NBA Execs Name 6 Clutch Players Ahead Suns’ Chris Paul in Latest Poll

Phoenix Suns, Chris Paul. (Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images)
Phoenix Suns, Chris Paul. (Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images) /

Every fan standing and cheering, seconds trickling off the game clock, while adrenaline and fatigue both begin to peak—it’s moments like these where Phoenix Suns point guard Chris Paul digs into his bag of ticks and plays his best basketball.

When subjected to one of these “clutch” scenarios, where a team finds itself either ahead or down by five points with less than five minutes to play, everyone who watches the Suns knows the lethal assassin which Paul turns into.

By dishing out crowd-silencing passes that lead to easy buckets, and burying daggers into his opponents’ hearts with midrange pull-ups, the Point God blesses his subjects with near-flawless play whenever the stakes grow highest.

Averaging 1.1 assists per game in clutch situations, no NBA player has a better mark than that. With Paul also averaging 2.8 points per game in the clutch, while shooting it at a 56.4 percent clip, the only players to score that much at that high a rate include Klay Thompson, and his own teammate in Devin Booker.

With this scoring efficiency and willingness to help out his teammates, Paul owns the league’s highest plus/minus in the clutch at +4. Having also scored a total 287 points in the entire fourth quarter this year, Stephen Curry and Trae Young represent the only two point guards with higher tallies in that regard than CP3.

But even with all these attributes building Paul up as a top tier clutch performer, NBA executives seem to think otherwise.

Explained in a HoopsHype article written by Michael Scotto earlier today, 21 league executives were asked to name their top five “clutch” players in the league right now. With their answers pooled together, Paul was not only left outside the top five, but dropped down to number seven.

Starting with the players receiving the most votes, the poll results placed Kevin Durant, DeMar DeRozan, Stephen Curry, Damian Lillard, LeBron James, and Luka Doncic ahead of Paul.

Durant’s place atop this list feels like a tough one to argue against, with him averaging 3.9 points per game in the clutch and with a history of hitting dagger shots that runs longer than Paul’s despite his younger age.

As for DeRozan, he too deserves a place amongst the top. While averaging 4.0 points per game in the clutch and shooting 52.9 percent from the field, you always want him on the floor to close out games. His back-to-back buzzer beating shots from a few weeks ago are difficult to cast aside as well.

But from that point on, some disrespect starts to settle in for CP3. While every player on this list remains a fearless, stone cold killer in their own right, when push comes to shove, Paul needs to jump up a few pegs.

Averaging 2.7 points per game, while shooting 32.4 percent from the field and 18.9 percent from three, no major stat in the clutch has Curry above Paul this year. The baby faced assassin does have one buzzer-beater over Paul this year, but that cannot outweigh everything else.

The votes for Lillard must be based solely on last year, with him not only averaging fewer points and shooting worse from the field/three than Paul in 2021-22, but also potentially out for the rest of this season as he recovers from his abdominal surgery.

With several game-winning shots in both the regular season and playoffs already under Lillard’s belt, one could have put Lillard atop this list to start the season without much resistance. But with Paul making all the big plays now and Lillard coming to games in street clothes, you need to lean in favor of the Point God.

King James is a different story. Averaging 3.7 points per game in the clutch—almost an entire point better than Paul, and as the best defender on this list, James’s place above Paul feels a bit more fortified. However, his team’s inability to pull out wins this year with him as their leader somewhat cancels that out though, leaving this one as something of a toss-up depending on how much you value team success.

But as for Doncic, voters seemed to focus strictly on his buzzer-beaters rather than his overall play in the clutch this year, much like with Lillard and Curry. Although he did hit an incredible game-winner against the Boston Celtics earlier this season, Doncic averages fewer points per game in the clutch than Paul, and also shoots it worse from both three and the field.

With “clutch” play still as one of the more subjective things we judge, rankings and comparisons will always incite argument and debate.

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But no matter who you shuffle around, Paul surely deserves a spot higher than seventh on this list. You could also say the same about Devin Booker, who finds himself tied 10th place with Kyrie Irving.