Jimmy Clutch Butler: Will clutch-shooting be enough to reach the playoffs?


Last season, Jimmy Butler was the seventh best clutch shooter in the league with the Chicago Bulls. His clutch-shooting is the serum the Minnesota Timberwolves need to reach the postseason, but will the Twolves need more than last-minute heroics to go deep in the playoffs?

Last year, Russell Westbrook, Isaiah Thomas, Damian Lillard, DeMarcus Cousins, John Wall, and Kemba Walker were the only players who bested Jimmy Butler in clutch-shooting.

In part, Tom Thibodeau’s decision to trade a stack of assets for Butler was driven by various leadership qualities he’d bring to the Minnesota Timberwolves including his ability to make clutch-shots.

As Pioneer Press beat reporter Jay Fredrick reported earlier this season, Minnesota is winning and not wilting in the end.

The Twolves were horrific in the final quarter last year and Butler is one of the big reasons for the Timberwolves turnaround this season.

On Wednesday night, Jimmy Clutch scored 12 of the Timberwolves 14 points in overtime (and assisted on the other two) to beat the Denver Nuggets 128 to 125. Butler scored a total of 39 points, dished out five assists (one to Crawford for the other two points scored in OT) while shooting 50 percent from the field and 50 percent from three-point range.

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Last season, the Chicago Bull’s finished the season in eighth place (41-41) in the Eastern Conference and lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Boston Celtics.

Butler’s ability to make clutch shots wasn’t the key to winning in the playoffs nor regarded important enough to keep him with the Bulls.

Boston Celtics’ guard Isaiah Thomas, the second best clutch shooter in the NBA, led his team to the Eastern Conference finals and lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Thomas’ clutch shooting wasn’t a persuasive enough quality to keep Danny Ainge from trading him.

Oklahoma City Thunder’s Westbrook was the 2016-17 NBA top-clutch-shooter and was voted league MVP. OKC finished sixth in the Western Conference and lost in five games (4-1) to the Houston Rockets in the first round of the playoffs. The dramatic clutch shots that secured Westbrook the MVP were not a key factor in playoffs.

James Harden was ranked tenth in clutch-shooting last year, and the Houston Rockets finished third in the Western Conference and lost to the San Antonio Spurs in six games in the semifinals.

Kawhi Leonard was 13th best clutch-shooter in the league last season, and the Golden State Warriors swept the Spurs in four games to win the Western Conference finals.

Stephen Curry was ranked twenty-ninth in clutch-shooting but went on the win the NBA Championship when the Warriors beat the Cavaliers 4-1 to win the NBA Championship.

LeBron James was ranked twentieth best clutch-shooting and his last-minute heroics wouldn’t be enough to beat the Warriors in finals.

Overall, the Warriors didn’t have a single top-ten clutch-shooter last season because they just didn’t need one. Kevin Durrant was ranked seventy-fifth and Klay Thompson was ranked ninety-second in clutch shooting in the league.

For the most part, the trend is obvious, playoff teams have the need for clutch-shooters while dynasty teams are less likely to need ballsy shots to win games throughout the season.

Next: Do the Timberwolves play too slow?

Jimmy Butler is ranked third in NBA in clutch-shooting this season which is welcome news.  His efforts have resulted in the Wolves turning final quarters into victories. Hopefully, they can also have large enough leads that Butler can enjoy a few victories while smiling from the bench.