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How reliable is JJ Redick under pressure?

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JJ Redick’s importance to the Sixers can not be overstated. But is he coming up short in big moments?

Miami Heat v Philadelphia 76ers - Game One Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

When the Sixers signed him to a one-year deal on July 1, 2017, I did a deep-dive on all things JJ Redick. From his stats, to his best and worst games, I found a lot of what you’d expect: consistently great shooting, intriguing offensive versatility, shaky defense, and everything else we all now know about JJ.

But there was one set of numbers that caught my eye. In his two previous regular seasons, Redick had shot a remarkable 45.1 percent from three-point range, a startling high clip considering the volume at which he attempts threes. But then in the playoffs of those two seasons, he only made 35.1 percent of his triples, a staggering 10 percent decrease. While many players will suffer shooting drop-offs in the playoffs as internal pressure and intensity rapidly increase, this was an enormous decline from regular season to postseason. I took a mental note of this, but for the most part shrugged it off as a fluke.

As last season began, Redick proved why he was such a well-respected player, providing a lot of value to a Sixers offense that was desperate for the shooting he gave. But there was one odd trend with Redick: he seemed to never make the big momentum-shifting shot that really altered the course of a game down the stretch. According to NBA.com, with less than five minutes left in the game and either team leading by five or less, Redick shot a putrid 3-17 from beyond the arc, good for a three-point percentage of 17.6. For reference, Redick made 42 percent of his triples overall last season.

Then the playoffs came, and guess what? Redick underperformed. After his great shooting season where he made 42 percent of his threes, that percentage dropped all the way down to just 34.7 percent in the playoffs. Aside from a couple standout performances, Redick was a major letdown in the postseason for the Sixers.

This got me thinking: if we only looked at Redick’s numbers from the most important games of his Sixers tenure, what would they look like?

So, I manually selected 28 games since last season began that I considered to be the ones where the most pressure was on Redick, then counted up his shooting numbers in those games.

The 28 games are made up of every playoff game, every game against the defending champion Golden State Warriors, LeBron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers, and the rival Boston Celtics (including Tuesday night’s season opener). I also included the Sixers’ road game against the Clippers last season, where Redick was facing his old team for the first time. All other games were ones that were nationally televised.

Before we get to the results, let me say this: JJ Redick is a tremendous offensive player whose greatest skill, shooting, surpasses the strongest skill of almost any other NBA player. He has provided invaluable contributions to a Sixers offense that was in dire need of a shot-maker like him. This exercise is not intended to paint him as anything other than a good player who has simply not always been himself in big games.

JJ Redick in “big games” vs. JJ Redick overall in 2017-18

So as you can see, Redick certainly did not shy away from taking shots in big games, as his field goal attempts and three-point attempts went up. But his efficiency took a huge drop. The most important row is the last one - in the biggest games, Redick has gone from a historically efficient shooter to just a decent one. And that’s going to be a problem for Philadelphia if this tendency persists, as the Sixers don’t have any ball handlers who can pull up for a three off the dribble. This means they will need Redick’s level of reliability to never fade, especially not in the most important games of the year. Otherwise, their offense could suffer some severe pains going forward, unless everyone else on the team makes considerable leaps.

Whether this truly proves that pressure gets to Redick’s head, or if it’s actually just a mixture of bad luck and coincidence, we may never know. And it’s likely a combination of both. One thing is for sure: as long as the Sixers are as reliant on JJ Redick for offensive production as they are right now, there will be good reason to be nervous when the games of most importance are on the docket.