He’s A 40-Point Man

 —  January 3, 2005

“Kobe The Aggressor” has been the Christmas box office release at Staples Center, a movie where the guy already the focal point of the Laker offense tries to play an even bigger role (leading him to score more than 40 points in each of the past three games). Teammates requested it behind the theory that with Kobe taking a more aggressive role, the roles for the rest of the players would be better defined and the entire offensive picture would finally start to come together.

So, is it working? Break down the numbers, and you see that the Lakers are just a little bit better when Kobe goes for 40. There’s not a lot to go on — Kobe has scored 40 or more in just five of the Lakers 28 games (including the last three). But, from what we can see so far, it’s not a bad thing.

Lets start with the bottom line — the Lakers are 2-3 when Kobe scores 40 this season, 2-1 in the last three.

The Lakers shoot the ball slightly better when Kobe takes charge — something that surprised me because of Kobe’s shooting percentage. For the season the Lakers’ eFG% is 48.7, in the five games Kobe scored 40+ that jumps to 49.3%, in the last three it is 49.6%. Not a huge jump, but a consistent improvement

With Kobe scoring more he is necessarily handling the ball even more, and that has meant fewer turnovers. On the season, the Lakers average 16.2 turnovers per game, in Kobe’s 40+ games that number falls to 13.4. In the last three games, the Lakers have averaged 15.7 turnovers.

The Lakers are not as good on the offensive glass when Kobe takes charge — for the season they get an offensive rebound on 30.1% of their missed shots, that falls to 25.2% when Kobe scores 40, and is at 26.6% in the last three games.

The Lakers get to the free throw line just about the same amount of times. For the season they are averaging 27.7 free throws per game (fourth best in the league), when Kobe scores 40+ the number is 27. In the last three games that number has fallen to 24 per game, but that is skewed by only getting 16 against Toronto the other night.

I also decided to see if Kobe’s assertiveness has any impact on the Lakers defense, and the answer is not really. For the season, opponents’ eFG% against the Lakers is 46.1%, with Kobe scoring 40+ that number is 46.6%. In the last three games the average is lower at 43.1, but that is skewed by Denver’s eFG% being just 37.6% last night

So, while it’s not the motion/inside-out offense I think most of us have wanted to see, having Kobe step up in the offense may be better than what we were witnessing. Now let’s see how this picture plays in San Antonio and Dallas.