Season Review: Kobe (and other two guards)

Kurt —  May 22, 2006

Yes he led the league in scoring — and there was the legendary 81 — but I’m willing to bet that for Kobe Bryant it is less about those or other stats and more about the big picture, and how the season ended.

This season Kobe started to rehab an image that was tarnished in the media and most places outside of Los Angeles (not to mention plenty of places inside the city). By the end of the year there were writers willing to point out the double standard he faced and others touting him for MVP. It was a sign of how far he has come, but the fact that 22 writers left Kobe off their ballot completely shows just how far he still has to go. (Those writers should have to face serious questioning of their basketball knowledge for leaving him off entirely, but that’s another rant.)

For Kobe, he’s already a top 60 player in NBA history, his number will be retired at Staples (well, one of them) and he’s got three rings. He will likely never get the near-universal adoration that Jordan earned by the end of his career, but you know Kobe wants someday to be mentioned in the same breath as Magic, Bird, Oscar, West and the other greatest non-bigs in the history of the game.

For that to happen, he has to win another championship or two, and be the leader of those teams.

This season we started to see the evolution toward that, as he pushed his teammates at times to get better, and pulled them — or just plain carried them — at others. This is a Laker team that grew over the course of the year, in part because they started to figure out the offense and in part because Kobe helped them grow and figure out how to win. But there are a lot of rungs left on the ladder to the title, as evidenced by the loss to the Suns in the first round.

Looking forward for Kobe, the key will be helping bring up the level of play of those around him (and management bringing in more talent) because it will be hard to have a better statistical season than this one.

Kobe led the Lakers as a +12.7 per 48 minutes this season, meaning the Lakers were that much better with him on the court. (To be honest, the actual Laker +/- leader was Slava Medvedenko, who after his 7 minutes played this season would be a +105 per 48, but I think we can safely chalk that up to small sample size. That or he really is the best player in the history of the NBA and we just don’t see it.)

Kobe’s midrange game became deadly, and despite the constant double and triple teams, he shot 46.3% on jumpers, and he got fouled on 11.9% of his shots. That led to a true shooting percentage of 55.9%, which is quite good considering he carried 35% of the offense when he was on the floor (also a league high). He also shot 34.7% from three-point range and drove in close to take 21% of his shots from around the basket. A few other stats: He had a PER of 28.11, third best in the league; and 11.5% of his possessions turned into assists, while 8% became turnovers.

But the stats don’t do justice to the flair with which Kobe did all this. There was the game against Toronto when he saw the team down by 16 and said “time to take over” on his way to 81 points and a win. There was the three-quarter 62 against Dallas. There were the games, it seemed every other night, where he got so hot he’d take a heat-check shot from three feet beyond the arc, and it seemed like half of them fell. There were thunderous dunks (hello Steve Nash) and deft floaters. Every game, at least once a game, he made you just stunned with disbelief that a human can do that. Sometimes, seeing all his games, you could become desensitized, but we as fans — of the Lakers and basketball — need to soak in those moments because it’s not often a player can come along and take your breath away nightly.

Highlights, however, are not championships. Championships require a lot of things, including depth. Part of the challenge Kobe faced all season long was the lack of support — some of that from the guys on the court with him, but some from the guys who were supposed to back him up.

Combined, Laron Profit and Aaron McKie played in just 39 games. Both showed moments but, like you might expect from players of their age, could not do it consistently and could not stay healthy.

Profit, who played in 25 games, may have had the better season of the two — still the Lakers were 10.2 points per 48 minutes worse when he was on the floor. He shot a weak 30.4% on jump shots but got to the hole for 39% of his shots, raising his eFG% to 49.4% on the season. The good news was 11,2% of his possessions ended in an assist, the bad news was that 18% ended in a turnover. His PER was 11.2, not good, but worse his opponents PER (against two guards) was 20.2. He shot 16.7% from beyond the arc.

There have been a few that suggested the Lakers, who waived Profit halfway through the season to make room for Ronny Turiaf on the roster might look to bring Profit back next season, but I just can’t see that. I’d rather make room for a young player who can grow, Profit is not the future.

McKie may not be either, but he is on the books for next season for $2.76 million so he’ll be back. Last season a serious hamstring injury kept him out for four months he played in just 14 games and when he returned he never really got back up to speed or in the flow of this team,

McKie shot just 25% this season, was a -10.8 per 48 minutes, had a PER of 6.1 while his opponents had a PER of 19.3. The one thing we can say for him is that he moved the ball around, 44% of his possessions ended with an assist (just 7.7%) with a turnover. There were moments he provided some veteran leadership.

