New Brooklyn Nets head coach Jason Kidd came out last week and anointed Joe Johnson as his ‘closer’. To quote the poet Marshall Mathers, even though his palms were sweaty, knees weak, arms were heavy, Joe Johnson just about always seemed to come up with that clutch basket for the Nets last season. Still, is he worthy of being named the closer on a loaded Brooklyn Nets team?
During the 2012-13 NBA season (including the playoffs), Joe Johnson shot 9 for 11 in scenarios when the score differential was 3 points or less, and there was less than 24 seconds left on the game clock (we will call this scenario ‘Closing Time’ from this point on). Johnson’s 9 field goals made in Closing Time ranked 1st amongst all NBA players, and his 82% FG shooting also ranked number one. Without question, Joe Johnson was the most clutch NBA player during the 2012-13 season.
2012-13 NBA Closing Time Statistics (min. 5 FGA)
One season is not a big enough sample size to anoint Joe Johnson the Brooklyn Nets best late game option this season, nor is it even close to being enough to call Johnson the most clutch NBA player during Closing Time. Is Jason Kidd making a rookie coaching mistake by overlooking Paul Pierce even before he has had a chance to coach his first game? To answer this question, I collected Closing Time statistics from the past three NBA seasons and the numbers tell so many stories.
2010-2013 (3 seasons) NBA Closing Time Statistics (min. 10 FGA)
There you have it, Joe Johnson has been the NBA’s best closer over the past 3 seasons. As should be expected, the list of players who have taken the most Closing Time shots is a who’s who of NBA superstars: Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant, Lebron James, Paul Pierce, Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony. Johnson’s 32 field goal attempts in Closing Time ranks 6th, but his 56% shooting percentage is head-and-shoulders above any player in the top 10 in field goal attempts. Touché Jason Kidd.
Other Observations from 3 Year Closing Time Stats
Ray Allen is lethal in Closing Time (big surprise) as his 55% shooting percentage ranks 3rd. More impressive is that all 6 of Allen’s field goals made in Closing Time have been three-pointers. I’m sorry San Antonio Spurs fans, I’m truly sorry.
Kobe Bryant has not been as clutch as advertised. I know it sounds blasphemous (I had to smack myself upside the head after writing the previous sentence being a huge Kobe fan), but his 27% field goal shooting is way below the league average of 41% during Closing Time.
Kyrie Irving is coming ladies and gentlemen. After making 5 of his 7 Closing Time shots during his rookie season, Kyrie made 6 of 15 last season to bring his career average to 50%. After watching Kyrie have his way with everyone during the USA Basketball mini-camp in July, I have little doubt that Kyrie will be in the conversation for the NBA’s best closer this season.
This article is dedicated to Mariano Rivera. The greatest Closer in all of Sports
Closing Time are scenarios when the score differential was 3 points or less, and there was less than 24 seconds left on the game clock
eFG% – Effective FG% adjusts for the fact that a 3-point field goal is worth one more point than a 2-point field goal
Data is courtesy of basketball-reference.com