NBA

Stephen Curry Is Even More Clutch Than You Think

Curry's legendary season keeps getting better, and he's coming through when the game is on the line.

Stephen Curry is the talk of the sports world right now because of something I'd like to call the shot heard 'round the world 2.0:


Yet that shot is but a symbol of Curry's ridiculous 2015-16 season.

The soon-to-be two-time MVP has been having a season for the ages, a historic season that no one saw coming and one in which we're not quite sure where it's going, or even where it will end.

One thing that's apparent though is that, even if he comes from a different world, Stephen Curry is the best basketball player on planet Earth.

History

Not surprisingly, in the language of advanced metrics Curry is having one of the best, most efficient seasons of all-time.

Since we started recording nERD (our in-house ranking that acts as an estimate of how many games above or below .500 a league-average team would be with that player as one of their starters) in 2000, Curry's score of 26.7 is the third-highest among all players. He comes in second only to LeBron James in his 2008-09 and 2012-13 MVP seasons.

In those two MVP campaigns, James earned Player Efficiency Ratings of 31.7 and 31.6, respectively. Those are eye-popping numbers but pale in comparison to Curry's league-leading and best ever (of qualifying players) PER of 32.9. 

In doing so, Curry's best friend has been, of course, the three-point shot. With one of the best shooting strokes the basketball world has ever seen Curry has not only been super efficient but he's also been doing so with record-breaking volume.

With his 32-foot game winner Saturday night, Curry tallied his 288th three-pointer on the season, breaking his own record of 286 set a year ago in his MVP season. He has 109 more makes than his teammate Klay Thompson, who's second in the league in three-point conversions, and 145 more three-point attempts than the next closest player, James Harden

In fact, Curry has taken 410 -- just 60 fewer Harden's total this season -- attempts alone from a foot or more past the three-point arc this season. As ridiculous as it sounds, he's shooting 46.3% on those shots. But what Curry did Saturday night was just flat out absurd!

Clutch Factor

After accounting for the many factors surrounding Curry's shot -- including but not limited to Curry's distance from the hoop -- MIT physicist Brian Skinner (with some help from Nylon Calculus) determined that the shot Curry took is expected to drop roughly 17% of the time.

Don't tell Chef Curry that though. He's shooting 63.6% (7 of 11) from 30 to 34 feet on the season -- trailing only DeAndre Jordan and his league-leading 69% from the field.

As great as that is, maybe Curry's masterful game-winner wasn't a matter of odds, percentage or distance -- rather it was one determined by the very ice in his veins.

With so many blowout victories over the last two seasons, it's been hard for us to gauge Curry's ability to hit clutch shots.

What the numbers are telling us now is that Curry is one the most clutch players in the NBA this season -- if not the clutchest.

The image above is Curry's shot chart in the last two minutes of games with a differential of five or fewer points. He's been lights out when it really matters -- especially from three-point range, where he's shooting a combined 8 of 12 from beyond the arc.

His historical shooting has put him in a tie with teammate Draymond Green for the highest plus-minus (+53) in those clutch situations. With 62 points, he's also third in those game situations behind two players with at least nine more opportunities to do so.

He's also money from the foul line with the game on the line, hitting 24 of 25 attempts in the clutch.

I'm not saying that his Thunder-killing game winner was just another day at the office, but I am saying that, nowadays, it really shouldn't come as a surprise.

After all, have we really seen anything Stephen Curry can't do?