Monta Ellis: NBA’s Most Clutch Player?


Monta Ellis put on a dazzling display of clutch shooting down the stretch against the New Orleans Pelicans Wednesday night, scoring 13 straight points for the Mavericks in the final four and a half minutes.

He’s become Dallas’ go-to guy in crunch time, even with Dirk Nowitzki still on the roster, and after hitting back-to-back game winners against Chicago and Milwaukee last week the question bears asking: has Monta Ellis become the league’s most clutch player?

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There are differing opinions on the definition of “crunch time”. I define crunch time as the last two minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime, with the game within five points either way. Some might say that a five-point differential is too much, but as Reggie Miller and Tracy McGrady have shown us, a lot can happen in short periods of time.

So, let’s take a look at the stats.

In the final two minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime when the game is within five points Monta Ellis has made 12-20 (60%) of his shots from the field. In fact, Ellis has the most total points in the league, free throws included, within the parameters set above. Remarkable.

Dec 3, 2014; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Dallas Mavericks guard Monta Ellis (11) celebrates after making the game winning shot as time expired during the fourth quarter against the Milwaukee Bucks at BMO Harris Bradley Center. Dallas won 107-105. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

But how does it stack up against other “clutch” players around the league?

LeBron James has made a very respectable 50% of his shots in crunch time, going 6-12 from the field. But only one of those makes has come in the final 30 seconds of the game, while Ellis has made five. Ellis has him beaten in game-winners, as well.

Portland’s Damian Lillard was arguably the most deadly marksman with the game on the line last season, how does he compare to Ellis this year? Not very well, as it turns out. He has made only 33% of his attempts in crunch time, going 3-9 from the field.

Nov 6, 2014; Portland, OR, USA; Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard (0) drives to the basket on Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki (41) during the third quarter of the game at the Moda Center at the Rose Quarter. Mandatory Credit: Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

What about Kobe Bryant? Well, he’s been the worst of the bunch. Now, to be fair, with nobody else on his team being a real threat opposing defenses are able to pay a lot more attention to Kobe. But so far this season Bryant is an abysmal 8-26 in crunch time. 31%. It’s actually surprising that the Lakers have been in so many close games with their 6-16 record.

Carmelo Anthony is 10-22, James Harden 3-7. These are superstar players, folks, paid the big bucks to carry their teams and close out games. And Monta Ellis has outperformed them all.

All the evidence points to Ellis being the most clutch player in the league this season. Here’s hoping the western conference coaches have taken notice and get him on the all-star team roster this February. Lord knows he deserves it.