With the post season rapidly approaching, we’re nearing the point where the regular season awards will be voted on. Over a series of posts, I’ll make my argument for a specific Laker to win an award or be included on one of the All-NBA or Defensive teams. Today, my take on why Kobe Bryant should be selected 1st Team All-NBA.
For 12 years running now, Kobe Bryant has been a member of one of the three All-NBA teams. He first made an appearance as a 3rd team member in the 1999 season and also made the 3rd team in the 2005 season. Every other year since 1999, Kobe has been either 1st or 2nd team including five consecutive seasons as a Guard on the 1st team. He’s a mainstay as a 1st team performer and in a typical season, this would barely be up for question.
However, this isn’t a typical season. With Derrick Rose likely earning the league MVP honors this year, it’s a strong bet that he’ll also be represented as one of the guards on the All-NBA 1st team. This now leaves one guard slot for two highly deserving players: Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade (or three players if you count Chris Paul – also having an excellent year).
So, what distinguishes Kobe from other deserving candidates?
Honestly, not that much. When compared to Wade, the differences are truly minuscule. When you look at their statistical comparisons, Wade scores slightly more, rebounds a bit better, and is better at blocking shots. Meanwhile, Kobe has slightly better assist numbers, makes more three pointers (while also shooting a higher %), shoots a better % at the FT line, and boasts slightly lower turnover numbers. The advanced stats tell a similar story in that Wade is a bit more efficient but not by such a margin that it’s clear he’s had the better year.
When you add Paul to the mix, you see that Paul is clearly superior in terms of assists but suffers in scoring and rebounding. Paul edges out both players in terms of efficiency – besting both in PER and in win shares – but not at a level that screams he’s having a superior season. If anything I think comparing Paul (a PG) to Kobe/Wade (SG’s) is a bit too much of an apples to oranges comparison (I think comparing Rose to Paul would be the much better comparison) but I wanted to include him here because he is having another stellar campaign and he should be considered when deciding who makes 1st team.
Even with all of these stats, however, I’m think that Kobe has had the better year, if only slightly.
Maybe this comes from me having seen much more of Kobe than I have of the other players, but I think he deserves the nod for the campaign that he’s having. Granted, he’s not performing at an MVP level, but he’s actually quite close. Even though he’s playing reduced minutes (his lowest amount since his rookie season) his statistical output is top shelf. And since he’s not even playing 36 minutes a game, his per 36 minute averages take a slight jump to the point where he can be compared even more favorably to Wade (with Kobe averaging more points and the rebounding difference shrinking). Plus, Kobe’s numbers pretty much line up with what Rose is doing on a nightly basis, tallying less assists per 36 minutes but besting the Bull’s PG in points and rebounds while shooting a higher percentage from the floor and having a higher PER.
Lastly, Kobe is performing better in the clutch than Wade and Paul. Based off 82games.com’s sortable clutch stats, Kobe is scoring more than double Paul, shooting a higher FG%, rebounding more, and assisting only slightly less. Meanwhile, Kobe also bests Wade in scoring, FG%, assists, FT attempts, and FT% in these “clutch” situations. Granted, Kobe takes more shots than these players, but I think that’s negated by the fact that he’s scoring more efficiently in this period than those two. Down the stretch of a close game – a circumstance and part of the game where Kobe’s play earns him a fare share of criticism – he’s simply doing more than the other players that he’s likely fighting with for this honor.
In the end, Kobe’s numbers may not be clearly superior but I think he deserves the 1st team nod. When you combine his overall numbers, his impact for his team, his performance in the clutch, and the fact that he’s played in all 71 of his team’s games (something I have not raised and that can’t be said for Wade/Paul), I think he edges them out. I know we’re partisan voters here and we’d all like to see Kobe be named to his 6th straight All-NBA 1st team, but I truly think he’s earned it. How about you?