Can he do that next season? Maybe, if he’s healthy, and the Lakers need someone who can effectively spell Kobe for 10-15 minutes a game. But while McKie will be collecting checks next year he is not part of the Lakers long-term plans.

Kurt

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21 responses to Season Review: Kobe (and other two guards)

  1. The thing that I was also impressed with, although this involves luck as well as conditioning, is that Kobe didn’t have any injuries that kept him from playing. He has averaged 65-66 games over the past few seasons and he got into 80 this year sans the “lapse in judgement” suspension.

  2. chris henderson May 22, 2006 at 4:30 pm

    from your article- “Looking forward for Kobe, the key will be helping bring up the level of play of those around him (and management bringing in more talent)”…
    I couldn’t have said it better myself Kurt, you hit the nail on the head there.

    i had this disturbing thought the other day, what if Kobe doesn’t win another title during his carreer…then his 3 rings will have that “couldn’t do it without Shaq” cavaet, which would drive Kobe crazy, cause we all know their level of competing against each other is huge. I bet Kobe has had that same disturbing thought, (although he would immediately banish the thought from his mind) but he do doubt has to be on the phone almost daily to Mitch, making sugegstions to improve the team….trades, free agents, etc. You gotta know that Kobe wants to get his own title ASAP.

    You know, sometimes when you are in the midst of greatness, like the Laker team of the 80′s, we had the “Perfect Storm” of events, great owner, amazing GM, then to have the luck to bring on Magic, James, Kareem, and the foresight to bring on role players like Coop, AC, Rambis…etc I ask you…How could that team NOT WIN MULTI CHAMPIONSHIPS???

    So, now, while we are again in the midst of greatness, Kobe will go down in history as a great player, (I know John R is coming back with something about sexual assault here) as you said, making unbelievable plays, night in and night out…but if that doesn’t bring any champioinships, he’ll be remembered as Shaq’s wing man, and I know he’s NOT going to be satasfied with that.
    Lakers management needs to get serious, and I just can’t understand why they refuse to go over the cap if it brings a player that gets them to the next level…woun’t the revenue from getting to the next level almost make it worthwhile? plus, what it does for the franchise, the legacy…etc…
    They cannot be remembered as the management that wasted the prime of Kobe’s years, this is THE summer to MAKE SOME MOVES, not necessarily fire-saling out core, but by bringing in someone in the areas we know we need help.

  3. Actually Chris, that cuts both ways. When Shaq doesn’t win in Miami they can (and SHOULD) say the same thing about him, except he has had now potentially 3 great “wing” men in Penny, Kobe and Wade. If Kobe doesn’t get to play alongside another all-star level player, that’s management’s fault, not Kobe’s. (Except in as much as Kobe chose to stay with the Lakers instead of the Clippers where he Livingston, Maggette and Brand could be dominating the game for years to come, once again thanks Lakers for ruining everything for LA).

    Speaking of beefing up perimeter defense, maybe the Kobestopper would be a good pickup. His contract is right with just a single player option year remaining and he doesn’t need the ball to have an effect on the game. I think he, Kobe and Kwame would make a nice triangle.

  4. I don’t love the idea of R. Patterson in the triangle, in that his outside shooting is spotty (at best). His D would be nice, though.

    If Shaq doesn’t win with the young Penny or Wade, media should say he needed Kobe, but will they?

    By the way, John R., when you get a sec, send me an email (the link is on the right). I have a non-blog, non-hoops but beer related question for you.

  5. Looking back on it, to be honest – even at the time! – Kobe on the Clippers would be absolutely sick.

    In my mind it cuts both ways for sure between Kobe/Shaq. He had all of those years in Orlando and now in Miami. There is one thing you can say about this though.. Kobe and Shaq should have won 5 championships without a question. The only reason is that both of them let selfish, personal feelings get in the way of basketball, which is truly unfortunate.

  6. If Kobe doesn’t win another chip he will at least have an owner that will do (and spend) all that is possible to place him back in that position. He should get another crack at it in the next 2-3 years., but there is going to have be a lightining strike or two (either through Bynum exceeding all expectations or another draft pick or current holding blowing up).

    I like Patterson’s hustle as a guy off the bench, but I can see him falling into the abyss that is an aging player learning the triangle offense.

  7. how old is profit? i thought he was only about 28. i liked him. i was surprised kupchak was talking about bringing him back, but i like the idea. i’m not married to it though.

    i’d like to see mckie healthy and fitting in before making a final judgement too. that doesn’t look too good either, but who knows. maybe he could take on a brian shaw-like role. he’s got great experience.

