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).
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