Kobe Makes His Teammates Better

Kurt —  January 17, 2006

The conventional wisdom in the mainstream media is that Kobe is a ball hog.

“Why can’t he make his teammates better, like all the greats did?” they ask.

Well, he does. Over at 82games.com, friend of this site Kevin Pelton did the detailed work and it shows that when Kobe is on the floor, all the Lakers are better.

Remarkably, every single player has improved his Offensive Rating (while playing with Kobe on the floor), if only by a little in a couple of cases. However, Parker and his backup, Sasha Vujacic, have seen their efficiency cut into by about a quarter when Bryant leaves the court.

George is a particularly interesting case that illustrates why field-goal percentage is not sufficient to address this issue. While George’s field-goal percentage has basically been the same with and without Bryant, his Offensive Rating drops dramatically without Bryant. George hits twice as many 3s per field goal with Bryant on the court, and turns the ball over far, far less. He has just eight turnovers in 433 minutes when teamed with Bryant, 13 in 236 by himself.

This is a must read (and shows why Pelton is one of the best around).

Kurt

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9 responses to Kobe Makes His Teammates Better

  1. Interesting analysis.

    On paper the team may be better with Bryant dominating the offense but I’m hesitant to accept this school of thought.

    Two things to consider:

    Is the Lakers potential capped at a lower level with Bryant dominating the offense?

    Is this is a short-sighted approach to the game? One player dominating the offense may work during the regular season but will it stand up during the playoffs against more disciplined defenses?

    It’s my opinion Kobe limits the Laker’s capacity for improvement. They can only get “this” much better with him dominating the offense.

    If Kobe was more intent on sharing the wealth, the bar for the Laker’s maximum potential would be higher. In other words, the team could eventually reach a greater level than it stands to under the current system.

    Your thoughts?

  2. I f we can look at the percentage of shots that Kobe takes and the amount his teammates are involved as being on a continuum, then this analysis might be starting to show them moving towards a more desireable balance. My thoughts after the the Miami game (he took 33% of their shots, 13-24) were that that was more ideal. He was more efficient and his teamates were involved. Phil even walked all the way out on a limb to say that Kobe had a “nice” game.

    Both Phil and Kobe have told us through the media time and again that the amount of shots Kobe was taking should diminish as the season and the team progressed. I know Phil believes that and will do everything he can to make that happen. The queston remains whether Kobe’s confidence in his mates will continue to grow. Wins like Miami and Cleveland should expedite that process.

  3. I look at it more optomistically. At the start of the year, the team without Kobe was really bad, so Kobe had to take a high percentage of the shots. Mihm was always in foul trouble, Kwame was clueless on offense, Lamar was learning the triangle and Smush needed Kobe to create wide open shots for him. The Lakers’ bench was the lowest scoring bench in the NBA.

    Now, Mihm is doing a much better of job of staying out of foul trouble and you can tell Kareem has been working with him on his jump hook. Kwame has regained his starting spot and, though he still has far to go, is looking a lot more comfortable out there. Lamar on most nights is being more aggressive within the offense. The bench has been playing better of late. The problem right now is that the other scoring options aren’t consistent so Kobe has to make up for someone having an off night. Once the other four starters consistently score, Kobe won’t have to take nearly as many shots.

  4. Here’s the thing (both Tony and Dennis): How consistent or good can we really expect the supporting cast to become? We’re talking about giving them room to grow and improve — and they need that — but these are not guys with unlimited potential. Mihm, Smush, Walton, Cook — these are all supporting cast guys, Frankly, as much as I have a man-crush on Smush, he would be a better energy guy off the bench than a starter. Kwame would make a fine backup center on a good team.

    So while I agree the Laker offense needs more balance, part of that is Mitch bringing in guys who deserve — and can consistently hit — those shots. This roster does not look like the mid-90s Bulls or even the 99-00 Lakers (which was a very good supporting cast around the stars).

  5. Kurt,

    You make a good point. The talent is probably too limited have Kobe diminish his role in the offense.

    If the supporting cast is under talented, then the Laker’s need to re-structure the roster sooner rather than later (easier said than done).

    The triangle offense is not conducive to yearly roster changes. Most players need at least a year to figure it out. And, as it stands, the Lakers have identified only two pieces to their championship puzzle (kobe and lamar).

    If only the NBA would break up Memphis and Utah, two teams hording the league’s best role players.

  6. Odom is currently averaging 14.6 ppg. I think he can average 18 ppg. Mihm and Brown are currently averaging 16.4 ppg combined. I think they can average 24 ppg combined. Smush is averaging 11.5 ppg and I think 12 ppg is reasonable for him. That’s 54 ppg out of ~98 ppg. The big question is the bench. If they could score 24 ppg, then Kobe would average 30 ppg.

    I don’t think any of these averages are unreasonable IF the various players learn to play every day and stay out of foul trouble. Over the last 5 games, Odom has scored 17, 15, 20, 2 and 19. Over the last 5 games, Mihm and Brown have combined for 13, 17, 23, 30 and 12. Smush has done 6, 12, 12, 24 and 5. The bench has done 15, 18, 17, 16 and 27.

  7. Although I think balance is an admirable goal, it is not the optimal strategy if one player is head and shoulders better than the others. That player *should* dominate the ball. The only question is, how much? Somewhere in between complete domination and even balance is the right mix.

  8. I am so sick and tired of all this Kobe is the greatest crap! Yes, he just dropped 81 in a game. He is probably going to win the scoring title and maybe even the MVP. Who cares? As a true Laker Fan I would rather be hoisting championship banners than having Kobe raise an MVP trophy. As long as he continues to be 50% or more of the Lakers offense and 100% of their defense, Laker Fans like me will have to wait to raise another banner to the rafters. Don’t get me wrong, more power to Kobe for the individual accolades but remember it takes a team to win it all. We all have our favorite players but, players come and go teams stay . Larry Legend said it best, “I would give all 3 of my MVP trophies to get 1 more championship” You will never hear that from Kobe…

  9. if the mvp does not go to kobe this year….the mvp award would be a sham this year. yes nash is making the players around him have career seasons, and yes lebron pass well, and yes billups is leading his pistons to the finals. but the last time i checked…the mvp award is not about how well the player makes people around him better, but an INDIVIDUAL award…it will be ridiculous not to give kobe the mvp. its easy to hate kobe, but you cant deny what what he brings to the court. many people pass on the 81 game kobe had as just a lucky game or poor defense by toronto, but it really is a big deal. 81 in today’s game is remarkable. and the fact that day in day out he averages 35+ points a game while doubledtripled…how can you not regonize his INDIVIDUAL achievements. the mvp honors the Most Valuable Player…notice the last word “Player” is not plural. many people are speculating the mvp is going to nash; their reason is that he makes players around him better. Yes that is true, but that means you are evluating not just one player, but mulitple players, which completely defeats the purpose of the award. if kobe is denied the mvp and nash is gifted with the mvp….they should change the award to Most Valuable PlayerS.