  8. Is acquiring Hinrich out of the question? He’d be a great point guard for the triangle.

  9. we wouldnt get hinrich without giving up odom or a mihm-walton-smush-cook and maybe something more to trade.

    its hard to imagine :/

  10. Hinrich would be great but the Bulls know they have a winner there, he’s not available.

    John, you’re right, Profit will be 29 at the start of next season. My bad, That said, assuming the Lakers get a free agent guard and a couple of draft picks there may not be room. Right now the Lakers have 11 guys under contract plus an option on Wafer. That leaves four spaces total (if Wafer is let go, certainly not a sure thing), and I would think those would go to the guy who gets the MLE, the LLE, and two draft picks. Maybe Profit bumps the second rounder. Maybe.

  11. http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2006/05/13/SPG0MIR6I01.DTL

    That second rounder looks to be a power forward.

    Leon Powe ” worked out Wednesday in Los Angeles for a large audience of player evaluators, with at least a dozen NBA teams represented. Reports are that Powe shot well in that workout. On Friday he worked out specifically for the Lakers, with Oklahoma’s 6-9 Taj Gray being the other big man in that workout.”

  12. I liked what I saw from Powe when he played UCLA this seaon. The guy was explosive, could score inside but had a decent 15-foot jumper (which would be huge in the triangle for a big). He’s not a bulky four like Turiaf but more in the athletic mold (more like what the Suns look for in bigs).

    Although after he has already had a few knee surgeries I’m having a doctor take a long, hard look at him.

    Also, if his workout was that good, he is more likely the 26th pick than the Lakers second rounder because he won’t last that long.

  13. My mistake.

    The article projects him late first early second.

    So that means we are looking for a guard through the free agent market?

  14. The talk has always been a guard through free agency because: 1) The Lakers need, and Phil prefers, a veteran back there; 2) There was no real starting triangle guard in this draft, and certainly not at 26.

  15. I will add this, after looking a little at the draft today, there are some potential guards the Lakers may consider at 26, guys who can stroke it, play D and may be a decent fit (off the bench, at least for a year or two). Guys like Shannon Brown (Michigan State) and Daniel Gibson (Texas) may be very good fits.

  16. i guess the lakers should draft guards. but they’ll be ROOKIES, you know? which means that they’ll be at the very least probably 2 or 3 years away from developing into championship-caliber material.

    it’s hard for me to say give sasha’s playing time to somebody else. yeah, i called him eurotrash when you were high on him last preseason, but phil sticking to him and keeping on putting him out there seems to be working. the guy is so young, but seems close to hitting that second stage of nba maturity soon. and i’ve admired how well he’s done in some clutch situations this year. and i really like how he goes after it defensively.

    the more comfortable he gets, the fatter he gets, the more he’s looked for on offense, i think that legendary touch in practice will show up on a more regular basis in games.

  17. notreallyimportant May 24, 2006 at 2:18 am

    If sasha could stroke it like in practice, why it would be like if Darko could swish threes like he does in practice :).

  18. Tim Thomas came out nowhere for the Suns this year. Is there a point guard out there with the same rap as Thomas before the Suns? Underachieving, stuck in a bad organization, who could benefit from a change of scenery, and whose skills match the Lakers needs. Of course, the Suns are an offensively minded team and don’t really have the requirement of defense placed on role players.

  19. Draft express has the Lakers taking Rajon Rondo a 6’2″ guard (for what that is worth) and this article:
    http://www.draftexpress.com/viewarticle.php?a=1304

    states that the Lakers have conducted private workouts with these players already….

    PF’s Paul Milsap, Kenny Adeleke (top rebounders in college last year)
    SG Maurice Ager, SG/SF Bobby Jones

  20. “Underachieving, stuck in a bad organization, who could benefit from a change of scenery, and whose skills match the Lakers needs. Of course, the Suns are an offensively minded team and don’t really have the requirement of defense placed on role players.”

    The entire New York Knicks? Portland also has a lot of young PGs – Steve Blake, Juan dixon, Jarret Jack and Bassy. You could have said that Rafer Alston fit the description last year, but I don’t think the Rockets are going to let him go now. Andre Miller might be on his way out of Denver and we don’t know what is going to happen in Indiana yet.

  21. notreallyimportant May 24, 2006 at 11:39 am

    Paul,

    Tim Thomas did come out of nowhere, much the same way he did for Milwaukee before he got his last contract. So if that is what you are looking for the lakers should trade for veterans that always have had a lot of potential that they have never fullfilled and are in the last year of their contract. This way we would get absolute beasts, for a year. I’m actually surprised that there isn’t a gm who uses this as a techique, I guess it is because expiring contracts are so valuable.