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Joel Embiid, DeMar DeRozan lead list of top clutch scorers

A closer look at which players have delivered the most with the game on the line.

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After last week’s flurry of game-winning shots, we had to take a closer look at this season’s leaders in clutch scoring to see which players have delivered with the game on the line.

As a reminder, clutch is defined as the time when the score is within five points in the final five minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime.

Here is a look at the top clutch scorers through games played on Monday, Jan. 3.

Through games played on Jan. 3.

Joel Embiid: Leads the pack in total clutch points and clutch points per game, also has the most FGA (60) and most FTA (37) of any player this season. Embiid has combined good efficiency (51.7 FG%, 46.2 3P%, 75.7 FT%) with a high volume of clutch opportunities. Embiid ranks third in clutch usage rate (43.5%) trailing only Trae Young (46.9%) and Nikola Jokic (43.8%).

DeMar DeRozan: He has attempted two clutch 3s all season, with both occurring on back-to-back days as buzzer-beating game-winners. DeRozan is tied with Embiid for the most clutch free throws made with 28 in 37 attempts (75.7%) and has the fifth-highest clutch free-throw rate (0.865) among the 96 players that have logged at least 40 clutch minutes. DeRozan finished third in clutch scoring last season (140 points) with the Spurs.

Kevin Durant: Durant ranked in the top five in clutch scoring six times during his time in Oklahoma City, leading the league in both 2013-14 (his MVP season) and 2011-12. He is on pace for his highest clutch ranking in six seasons, mostly due to lack of clutch minutes during his three seasons in Golden State as the Warriors played a league-low 348 clutch minutes over that stretch.

Zach LaVine: The second Bull in the top five, LaVine is shooting 50-40-90 in the clutch: 51.3 FG% (20-39), 41.7 3P% (5-12), 95.5 FT% (21-22). He is the only player in the league to score more than 30 clutch points and shoot 50-40-90 in the clutch. The Bulls have a luxury with two wing scorers that can create their own shot with the game on the line.

Jayson Tatum: Tatum has struggled from the field (34.6%) and from 3-point range (2-17, 11.8%), but has been perfect at the free-throw line in 21 attempts during the clutch. Of the 24 players with at least 40 clutch points, only Stephen Curry (34.1%) has a lower FG% than Tatum.

Russell Westbrook: No player has played more clutch minutes this season than Westbrook’s 106; his Lakers teammate Carmelo Anthony is second at 89 minutes. Westbrook is shooting 21-39 (53.8%) on 2-point shots and 1-7 (14.3%) on 3-point shots in the clutch and leads all players in both clutch assists (20) and clutch turnovers (14).

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander: In the span of three days, SGA had two clutch 3-pointers in the final 10 seconds of the game for the Thunder. The first appeared to be a game-winner before Devonte’ Graham answered with a 61-foot heave at the buzzer to steal a game for New Orleans. Three days later, Gilgeous-Alexander left no time for a response as his 3-pointer against the Clippers came at the buzzer to give OKC the win. SGA is one of four players, along with DeRozan, Graham and Kuzma, to hit at least two 3-pointers in the final 10 seconds of a one-possession game within three points.

Through games played on Jan. 3 (minimum 10 clutch situations).

Ja Morant: Morant ranks ninth in total clutch points (53) despite playing in only 12 games that featured clutch time. His game-winner against the Suns illustrates his ability to thrive in the clutch, as well as in the paint. Seventy-five percent of Morant’s clutch baskets have come in the painted area.

D’Angelo Russell: Through the end of November, Russell led the NBA in total clutch points with 43 in 42 clutch minutes (1.024 points per minute). He shot 48.1% from the field, 41.7% from 3-point range and 85.7% from the free-throw line. The opportunities haven’t been there as frequently, however. Since Dec. 1, Russell ranks 67th in total clutch scoring with 10 points in 14 minutes (0.714 points per minute).

Kyle Kuzma: Kuzma has made 12 clutch 3-pointers so far this season — four more than any other player. Kuzma’s plus-42 in 73 clutch minutes is the fourth-best plus/minus of any player so far this season as the Wizards own a league-best 15-3 record in clutch games. Kuzma’s 78.6% effective field goal percentage is the best among the 55 players with at least 20 clutch shot attempts.

LeBron James: LeBron has led the NBA in total clutch points three times during his career: 2007-08, 2009-10 and 2017-18 — all coming as a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Overall, LeBron has ranked in the top 10 in clutch scoring 10 times in his first 18 seasons, including seven top-five finishes. Since clutch data has been available since 1996-97, only Paul Pierce has led the league in clutch scoring more times (4) than LeBron (3), but no player has scored more clutch points in a single season than LeBron’s 251 in 2007-08.