A Look at Which Orlando Magic Player is the Most Effective in Crunch Time

This past Friday, inspired by a post written by Henry Abbott of TrueHoop, I asked the community to vote on who it thought was the Orlando Magic's most effective player with the game on the line. The premise behind the question was to see whether or not the statistics agree or disagree with what the popular opinion was. In this case, the people's choice was Vince Carter.

 

Is Carter the most effective player for the Magic with the game on the line?

 

Rather than giving the answer right away and ruining all the fun, I wanted to explain and show which numbers I looked at when it came to figuring out which Magic player performs the best in crunch time. Since 82games.com is still in the process of compiling and revealing sortable "clutch" (defined as the 4th quarter or overtime, less than 5 minutes left, neither team ahead by more than 5 points) stats for the 2009-2010 season on its site, I decided to take a look at the data from last year. Here's what the statistics show (per 48 minutes):

 

Player A Player B
FGA 15.0 24.5
FG% 51.1% 50.0%
3PA 7.7 8.6
3P% 43.5% 50.0%
FTA 11.0 6.4
FT% 84.0% 85.0%

 

Very close, but Player B is slightly better. The difference is the three-point shooting.

 

I also compiled information from the 2008-2009 season, courtesy of Synergy Sports Technology, to see how these two particular players performed in situations that can coincide with end-game scenarios. Here's what the statistics show:

 

Player A

%Time Points Per Possession Rank Rating
Short Shot Clock < 4 Seconds 5% 0.77 43% Average
Out of Bounds (Side) 10% 0.88 54% Good
Out of Bounds (End) 4% 0.84 48% Average
After Time Outs 15% 0.92 65% Very Good

 

Player B

%Time Points Per Possession Rank Rating
Short Shot Clock < 4 Seconds 6% 0.76 42% Average
Out of Bounds (Side) 12% 0.88 55% Good
Out of Bounds (End) 3% 0.98 69% Very Good
After Time Outs 19% 1.02 85% Excellent

 

In this specific instance, there's a clear divide between the two players and that's most notably in the 'After Time Outs' category. One is more efficient than the other.

 

So, who is Player A and Player B?

 

Click after the jump to see the results.

 

Rashard Lewis Vince Carter
FGA 15.0 24.5
FG% 51.1% 50.0%
3PA 7.7 7.2
3P% 43.5% 50.0%

 

Rashard Lewis

%Time Points Per Possession Rank Rating
Short Shot Clock < 4 Seconds 5% 0.77 43% Average
Out of Bounds (Side) 10% 0.88 54% Good
Out of Bounds (End) 4% 0.84 48% Average
After Time Outs 15% 0.92 65% Very Good

 

Vince Carter

%Time Points Per Possession Rank Rating
Short Shot Clock < 4 Seconds 6% 0.76 42% Average
Out of Bounds (Side) 12% 0.88 55% Good
Out of Bounds (End) 3% 0.98 69% Very Good
After Time Outs 19% 1.02 85% Excellent

 

Vince Carter is, unsurprisingly, the Orlando Magic's best crunch time performer in the regular season but Rashard Lewis is a close second in the pecking order. I italicized and noted 'regular season' because if the postseason is added to the discussion, there are not many players in the NBA that are more clutch than Lewis. Look no further than last year's playoffs as proof at the type of damage the cold-blooded Lewis can inflict on opponents when the basketball is in his hands. Granted, unlike Lewis, Carter hasn't had many opportunities these past few years to be clutch in those types of situations during the postseason. Vince's New Jersey Nets failed to make the playoffs in each of the last two seasons.

 

But before this write-up concludes, let's breakdown why Carter and Lewis are the two best options for the Magic when the game is on the line.

 

For Carter, as head coach Stan Van Gundy has told me before, it's his ability to create a quality shot no matter what the defense throws at him. Also, the entire playbook is available with Vince - the Magic can run an isolation for him, a pick & roll, a post-up, etc. There's no play-type or shot unavailable in Carter's arsenal and as such, these are some of the reasons why he has been the go-to guy for Orlando in close games, for instance on November 25th against the Miami Heat, when he hit a three-pointer to break a 95-all tie with 14 seconds remaining. Orlando went on to lose the game due to successive put-backs by Udonis Haslem and Michael Beasley, which sandwiched two rare misses at the foul line from Jason Williams, who could have iced the game for the Magic.

 

For Lewis, the options are limited. He can't consistently create his own shot, so he needs to rely on his teammates sometimes to help him get an open look (like a Dwight Howard screen, for example). But if the Magic want a guy to spot-up - especially behind the three-point line - they can't go wrong with Lewis. 

 

When it comes to crunch time performers, Orlando has a few of them on the roster. Whether it's Carter or Lewis, the Magic have options. The OPP community was right to select Carter as Orlando's best crunch-time option.

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