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Question of the day: Which NBA player would you want to take the last shot to win?

  photo: Kobe Bryant shoots over Emeka Okafor. Credit: Mark Terrill / Associated Press.

Writers from around the Tribune Co. weigh in on the topic. Check back throughout the day for more responses and feel free to leave a comment of your own.

Ron Fritz, Baltimore Sun

Automatically, I was going to say Kobe Bryant of the Lakers, but everyone knows he takes the last shot and defends him to do so. Selfishly, being from Cleveland, I’d say LeBron James of the Heat, so I could watch him miss it. But that’s not very sporting of me. The one player who is money and I’d want to have the ball at the end is Ray Allen of the Celtics.

It’s not because he buried the Knicks on Sunday by hitting a three-pointer with 12 seconds left. He simply always gets good looks, he’s not afraid to take it and teams have to also defend Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo and Kevin Garnett. When the game is on the line, Allen usually makes it. According to ESPN.com, Allen has made an NBA-leading seven go-ahead 3-pointers in the final 24 seconds of the fourth quarter or overtime since the start of the 2007 season.

So it’s Ray Allen for the win.

[Updated at 8:29 a.m.

Paul Doyle, Hartford Courant

Photo: Ray Allen. Credit: Elsa / Getty Images. When Sports Illustrated surveyed 190 NBA players two years ago, it was a landslide: 76 percent said they would want Kobe Bryant taking the last shot.

No wonder Bryant is commonly called the league's best closer. If people (fans, media, players) say it enough, it becomes reality. Statistics, though, say otherwise. Whether it's game-winning shots or crunch-time shooting percentage, Kobe is not the NBA's best.

So let's open the debate. It's tempting to give the ball to a young gun such as Derrick Rose, Chris Paul or Kevin Durant. but we'll wait until they win a ring before crowning any as Mr. Clutch.

Elite scorers such as Bryant, LeBron James, Paul Pierce, Carmelo Anthony or Dwyane Wade all deserve consideration, but our choice is the best long-range shooter in NBA history. And that's why we'll go with the Celtics’ Ray Allen, who has shown an ability to create his shot and bury a jumper no matter the circumstances. The guy is fearless and cool and, unlike LeBron, seems to want the ball for the final shot.

Plus he's teamed with a clutch shooter in Pierce, along with other offensive options (Rajon Rondo, Kevin Garnett). Defenses will contest Pierce and keep an eye on Rondo and Garnett, allowing Allen to get an open look. And we've learned that Allen rarely misses an open jumper.]

[Updated at 10:35 a.m.

K.C. Johnson, Chicago Tribune

Derrick Rose has taken over for Kobe Bryant as the game's best closer, but that still doesn't mean he's the NBA player I'd most want taking the last shot. That honor still belongs to the owner of the prettiest jumper in the league and all-time leading 3-point shooter, Celtics' All-Star Ray Allen. And it didn't take his game-winning 3-pointer to down the Knicks in Game 1 of their series to seal the deal. Allen has been knocking down clutch shots since Rose was in grammar school. Like any clutch shooter, Allen can still deliver at crunch time even if his jumper has been MIA throughout the game. His memory is as short as his stroke is street. He's also a physical marvel, working hard in the offseason to maintain his conditioning for late-game moments. As pretty as his shot is, his legs are what drives it. And his ability to run defenders off screen after screen is why he's had so many opportunities to deliver. Sunday's game-winner won't be his last, probably not even during this postseason run. Rose's time will come. But Allen is still the man for now.] 

Barry Stavro, Los Angeles Times

Kobe Bryant has slowed a bit, lost some elevation and relies more on his strength, spins and fall-aways to get off his shots. Ray Allen remains unmatched in catch-and-shoot moments, but when he has to start a play from scratch the results aren’t as good. LeBron James is a pure runaway freight train on a fast-break, but his post-up game isn’t highlight material.

So who gets the rock? Dwyane Wade. He dunks better than any guard in the league, is used to shooting with two or three guys hanging on him, has the most dangerous crossover move in the league, can draw fouls and can hit free-throws. Give him the ball—and clear out.

  

Top photo: Kobe Bryant shoots over Emeka Okafor. Credit: Mark Terrill / Associated Press. Bottom photo: Ray Allen. Credit: Elsa / Getty Images.

 
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