You Can’t Win in the NBA With a Volume Shooter? History Says You’re Wrong

Kobe shooting

Chris Broussard of ESPN wrote a piece today explaining how Kobe Bryant’s offensive performance this season is hurting the Los Angeles Lakers more than it is helping them. He even provides statistical analysis and opinions of reputable people in the NBA that back his position.

My position has always been that having a prolific scorer on a team is essential in that team’s quest for a championship. Prolific scorers are sparse throughout the league. In today’s game there are only 4 that I would qualify as being elite and unstoppable offensive weapons: Kobe, Durant, Lebron and Carmelo. That’s it. We have others that are great scorers but not in this elite class.

Sure, team ball is great when you don’t have that 1 player that can dominate the game offensively like the aforementioned elite, but, if you do, don’t bail the other team out and start whipping the ball around like a scene from the 1986 film Hoosiers who had guys on the team named Opal, Cletus and Rooster. Put the ball in the hands of your best player and let the other guys fills roles around the dominant scorer.

Recent history says that Broussard and those that have his same opinion are wrong. Completely wrong.

Here are Kobe’s current field goal attempt average per game and usage %*:

20.7 Field Goal Attempts Per Game

32.6 Usage % *

If you listen to Broussard and co., this is hurting the Lakers. They don’t focus on the defense, just Kobe’s offensive output.

Here is a list of recent NBA championship teams with players that have averaged 20 or more shots per game. We have included the usage percentage as well and other years where players on championship teams were pretty close to the 20 field goal attempts per game mark.

 FGA last 20 champs graphic

 As you can see by the last 22 years, MOST championship teams have had a player that dominated the shot output either more or close to what you see Kobe doing this year. Here are some more exact observations of this data.

  •  The last 22 championship teams 13 of them had a player average 20 or more field goal attempts per game in the regular season.
  •  Of the last 22 championship teams, 16 of them had a player average 20 or more field goal attempts per game in the playoffs.
  • The 5 highest averages of field goal attempts per game in the playoffs for a player on a championship team since 1991 (22 years): 
  1. Michael Jordan 27.8 FGA per game – 1993
  2. Michael Jordan 26.4 FGA per game – 1992
  3. Hakeem Olajuwon 26.2 FGA per game – 1995
  4. Michael Jordan 26.2 FGA per game – 1997
  5. Michael Jordan 25.0 FGA per game – 1998
  •  Lebron who is known as a “team” player averaged more shots per game in the playoffs last year than what Kobe is averaging this season.
  • How soon we forget just how much of a ball hog Michael Jordan was in his day. Kobe has yet to reach the level of Micheal Jordan in terms of average shot attempts per game in a championship year.
  • I highlighted the Lakers’ 2 championships from 2001 & 2002 because not only did they have 1 guy jacking up 20+ shots, they had 2! Whouldn’t that create double the effect that Broussard claim is occuring with the Lakers now?

History proves that if you don’t have a guy on your team that has the ability to take 20+ shots and dominate the game offensively, you likely don’t have a real shot at the NBA title. Sure there are instances of teams that share the ball well and win without that 1 guy that can put up 40 points on call, but by and large, you need a guy like Kobe with the ability and propensity to light it up.

– Fern Rea “@fullcourtfern”

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  • http://espn.go.com/los-angeles/nba/story/_/id/8884925/los-angeles-lakers-coach-mike-dantoni-says-kobe-bryant-assists-looked-sacrificing
    Did you even read the article? Maybe having a prolific shooter worked, or was a coincidence, for those teams you list. However, this is a different team. Look at the Lakers’ record THIS year when Kobe scores more than 20 and when he scores less than 20. Moreover, last night Kobe had 14 points and 14 assists, and the Lakers crushed the Jazz. Did you read the quote by KOBE himself? Here’s the conversation: “You should pass more often bro.” Bryant replied, “u know what? In this situation, I think u r 100 % right.”

    • Coincidence? 16 of the last 22 NBA champions is coincidence? That is cold hard empirical evidence. The theory of needing a prolific scorer/high volume shooter to win a championship is confirmed based on the information I provided.

      You want to point out 1 game of Kobe being a facilitator vs. 22 years of NBA history plus 17 years of Kobe’s career of high volume/prolific scorer, and say that 1 game is proof of what works? Come mon man!.

      It was one game where the guys that actually got the pass from Kobe were actually hitting their shots, the Lakers got up and Kobe never needed to begin getting aggressive offensively. If the other guys weren’t hitting their shots, like many times this year when Kobe tried to get guys involved, and the Lakers started to fall behind, Kobe would have starting launching up those shots.

      You’re saying that the Lakers are better when Kobe scores 20 points or less? You have an incredible offense weapon and you want to relegate him to a role player? You’d be doing the other team a favor. Kobe has only scored less than 20 points 5 times this season and the Lakers are 4-1, in all of those 4 wins, the Lakers got up by a big lead and were never threatened, so again, Kobe never needed to turn up the offensive shot output.

      In the Lakers longest winning streak of the season, 5 games, Kobe scored 30 or more points in each of those games. In one of those games, the very impressive win against the Warriors in Oakland, Kobe shot 41 times.