Is Kobe Bryant shooting the Lakers out of games?
According to Chris Broussard of ESPN.com, the root of the Lakers’ problems stems from Kobe Bryant.
While there’s no denying that Bryant is extremely productive this season, Broussard argues that the Lakers’ All-Star guard is taking too many shots a game, in turn taking away from Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol.
Broussard notes, “The Lakers (12-14) are just 4-11 when Bryant takes 20 or more shots in a game. Yet, they are 8-3 when he shoots less than 20 times.”
Looking to recent seasons, Broussard finds a similar trend, pointing to a higher winning percentage when Bryant stays under the 20-shot mark.
He also cites other NBA sources including a general manager, an assistant coach and two scouts who agree to varying degrees.
They’re not entirely wrong. Bryant has historically done too much at times, shooting the Lakers in and sometimes out of games. He did that as a young man with Shaquille O’Neal and as a veteran with Gasol, winning championships with both (and Coach Phil Jackson).
He’s flawed like any player, but ring count (five) suggests what Bryant is works.
The Lakers guard is actually shooting fewer shot attempts per game (20.7) this year than he did last season (23). The Lakers won titles in 2009 and 2010 when Bryant took 20.9 and 21.5 shots per game, respectively.
While Howard’s shot attempts per game are down to 11.2 a night, he averaged 12.4 in 2009 when he led the Orlando Magic to the NBA Finals. His shot attempts are down but is that directly tied to Bryant?
The Lakers have numerous problems this season, mostly stemming from the injuries to Steve Nash, Gasol and Steve Blake. The team has been a league leader in turnovers while simultaneously shooting the worst free-throw percentage.
A greater balance will be reached with a steady point guard like Nash running the show, taking the ball out of the hands of third- and fourth-string guards Chris Duhon and Darius Morris.
Bryant has said he looks forward to vacating the position of offensive initiator, instead focusing on finishing while Nash sets the table.
Will Bryant shoot the Lakers out of games again? Sure. Will he also save them along the way with necessary scoring jags? Yes he will.
For the team to play defense and for an overall reduction in turnovers across the roster, the Lakers need balance in who takes the shots as much as they need Howard to make his free throws.
Grantland’s Kirk Goldsberry had an interesting take on Bryant’s shooting efficiency, coining “The Kobe Assist.” His argument is that in Bryant’s choice of shot attempts, the ones that miss lead to a disproportionately high number of offensive rebounds (that often lead to put-backs).
Obviously, the Lakers’ record is a problem this season. Broussard’s original point certainly has merit but going simply by the number of shot attempts Bryant takes nightly as the key metric in wins and losses is painting with too broad of a brushstroke.
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