If Sixers fans weren’t already familiar with Jimmy Butler, he made it clear very early in his tenure with the team that he loved having the ball in hands with the game in the balance. He nailed nearly identical stepback game-winning three-pointers on Nov. 17, 2018 against the Hornets and Nov. 25 against the Nets. Two game-winners within his first seven games as a Sixer.
Butler’s undeniably clutch, as he’s continued to prove with the Heat, and the stats back it up.
NBC Sports NBA Insider Tom Haberstroh highlights Clutch Win Probability Added (CWPA) in his latest piece. It's a metric that quantifies the “amount of win probability a player adds above or below a ‘normal’ play.” The stat looks at field goal attempts, free throw attempts and turnovers in clutch situations. Haberstroh reviewed the data for all active players with at least 250 games played, prorated the numbers to 82 games and found, not surprisingly, that Butler has consistently rated well in CWPA. He comes in at No. 3 behind LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
“Heading into this season, he was the only player to rank in the top 10 in clutch WPA in each of the previous five seasons,” Haberstroh writes. “After an uncharacteristically off regular season, Butler is showing once again why he’s a killer in big moments.”
No Sixers are within the top 10 but the team did manage a 26-18 record in “clutch” situations, which NBA.com defines as the last five minutes of a game with a differential of five points or less. Tobias Harris shot 41.1 percent from the floor this year in the clutch, 26.3 percent from three-point range. Joel Embiid was an efficient 53.2 percent on clutch field goals and 87.5 percent on free throws, though he had 12 turnovers compared to eight assists. Furkan Korkmaz sunk a buzzer-beater to stun the Blazers on Nov. 2 but was used sparingly in the clutch because of his vulnerability on defense, playing just 30 minutes.
Ben Simmons only attempted 16 clutch field goals in 100 minutes. He was effective in other ways, however, swiping nine steals and making 10 of 13 free throws. The Sixers were plus-32 in the clutch with Simmons on the floor this year.
A potential Sixers trade target does rank among the league’s best in CWPA: Chris Paul. The 35-year-old point guard comes in at No. 7.
“Over his career, Paul has scored 27.8 points per 36 minutes in clutch situations,” Haberstroh writes, “which is higher than (Kevin) Durant, Damian Lillard and Dwyane Wade. And that’s not even his biggest strength.”
Paul’s knack for thriving in clutch moments shouldn’t necessarily be the decisive factor in whether the Sixers ought to pursue him this offseason, but it’s at least worth noting. Clutch play was not the Sixers’ biggest problem this past season but the team did lack a player like Butler or Paul who, when the game was tight, could find his own shot and very often drain it.