returned home to the west coast.
That didn’t last long.
“After the game was over my phone was going off that I had to get on the quickest flight to Boston,” Bird said about opening night. “Got in 7:30 the next morning, suited up against Milwaukee, now I’m here in Philly.”
With the massive hole Hayward left in Boston’s roster due to his injury, the Celtics are going to have to turn to some unlikely performers throughout the season to pick up the slack. Bird didn’t light up the scoreboard or stuff his stat sheet, posting just three points and one rebound in 13 minutes of play. But down the stretch in a close game against the Philadelphia 76ers Friday night, Bird came up big on defense.
As the Celtics trailed the Sixers 61-53 with six minutes remaining in the third quarter, Bird subbed in for Jaylen Brown and was tasked with guarding J.J. Redick, who was in the midst of carrying Philadelphia with his lights out shooting.
After wiping away the Sixers lead and gaining an 86-84 advantage in the fourth quarter, the Celtics still had Bird sticking Redick. The Sixers’ shooting guard — and highest paid player — rose up for another three-point attempt which would’ve given Philadelphia a late lead and a momentum shift at home with a raucous crowd behind them. Only this time, Bird’s hand was in his face and the shot attempt didn’t find the back of the net.
In a big-time moment on the road, for a team facing a potential three-game losing streak to start the season, the unlikely rookie answered the call.
“Like I said before, he’s one of the best shooters in the NBA, really good perimeter scorer,” Bird said of Redick. “For the team to trust me with that responsibility, with us being down on the road needing to get a win, I was hyped up and ready to go. I was ready for the challenge.”
Placing such a responsibility like guarding Redick on a night where it seemed like the Sixers marksman couldn’t miss on a player who was sitting on his couch three nights ago seems like a bold strategy. Head coach Brad Stevens, however, knew what he was doing.
“All the way through preseason and training camp I felt like he was one of our better perimeter defenders,” Stevens said. “I think he has huge upside. His rebounding spoke for itself in preseason practices. His ability to guard off the ball, especially shooters coming off screens is just really good. He’s not afraid, and you knew he’d step up.”
Going from the couch to a red-eye flight from California to Boston, to the bench in Milwaukee, to the court in Philadelphia is nothing short of a whirlwind experience. With such a series of events, it’s hard to be coached into that moment. As a player, sometimes you have to just go out and play.
“I wasn’t prepared at all for tonight. Mentally I just had to lock into the game,” Bird said. “Coach just looked at me and said ‘Bird get Jaylen.’ ‘Alright.’ So that’s what I did.”
After signing Hayward to $127 million contract this summer, the Celtics were expecting the small forward to provide an elite scoring 1-2 scoring punch with Kyrie Irving. Obviously, at least for this season, Boston will need to move forward without that possibility. An opening night loss, followed by another defeat to Milwaukee the following night, had the Celtics 0-2 heading into Philadelphia and searching for answers a lot sooner than they may have anticipated just a week ago.
Bird’s journey during his first week in professional basketball represents how quickly things can change, and how the ripple effects of injuries and other moves have far outreaching waves.
“I was already packed, I was ready to go to the G-League,” Bird said. “We had training camp coming up. My bags were already packed, I was ready to get out the house. Then I got the call to go to Boston and I was like alright I’m ready to go, just gimmie a flight. And that’s what happened.”
All-star point guard, and Bird’s new teammate, Kyrie Irving doesn’t foresee the rookie leaving the clubhouse anytime soon. With the adversity the Boston Celtics have felt in the first week of the 2017-18 season, Bird’s addition and impact are a prime example of being ready when your number is called, and the culture this team is looking to create.
“Jabari is now probably gonna be on every trip with us,” Irving said. “Guys are gonna be called up and called upon to be ready to play. We just have to have that expectation that when we come into the game we’re gonna be able to play, and we trust one another and have each other’s backs.”
Mavs Guard Devin Harris on Personal Leave from Team
Guard Devin Harris will take an indefinite leave from the Dallas Mavericks after the tragic death of his brother, Bruce.
“I was with him yesterday and just encouraged him that when he’s ready to come on back,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “I don’t know when that will be. He can take as long as he needs.”
Source: Tim MacMahon of ESPN