StatsCube: James doesn’t shy away from the big shot
Posted Feb 3 2011 11:21AM
In this NBA.com StatsCube study, StatsCube looks at LeBron James’ pass-or-shoot tendencies on critical possessions. All statistics are through Wednesday, Feb. 2.
Situation: LeBron James catches the ball at the 3-point line on the right wing with 25 seconds to go and his team down a point. Because Mike Miller immediately passed him the ball after grabbing an offensive rebound, there isn’t a defender within 15 feet of James as he steps into his shot.
Thunder guard Daequan Cook, who was under the basket when James caught the ball, sprints out to contest the shot, but he’ll never get there in time. Still, he’s heading toward James and ignoring Eddie House, who’s just as wide open about eight feet to James’ right. House hasn’t made a shot all game (he’s taken only one).
James passes up his own shot and gives the ball to House, who promptly nails the three that puts the Heat up for good.
Was it the right play? Absolutely. House is the better shooter, was just as open as James was, and a corner three is a better shot than one from the wing. But of course, after the Heat’s thrilling win in Oklahoma City on Sunday, James drew some criticism because, in some people’s minds, stars are supposed to take the big shots at the end of games.
It’s not the first time that James has passed in a big spot like that. Famously, he passed up a layup to feed Donyell Marshall in the corner with the Cavs down by two in the final seconds of Game 1 of the 2007 Eastern Conference finals in Detroit. Marshall missed and the media had a great topic of conversation for the next couple days.
You know Kobe Bryant wouldn’t have passed up on either of those two shots. Bryant passed the ball to Ron Artest for a three with a minute to go in Game 7 last year, but the Celtics had run a second defender at Bryant on the possession and that wasn’t a situation where the Lakers absolutely had to get a bucket (they were up three at the time).
So does James shy away from big shots? Not quite.
Among 92 players who have played at least 2,500 minutes over the last 2 ½ seasons and have a usage rate of at least 20 percent, James has the 27th highest assist rate. That might not seem like a high rank, but of the 26 guys ahead of James, only two (Tracy McGrady and Andre Iguodala) wouldn’t be classified as point guards.
So James is clearly a willing passer. But when the game gets tight down the stretch, his assist rate goes way down.
LeBron James Assist Rate, 2008-09 through present
|— 5m, 5p = Last five minutes of fourth quarter or overtime, with a point differential (either way) of five points or less
— 1m, 3p = Last minute of fourth quarter or overtime, with a point differential (either way) of three points or less
— 30s, tied or down = Last 30 seconds of fourth quarter or overtime, with the score tied or trailing by 1-3 points
— Usg% = Usage Rate = Percentage of his teams plays he uses
— Assist rate = percentage of possessions that a player uses that are assists.
— Rank = Among players with a Usg% of 20 or greater, with a minutes minimum
Now, the assist numbers don’t account for shots his teammates missed or times they got fouled after James passes them the ball, but it’s clear that, for the most part, he keeps the ball to himself when the game is on the line. That assist to House on Sunday was just James’ fourth in about 55 must-have-a-bucket situations over the last 2 ½ seasons.
James isn’t alone when it comes to keeping the ball on critical possessions. With the game on the line, the assist rate for almost all star players goes down pretty dramatically.
Players with highest usage, last 30 seconds, tie game or down 1-3, since 2008-09
|— OUsg% = Usage rate, all minutes
— OTS% = True shooting percentage, all minutes = Points / (2*(FGA+(.44*FTA)))
— O Ast. Rate = Assist rate, all minutes
— MUsg% = Usage rate, last 30 seconds, tie game or down 1-3
— MTS% = True shooting percentage, last 30 seconds, tie game or down 1-3 M
— Ast. Rate = Assist rate, last 30 seconds, tie game or down 1-3
The true shooting percentage numbers are there to show just how “clutch” these guys have been in such situations.
We’re looking at some small sample sizes here (as few as about 28 touches for Anthony), but it’s clear that most go-to guys don’t pass when their team absolutely needs a basket. Neither Roy (27 shots attempted) nor Anthony (19 shots attempted) have a single assist in such situations over the last 2 ½ seasons. Dirk Nowitzki (21 shots attempted), who would be right below Durant on the list, doesn’t either.
As a whole, the league assists on just 40 percent of field goals (246/622) in must-have-a-bucket situations, as opposed to 57 percent overall. There is an exception to the star-player-doesn’t-pass rule, however.
Paul Pierce actually has a slightly higher assist rate in must-have-a-bucket-situations (19.4) than he does overall (15.3). He he’s attempted 17 shots and dished out five assists in the last 30 seconds with a tie game or with his team down 1-3 points over the last 2 ½ years. Only Jose Calderon has more assists (six) in such situations. Baron Davis, Chris Paul and Rajon Rondo also have five.
And since StatsCube has done the work for us, we might as well look at who’s been most clutch when his team needs a bucket in the last 30 seconds…
Highest true shooting percentage, last 30 seconds, tie game or down 1-3, since 2008-09
|— Includes postseason.
— Minimum of 15 attempts (FGA + (.44*FTA)>= 15)
Ray Allen doesn’t have a single assist in those situations. But he’s not supposed to pass.