Whither Kobe

Kurt —  October 24, 2006

Kobe is not going to win the scoring title this season.

Or, maybe a better way of saying this is: If things go well for the Lakers this season, Kobe is not going to win the scoring title.

I was thinking about this while answering a few Laker questions for an online fantasy basketball Web site. One question asked was about lingering effects of Kobe’s injury, which I don’t think will be much of an impact long term (we hope not, the Lakers need a fast start). But I hastened to add that for fantasy hoops players it mattered that Kobe’s scoring should drop slightly this year.

Now, I’ll add that what I envision is his scoring total goes down slightly but his efficiency should improve – higher shooting percentage (55.9% true shooting percentage last year, which is still good), fewer forced shots because teammates stand around.

I see a couple of reasons Kobe’s scoring will drop.

One, Kobe should have to play fewer minutes. Last season Kobe played a personal high 3,273 minutes, and yet every time he left the game Laker fans held their breath – when Kobe was on the floor the Lakers were +4.5 points per 48 minutes better than their opponents, when he was off the floor they were -7.9. Part of that was that there was no decent replacement for him — Kobe had a PER of 30 when playing the two, his replacements were Sasha (PER of 8.9), Laron Proffit (11) and a little Devin George (7.9). Others picked up a few minutes, but like those three all of them are well below average.

This year there is Maurice Evans – a solid backup. He can defend, he can shoot the three from the corner, last season he shot 51.5% (eFG%) and had a PER of 15, right at the league average. And average would be a step up. Evans may be a more important addition than Radmanovic by the end of the season because rather than Kobe playing 35.4 minutes per game that can drop a few minutes a game. While that is good for the Lakers, it means his scoring should go down.

Second, Kobe should score less because others are taking more shots. Honestly, it felt like that at the end of the last season, when Odom was averaging 16.8 points per game while shooting 55.1%, plus getting, 8.9 rebounds and 5.9 assists (over the last too months). However, if you look at the Lakers last 27 games (the last 20 plus the playoffs) Kobe averaged 35 points per game, pretty much right at the 35.4 average for the season as a whole.

Last season Kobe took 2.173 shots on the season (27.2 per game) a career high. The highest Michael Jordan took in the championship Bulls years is 25.7 per game — and I would expect Kobe’s shots to drop at least that far and probably a couple more. Those other shots will go to Radmanovic, Odom and maybe Walton, and an assortment of other guys.

Kobe should still get plenty of chances — you don’t take the ball out of the hands of the best player in the game. But he can’t carry the team alone if the Lakers want to win, it needs to be more balanced. How much of the load shifts off of Kobe will say a lot about how far the Lakers go this season. If he has to score 35.4 per game again to win games, it could be a long season.

Kurt

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10 responses to Whither Kobe

  1. Successfully lowering Kobe’s minutes per game is also the key to the Lakers playoff hopes. While every player’s legs feel the 82, it would be nice to avoid Nash Fatigue Syndrome. Not an aspersion to the conditioning of either player. Just a recognition that a team can ride a player for too many minutes.

  2. Devean George had a lower PER than Sasha? Wow. That’s takes some doing. Good pickup by the Mavs there.

  3. I should have been clear that those PER figures were what the player did at the two, not overall (all via 82games.com). For the season as a whole George’s PER was 11.5 and Sasha’s 8.4. I’d also bet that both of those guys have better numbers this season.

  4. Kobe attempted 26.3 shots per game in those last 27 games, if my math is right.

    According to ESPN, Kobe may not be ready, though Phil certainly will. ESPN also got Bynum’s age wrong.

  5. I was referring to opening night when I said Kobe may not be ready but Phil will be.

  6. Kurt, got a giveaway going on at my site incase you’re interested in signing up and/or letting yoru readers know.

  7. I’d say it’s better than 50% a healthy Kobe wins the scoring title again.Who else is going to get as many shots? Maybe AI and LeBron,but Iverson will prob break down for a while and the New,Super-Duper,OLympic Improved LeBron is all about setting up others.(Seriously,LeBrons’ J is suspectand teams will prob pack the middle against Cav’s.) Even if Kobes’ shots and ppg declines,I think it will be enough to repeat.(T-Mac dropped 10% after his first scoring title,and still repeated.)Come to think of it Pierce may be another,cause Doc will let him shoot whenever he wants.

  8. The article on ESPN makes it sound as if it is likely that Kobe won’t play the opening season game, where in actuality if you go to the blog on latimes, and listen to the actual interview it is really the opposite- He is likely to play (according to him) with a chance of not playing.

  9. I think the most telling thing I read, and I forget where, was trainer Gary Vitti saying that Kobe’s knee bothered him more at the end of last season than it does now. There’s just no reason to push it, there is a long season ahead.

  10. Not so tangentally, Hollinger joins the chorus in accusing Kobe of tanking or having an agenda the second half of Game 7 in his preview for this season.

    And don’t get wrong, Kobe convinced me. On any given play it is a mistake for Kobe to pass the ball to anyone else. I still believe him even now with the new Lakers.

    A reduced Kobe is directly bad for the Lakers. Every bit Kobe’s usage and production falls off this season, the Lakers will fall off the exact same amount.