Who is best in the clutch? (Hint: It’s not Kobe.)

Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant defends against the Denver Nuggets forward Carmelo Anthony at the Pepsi Center in Denver on January 21, 2011. The Lakers beat the Nuggets 107-97. UPI/Gary C. Caskey

TrueHoop’s Henry Abbott wrote a good piece about clutch performance and although there’s a stack of videos over at YouTube that might convince fans otherwise, Abbott argues that Kobe Bryant is not all that good in the clutch.

ESPN Stats and Information’s Alok Pattani dug through 15 years of NBA data (see table below) — Bryant’s entire career, regular season and playoffs — and found that Bryant has attempted 115 shots in the final 24 seconds of a game in which the Lakers were tied or trailed by two or fewer points. He connected on 36, and missed 79 times.

That’s a rate of 31.3%, and since the 1996-97 season (including playoff games), there are 24 players that have made a higher percentage of shots when “…trailing by one or two points, or tied, in the final 24 seconds…” with a minimum of 30 shots attempted.

Who’s the best?

Carmelo Anthony. He hits 47.7% of his shots under these circumstances. Maybe he’s worth trading for after all.

Chris Paul is second at 45.2%. In fact, Brandon Roy (40%), Deron Williams (38.9%), Dirk Nowitzki (38.5%), Tim Duncan (37.1%), LeBron James (33.3%) and Gilbert Arenas (32.5%) are all better in the clutch.

I don’t think it’s fair to compare Kobe to some of the other names on this list — like Shawn Marion, Hedo Turkoglu, Rashard Lewis or Eddie Jones — because those guys had an advantage: not everyone knew that they were going to take the last shot. If the Lakers are down, everyone in the building knows who’s going to take the last shot. This is partly because Kobe is so good at getting a shot off, but it’s also due to his unwillingness to pass the ball in clutch situations. (As Abbott notes, from 2003-2009, Kobe took 56 shots and had just one assist in the clutch.) In his book, Phil Jackson lamented about Kobe’s insistence to always take the final shot in such situations.

However, it is fair to compare Kobe to superstars like Carmelo, CP3, Dirk and LeBron (with the Cavs) because they are typically the ones taking game-winners for their teams. LeBron and Chris Paul are especially good at passing to teammates in the clutch. Kobe has that ability, but he simply doesn’t trust his teammates in clutch situations.

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