Who’s NBA Clutch Player of the Year So Far? Why Shai Gilgeous-Alexander should be the top contender for the Jerry West Trophy

The NBA announced Tuesday that it will be naming some of the league’s most iconic trophies after all-time greats.

The most valuable player wins the Michael Jordan Trophy. Defensive Player of the Year wins the Hakeem Olajuwon Trophy. And there will be a new award: the Jerry West Trophy for Clutch Player of the Year.

West was nicknamed “Mr. Clutch” for his history of making big plays, including a 60-foot buzzer beater to tie Game 3 of the 1970 NBA Finals. There are many players this season who deserve this honor. But how should we decide?


Using a model to vote for Clutch Player of the Year

Mike Beuoy has already created a clutch metric on its website Inpredictable. Its Clutch Win Probability Added (clWPA) metric measures how many more wins a player has added to their team due to their play in clutch situations.

On that metric, DeMar DeRozan lapped the field last year. That passes the sniff test, as DeRozan hit several insane buzzer-beaters and earned the nickname “King of the Fourth” for leading the league in last-frame points.

Here are the previous leaders in Beuoys clWPA this season:

  1. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2.09)
  2. Jerami Grant (1.63)
  3. Anfernee Simons (1.44)
  4. DeMar DeRozan (1.44)
  5. Kevin Durant (1.42)
  6. Zion Williamson (1.38)
  7. Stephen Curry (1.36)
  8. Giannis Antetokounmpo (1.19)
  9. Bam Adebayo (1.18)
  10. Kelly Olynyk (1.16)

Gilgeous-Alexander has a healthy lead, and it makes sense. He’s hit some big shots this season, including a clutch 3 pointer to beat the Wizards.

Using the NBA’s Clutch stats to vote for Clutch Player of the Year

The NBA provides a clutch filter on their stats page. According to the league, a clutch time occurs when the goal margin is within five points in the last five minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime.

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Here are the top scorers in the clutch based on the NBA definition of that period:

player Points FG% 3PT% FT%
DeMar DeRozan 61 44.2% 0.0% 92.0%
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander 60 41.0% 33.3% 92.6%
Luke Doncic 57 45.8% 15.8% 71.4%
Donovan Mitchell 55 44.2% 29.4% 92.3%
Jimmy Butler 55 58.3% 0.0% 76.5%

DeRozan is another great option for this award and would have won it had it existed last year. He would have had to win a game for the Bulls against the Hawks at the free-throw line recently had it not been for an absurd shot by AJ Griffin (more on Griffin later).

MORE: Doncic praises Gilgeous-Alexander after Mavericks win

Using game winners to vote for Clutch Player of the Year

The NBA’s clutch stats filter goes a little too far for my liking. A more conventional definition of clutch is baskets made in a one-possession game with the shot clock off.

Grant is a big contender. He’s hit two game winning Buckets in the closing seconds.

Butler also deserves attention. He’s hit game-winning shots against them Celts and warrior this season. But no clutch play was more fun to watch than his defense against Devin Booker in the Heat’s Nov. 14 win over the Suns.

For sheer flashiness and excitement, no one can top Griffin’s two winners.

Ultimately, my vote would go to Gilgeous-Alexander. He’s second in terms of clutch points scored, that’s him was the second most popular clutch free throw shooter behind Simons and he leads the Inpredictable model by a wide margin.

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Admittedly, it’s difficult to call Gilgeous-Alexander the best clutch player in the league when the Thunder are only 11-16 this season, but without his heroics they would be the worst team in the league. He had an incredible season and got even better by gaining time.

And the namesake of the prize ended up on the losing side in eight of its nine series of finals. Sometimes a clutch player can only do so much.

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