The Lakers struggles this season has brought about many different theories as to the reason. Not surprisingly, but still disappointing, many have pointed their finger once again in the direction of Kobe Bryant.
Forget that he is a 5 time NBA champion playing the same why he has played today as he did on those championship teams. Doesn’t matter, his field goal attempts and scoring output are the focus of many.
They tie Kobe’s point totals and shot attempts to wins and losses.
When Kobe scores 30 or more the Lakers are 1-10.
When Kobe scores 29 or less the Lakers are 8-3.
They tie Kobe’s field goal attempts to wins and losses.
In games where Kobe shoots 20 or more times the Lakers are 1-10.
In games where Kobe shoots 19 or less the Lakers are 8-3.
The problem with only showing these numbers is that it doesn’t tell the story of what is occurring within these games.
The reason Kobe’s shot total and scoring output goes up during certain games is because Kobe is reacting to the play and flow of the game. When the Lakers struggle, either offensively, defensively, or both, Kobe reacts by becoming more aggressive offensively. It is this that invokes Kobe’s scoring output, not Kobe shooting the Lakers out of the game as many would want you to believe.
Here are some stats that support my case. Take a look at the average point differential in Lakers wins and the difference in their losses:
Point differential in Lakers wins (9 games): +17.2
Point differential in Lakers losses (13 games): -7
What this shows is when the Lakers have won this year, it’s been usually by a very large margin. In those cases, either the defense was doing the job and/or their offense was flowing. In those cases Kobe had no need to turn on his aggressive mode because the games were never in doubt. Conversely, in losses the games were tighter or the Lakers were being blown out and at that point is when Kobe began, or in the case if he was aggressive early continued, his aggressive scoring mode.
Here is another state to cement my point:
Point differential when Kobe scores 30+ points: -5.5
Point differential when Kobe scores 29 or less points: +11.4
Again, you see that when Kobe scores more it is because he is reacting to the Lakers falling behind and needing his scoring output, usually because they are struggling defensively. In games where the Lakers are coasting there is no need for Kobe to become aggressive offensively.
I compare this to a Quarterback in football and his passing yards in game. If Quarterback’s team is ahead most of the game his passing stats will be low because he doesn’t need to be aggressive and will opt to run the ball more to the kill clock. However, if his team is behind he will fling that ball all over the field in order to get his team back in the game by scoring quickly.
It is the same here with Kobe; when the defense is giving up point after point, Lakers fall behind and their offense cant keep up (no offense can the way that the Lakers have been giving up points this season) Kobe gets into his aggressive mode. Nobody else on this team can score quickly and get the team back into games other than Kobe.
A second point to counter the criticism of Kobe and his shot and scoring output is that there are other players in the league right now that play and produce similarly to Kobe but their teams are not being impacted by their high shot total or scoring output in the same way that it supposedly has on the Lakers.
Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony and Kobe Bryant all play on the offensive end similarly.
They score from the same area, take about the same amount of shots and score at about the same level of efficiency.
Yet here are the teams records:
OKC 18-4, .818 winning %
NY 16-5, .762 winning %
Lakers 9-13, ..409 winning %
Here is a comparison of the 3 players:
As you can see the stats isn’t that much difference in the 3 players in terms of shot attempts, efficiency and production. They also play very similarly on court.
Yet, the records don’t correlate to the teams’ performance. Lakers are far worse record wise than both the Knicks and Thunder. Why? If Kobe’s style is hurting the Lakers, why is that same style not hurting the Thunder or Knicks. Not only is it not hurting them, they are flourishing with those players with that same style of play as Kobe.
As I have demonstrated Kobe’s offense has nothing to do with the Lakers struggles right now. Actually, Kobe’s offense is what is keeping this team from becoming the Charlotte Bobcats.
What this discussion does is it diverts our attention from the #1 problem that the Lakers are currently having which is the reason why they are struggling. It has nothing to do with the offense, or anything they are doing within the offense, or what someone is or isn’t doing offensively.
The problem is their defense, plain and simple. The Lakers also don’t play well in others and because of injuries they just don’t have the talent right now to compete at a high level. Can their offense be better? Sure, but overall its playing good enough to win. Until they make the adjustments on the defensive end, it doesn’t matter if we get a well balanced attack on the offensive end or any 1 player on the team goes off on scoring sprees, the Lakers will continue to lose.
– Fern Rea “@fullcourtfern”