NBA / Jul 29, 2010 / 4:29 pm

The NBA’s 5 Most Clutch Free-Throw Shooters

Chauncey Billups (photo. Mannion)

NBA TV’s re-run of the Lakers/Suns Western Conference Finals series is playing in the Dime office right now, and we just watched Steve Nash knock down the game-icing free throws in Game Three. So of course that started an argument: Who would you want at the line to win (or seal) the game for your team?

When people talk about “clutch,” they’re usually referring to game-winning shots and buzzer-beaters. But one underrated part of being clutch is hitting free throws. Teams like the Lakers, Celtics, Spurs and Pistons have been successful recently because they had that one guy (or two) who can hold a lead late in the fourth quarter by knocking down shots at the line. As much as a buzzer-beating three hurts, nonstop dagger free throws to kill your comeback can hurt just as much. With that, here are my Top-5 clutch free throw shooters:

5. Chauncey Billups — Forget about the “Mr. Big Shot” nickname for a second and consider his 89.2 career free-throw percentage, and that he got a lot of reps shooting clutch free throws during his time with the Pistons.

4. Dirk Nowitzki — Amazing shooter with amazing touch. People like to call Dirk a choker and claim he’s not clutch, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. When the Mavs are trying to protect a lead late in the game, Dirk is ice-water at the line.

3. Kobe Bryant — He’s cold bolded. If the game is at stake, he WON’T miss. Five championship rings and two Finals MVP trophies can’t be wrong.

2. Steve Nash — Even with a broken nose, Nash still wouldn’t miss clutch free throws. For his career he’s shot 90.3 percent at the line in the regular season, and 89.9 percent in the playoffs.

1. Ray Allen — The most pure stroke in the game. Paul Pierce might be Boston’s go-to guy in crunch time, but watch when the C’s need to hold a lead and know the other team is going to foul: They’re 100 percent running an inbound play to get Ray the ball, and the defense knows it. He’s been known to go weeks without missing at the line.

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  • danocasa

    You guys gotta give a shoutout to the machine. Game 7 anyone?

  • Kevin

    what?! no Chuck Hayes love

  • Stunnaboy09

    Every legit team needs a closer at the line and every team has one except Orlando, funny thing is its cost them two series (Boston ad LA)

    How about a least clutch Free Throw shooters or the Nick Anderson All-Stars

    PG Rondo
    SG VC
    SF J-Smoove
    PF Howard
    C Biedrins (MVP)

    Honorable mention to Arenas, Shaq and Perkins

    Don’t know how people can make it in the NBA without a decent jumper or free throw shooting. Its the easiest thing to practice and no one is guarding you. Just shoot 200 a day and your bound to find one motion that works.

  • Lee

    I love Kobe, but late in games if he’s fouled on a 3 he’ll always make 2 out of 3 free throws, normally missing the second one. It’s like he switches off.

  • iannyb

    Hey man you gotta throw Shaq in there, that just wrong!!!

  • LakeShow84

    @ Stunnaboy

    I call the FT line “old faithful” lol crazy that some peoples cant hit those..

    Shit if i ever need a bucket in a game ill pull up, fadeaway shit ive even dropped floaters from the FT line.. and you got people like Rondo and VC who actually have a soft touch and cant make em..

    mind bottling i swear..

  • Heckler

    @ Stunnaboy09–

    Dont forget to include LeBron James and Tim Duncan. they are both sure to miss FTs if its the 4th quarter!

  • iannyb

    @stunnaboy09- easier said than done bro, if it were that way nobody would miss free throws. You think those guys like to be remembered for missing, their probably practise their butss off.

  • Heckler

    this list needs an honroable mention section:

    richard hamilton, luke ridnour, jj redick.
    also, in a few years, stephen curry will most def be on this list

  • Stunnaboy09

    @iannyb

    Tough call but when you shoot 16% from the line you damn sure are MVP. Also there is no but, I’ve seen 70 year old em knock down FT’s. NO ONE IS GUARDING YOU. You can go to your gym and just shoot em. Get a FT coach. SOMETHING. Shooting 16% is INEXCUSABLE.

    @Heckler

    LeBron is not that clutch in the 4th at least he makes em from 1-4 and you hardly see him going 0/2 at the line in big moments. Same with TD.

    @Lakeshow

    I understand VC is just not clutch and therefore explains why a 84% shooter blows two free throws. But Rondo is just a other story. I keep re-watching him go 3 for 3 with Durant and ask my myself WHY CAN’T HE DO THIS FOR BOSTON. He cost us a title with that shit man.

  • s.bucketz

    i was jus watchin the celts vs bulls game 1 and that was straight free throws in the last minutes of the game. Derrick Rose was clutch…you cant just have a list of clutch free throw shooters and stick a bunch of 90% free throw shooters there.

    p.s. im still kickin myself in the ass for missing the go-ahead free throw (made the tying one tho) against a school in paterson, nj. even though i dont even play in a league but i still practice free throws every time i go to shoot around

  • That’s What’s Up
  • sh!tfaced

    AKA The Nick Anderson Award

  • AZ

    Didn’t Ray miss and free throw or two in game 7, 4th quarter. Can’t remember if it was then, but pretty sure it was a close game.

  • eazy yeezy

    agreed- rose is VERY clutch.

    i know people are haters, but Mo Williams and Mike Bibby have hit some HUGE freethrows too.

  • karizmatic

    I don’t know….I’ve seen Kobe miss some clutch ones…he’s made a lot of them too, but I don’t always trust him at the line at the end of the game….same with Ray…he’ll go weeks without missing and then miss two in a must have game in the playoffs or something. They are definitely good bets but it just is my perception that they show their humanity at the line at the most inopportune times. I’d probably go with Chauncey or Nash.

