Anyone keeping up with the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague knows that the standings look insane – and the action of the floor has the intensity to match. With so many close games and so much parity, having players who can deliver in key moments is not just valuable at this point, it's the norm across the league.
The season's clutch scorers – so far
Some teams lean more heavily on certain players late in close games than others. The list above ranks the top 10 players in clutch points this season. The typical definition of clutch is being used here, so it covers possessions in the last 5 minutes of the fourth quarter and all overtimes when the score is within 5 points. Most teams have played around 200 possessions of clutch basketball to this point. Valencia leads the way with 301 possessions and FC Bayern Munich at the back of the pack with just 135 through last week's action. The modern record for clutch scoring of 87 points was set by Scottie Wilbekin during the 2020-21 season.
Clutch possessions tend to be a way less efficient than those in the first 35 minutes of EuroLeague games as free throws may be more plentiful but open shots are hard to come by. They're converted for around 0.95 points per possession which is good jumping off point into the list above. Dwayne Bacon's scoring prowess has been a bright spot for Panathinaikos Athens this season, but his clutch efficiency has been critical in several of their wins.
Bacon currently leads the EuroLeague in isolation scoring, and in that aspect, he is joined by every player in the top four on the list. While having a player who can go and create his own shot gives a team a pressure release late in games, hero ball has a complicated relationship with clutch play in the EuroLeague.
Nando De Colo is a good example of that as he's scored only 19 points in isolation situations all season, but 10 of them have been in the clutch. In contrast, Bacon has scored more than 5 points per game in isolation situations alone this year, but just 12 of his clutch points have resulted from isolations. The rest come from a blend of designed actions, pick-and-rolls, or quick reactions off the ball. There's a high level of gamesmanship in the way coaches approach late game situations. Do they sometimes opt to ride the hot hand? Sure, but they have a lot more cards to play and they are rarely so predictable.
Will Clyburn manning the third spot reflects the value of unpredictability. When thinking of Anadolu Efes Istanbul is recent seasons, one might assume Vasilije Micic would occupy this spot, and he did finish second in clutch scoring last season. But this season, Clyburn has scored twice as many clutch points as any of his Efes teammates so far. He joins Edgaras Ulanovas and Alpha Diallo as the lone forwards on this list.
EuroLeague veterans Chris Jones, Mike James, Luca Vildoza, Nemanja Nedovic, and Elie Okobo have made no shortage of big shots over the years, and there's value in that as coaches parse through their options. James is perhaps the best example of that. He's been in every spot on these leaderboards over the years, so even when he's not making shots, his reputation proceeds him, making him valuable as either an initiator or a decoy.
The current circumstances of the EuroLeague are pretty straightforward: the games are going to be close and the stakes are going to be high. With so many teams quickly acclimating to the pressure, how a team keeps up is irrelevant. It's only important that they do.