According to the NBA, “clutch points” are scored in the last five minutes of a game when a team is ahead or behind by less than five points. And currently, the Oklahoma City Thunder’s rising superstar Shai Gilgeous-Alexander ranks number one in total clutch points scored for the 2022-23 season.
What’s most noticeable about Gilgeous-Alexander’s crunch-time statistics are his free throw numbers. When the score is close towards the end of the game, the Thunder’s lead guard has found a way to get to the charity stripe repeatedly, knocking down 34 of his 37 free throw attempts, or 91.9% of those tries. That accounts for more than 43% of his clutch points scored this season.
The fast-improving Canadian guard has scored 79 clutch points, giving him a leg up on other talented offensive initiators such as Chicago’s DeMar DeRozan, Cleveland’s prized guard, Donovan Mitchell, and New York’s Jalen Brunson. Other names seen in the top 10 in total clutch points scored are Luka Doncic, Damian Lillard, and Jimmy Butler — all known for stepping up when the game is on the line and their respective teams need a bucket.
In prior seasons, some of the most notable players have led the league in total clutch points. Last season, Joel Embiid edged out DeRozan to earn the number one spot, scoring 158 points. In 2020-21, it was Lillard with 162. In 2019-20, the “COVID season,” it was Chris Paul with 150. And in the three seasons before that, it was James Harden, LeBron James, and former Oklahoma City star, Russell Westbrook, leading the league.
To give a proper perspective, the Thunder have 51 games remaining on their schedule. The math shows that if Gilgeous-Alexander continues on his current trajectory, he will be on pace for about 208 points scored in the clutch. That would be considered the most since Westbrook’s 2016-17 season and would tie James’ 2009-2010 season. Both players were voted the NBA’s Most Valuable Player in those years.
This season, the NBA is also giving out a brand new award for the league’s most clutch player. Could Gilgeous-Alexander be in contention for this honor?