    Also maybe Wade…he’s not the greatest freethrow shooter but he’s just a killer in the clutch…another guy is Melo he doesn’t miss a lot of clutch shots period. What about Rip Hamilton?

  • Juan

    Ginobili has to be there!!

  • AZ

    SASHA?

  • Dagger

    The players who miss big free throws are those who put themselves in a position to make them. Nobody is 100% from the line. This is a great list.

  • http://uoregon.edu sans

    Ray missed a lot of clutch free throws in this past years playoffs….

    and how about Lebron on the Nick Andersen team…he shoots great until the 4th quarter….

  • bobby stew

    Didn’t Ray miss some huge ft’s when it really mattered this season in the playoffs and/or the Finals?

  • ChrisPaultoOrlando

    I can’t beleive no one has mentioned Manu Ginobili! He ALWAYS has the ball in his hands at crunch time for SA because he does not miss in those moments. He is a good free throw shooter overall. But he becomes a great free throw shooter when it matters the most.

  • the scola

    gotta put my vote with ginobili. guys clutch

  • http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/703154723/the-soulchorea-project?pos=1 Kermit The Washington

    Billups and Kobe FTW. Seriously, if the game’s on the line they WILL NOT MISS that joint. That’s so sick. Mike was like that too

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=789808568 frankiewilde

    dirk? ..so i’m taking the author never heard of dirk’s 2 misses that would’ve given them a 3-0 lead in the finals, and an almost certain championship, yea?

  • jzsmoove

    uhmmm hello, kevin durant. although its really hard to argue about the top 5 you got at top.

  • Alex “Robocop” Murphy

    what about Jose Calderon?

    87 consecutive free throws made.

  • gr8

    Someone or the other so far seems to have a problem with everyone on that list except dirk nowitzki. That explains why Dirk is the best clutch shooter ever.

  • Soy

    None of Calderon’s EVER come in the clutch.

  • DH18

    Vujacic deserves some mention. Cold off the bench in Game 7 of the Finals, w/ the pressure of knowing “If I make both of these, we clinch the championship”…..and he did.

  • john

    i thought derek fisher woulda made it..cuz came when they needed him

  • john

    id consider kevin durant considering thats how he gets his points

  • Andy

    I love the NBA man. But i’m from Europe, and the difference in FT shooting in unbelieveable. In europe, if you’re a big, you can’t get playing time wothout making somewhere around 80-85% of FT.Same goes for everyone. I watch the NBA all the time, and sometimes i’m shocked at what poor mechanic most dudes have…I mean, i played some competitive ball over here. We had 5 practices and one game per week in high-school.Last play on the practice? Coach would split guys into 2 teams, line both at the FT line, one behind the other. The first guy would shoot a FT, then get at the end of the line. And none of the 2 teams would leave before both teams shot 50 in a row! You got to 45,some dude missed, start all over. And we all shot prety well as a result. It’s just practice man, simple practice!

  • Celts Fan

    @Rey – I gotta argue w/ you on Dirk. Yes, he’s made a lot of key shots throughout his career. Yes, what I’m about to say is kinda of unfortunate since it’s impossible to disprove until/unless they get back to the Finals, but dude missed 3 HUGE late game FTs over the course of the 06 Finals including the game he tried to pick a fight w/ an exercise bike on the way to the locker room. I know he’s made tons of key shots in the regular season and earlier playoffs, but he choked the few times he had a chance to be truly clutch and (probably) cement a title. That’s forgotten thanks to the unfair rules of those Finals (8-5 ain’t right) but that probably cost them a ring or at least a game of the Finals. Most other times he’s been reliable, but that’s like saying that most days OJ don’t kill people – it still doesn’t make him not a murderer. Well most times Dirk doesn’t miss that, but in multiple games – each one being the biggest game of his life to that point – he missed late-game FTs that may’ve swung the series. Doesn’t matter what he does in February, til he’s playing in June again, he can never, to me anyway, be on a list like this again. I won’t label him a huge choker, but he can’t be on any “most clutch” lists IMO.

  • pogz

    untrue……

  • 92021SpurMD

    I think you really messed up by not adding Ginobili on this list, guy never misses in crunch time. Could swear that Kobe and Ray’s misses all happen in the 4th…

  • got beef?

    Kobe? didn’t he miss two out of two vs. some bad team in the regular season, i mean usually he makes them, but sometimes he goes a little whack at the line

  • Ian

    so wait this is a personal list right?? not a real one?? manu is the best clutch free throw shooter in the league.

    bs list

    “All right, a lot of people would balk at the notion of Manu Ginobili as the NBA’s most clutch player. The facts though are he is very productive on offense (#6 in the league in points per minute during clutch stages), draws an incredible number of shooting fouls (#8 and the top perimeter player), knocks down the free throws (81%), creates his own shot (only 8% of his clutch FGM are assisted), holds his counterpart to sub-par performance (.342 eFG and only 1.9 Assists to 3.1 Turnovers), and while his +9 plus/minus doesn’t seem like much, the Spurs have actually been -21 when he’s off the court during crunch time, good for the #12 on/off or Clutch Roland Rating in the league. Did we mention that 60% of his crunch time shots are taken inside? Manu takes it to the hole! ”

    old yes hehehe but i still like it.

  • Ian

    btw some players miss clutch free throws shit happens but somehow u feel safe when they have the ball in their hands for a final play (kobe and td come to mind) others well you just pray (rondo and shaq)

  • matt

    I know that he hasn’t been doing this a long time, but how about KD (KEVIN DURANT)? I know that his is third/fourth year in the league, but the guy is like 91 percent free throw shooter and is like 6-10. Just crazy! Reminds of Larry Bird, but far more athletic.

  • Patrick

    I wouldn’t be surprised to see J.J. Redick on this list in the future.