How clutch is Wael Arakji?
BEIRUT (Lebanon) - Close game. Last minute. Who do you give the ball to for the win?
It's one of the oldest "What if" scenarios in the history of basketball fandom and for a good reason: it's super fun and everyone either wants to be that hero or wants their favorite player to be that hero.
In the Asia basketball scene over the past year, that guy has been Lebanon's Wael Arakji.
The optics support are pretty evident. We've witness Arakji's heroics throughout the recent Asia Cup where he almost singlehandedly will Lebanon to an upset on the Boomers and his clutch performances have continued to be on display in the Asian Qualifiers.
But does Lebanon's star guard actually perform better in tight situations? Or are we being biased by the emotions of the game (which is absolutely normal, by the way)?
Here, we take a dive into the numbers to see if Wael Arakji really is "clutch".
For the sake of this study, the Focused Games are Lebanon's games in which Arakji played in from the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 Asian Qualifiers and FIBA Asia Cup 2022 and only games that were decided by less than 20 points.
This leaves a total of 9 games, in which Arakji and Lebanon have won 7 and lost 2. In these games, when Arakji was on the floor, his team outscored the opponents by 1.7 points per game in the fourth quarter.
It doesn't seem like a lot, but this is just in the frame of the final quarter of the games that are considered which are usually battled down to the wire.
Just by taking a quick look at Arakji's overall statistics, you already know that the 1.93M (6'4") point guard is a superstar. Across all games in both the Asia Cup and Asian Qualifier, Arakji is averaging:
He's already one of the most efficient scorers in Asia as well, shooting 50.3 percent from the floor, 42.6 percent from beyond the arc, and 86.7 percent from the free-throw line. This alone should already be considered as elite numbers.
Taking it up a notch
But as we've seen, it seems as if Arakji plays even better or, at least, has even more impact on the game in late game situations, especially in the fourth quarter.
|4Q in Focused Games||34.2||4.0||6.0||3.0|
Statistics are presented as Per 40 Minutes
As the lead guard of the team, the 27-year-old has the ball in his hands a lot in the last quarter. This is good for Lebanon because, as stated above, Arakji is a highly efficient high-volume scorer that also does a really good job of distributing the ball. As seen in the table above, Arakji scores more and gets more assists in the last quarters of the game.
The knack for getting steals is a nice bonus, too.
Here's how he gets his points in the final quarters of the focused games compared to how he scores in general.
|FGA / minute||3PA / minute||FTA / minute|
|4Q in Focused Games||.440||.151||.226|
Arakji does not shoot many three-pointers, In contrast of how the modern game is being played. In fourth quarter situations, he will be a bit more willing to take those long range gutsy shots - more often than not making them as well.
Where Arakji is most dangerous is when he attacks the basket from the top of the key, especially when going to his trusted left side. From there, he has a deep bag of tricks which includes a wrap-around move, shifty spin moves, as well as a trusted floater.
Additionally, Arakji does a great job of drawing fouls just because of how fast and agile he is as well.
More than just his uptick in being more aggressive to score by himself, his efficiency also takes a leap. Even though his free-throw shooting takes a slight dip, his conversion rate from the field is just simply mind-boggling.
|4Q in Focused Games||65.7||66.7||58.3||83.3|
It's not only about the scoring in the clutch for Arakji either.
He can, will, and does find the open man especially when the defenders get more and more alert of Arakji's scoring with time running down. His teammates can spread out across the floor, especially beyond the arc as Arakji has connected on 6 of his 12 fourth quarter assists on three-pointers.
All in all, the numbers are pretty loud and clear.
Wael Arakji does take it up another level in the fourth quarter of games that are still relatively close. Of the 173 points scored in the last quarter of the 9 games that were focused on, Arakji either scored or assisted on more than half (56.1 percent) of those points while also being even more efficient than usual.
So if you're looking for someone in Asia basketball to give the ball to win a game, Wael Arakji seems like a pretty safe choice.