The Breakdown: Keeping Afflalo From Kobe

Phillip Barnett —  May 3, 2012

After two games in Los Angeles, the Lakers are heading out to Denver to play a Nuggets team that is sure to make some adjustments being down 2-0 in the first round. The Lakers earned their 2-0 advantage after a historic night from Andrew Bynum, some deft passing from Pau Gasol, unexpected, good play from both Devin Ebanks and Jordan Hill, and a strategical adjustment of their own.

In three games against the Denver Nuggets during the regular season, Kobe really struggled to find any kind of rhythm. He shot 27.5 percent against Denver in the regular season, easily his lowest shooting percentage against any team this year. In the first half of Game 1, the trend continued as Kobe shot a mere two-for-10 on a bevy of contested jump shots over Aaron Afflalo. The Lakers ran a series of isolation and P&R sets that ended with Kobe taking shots over the outstretched arms of Afflalo, with a lot of the possessions ending just like the following video.

What you’ll notice here is that the Lakers run a couple of 1-2 P&Rs to try to either create a switch or to get Ramon Sessions in the lane. The latter prevails, and that’s a mini-victory for the Lakers. However, the ball is kicked out to Pau, who kicks it to Kobe and the possession ultimately ends in the same way that they tried to prevent with the original pick and roll at the beginning of the possession. We saw a lot of this in the three regular season games (not just in P&R situations, but in their “Horns” sets and premeditated iso sets). What resulted from these possessions were a lot of shots from Kobe outside of his sweet spots, and the shots where he likes the ball were contested by one of the best perimeter defenders in the league.


(Kobe shot chart against Denver in three regular season games)

Kobe is best when he’s 15-feet and in, and he took about 52 percent of his shots from that range during the regular season, but with Afflalo draped all over him, (Note: Shot chart includes possessions not being guarded by Afflalo) he only shot 28 percent from that rang. Now compare that with what he’s done in the playoffs.


(Kobe shot chart against Denver in two post-season games)

The shot distribution is similar in terms of shots inside and outside of 15 feet (about 53 percent from 15-feet and in compared to 52 percent in the regular season), but in the playoffs, he’s shooting just over 60 percent, 32 percentage points higher. To increase Kobe’s efficiency, the Lakers have made a couple of minor tweaks in how they run their Horns and P&R sets to get Kobe away from Afflalo on as many possessions as possible.

For much of Kobe’s career, the Lakers offensive philosophy has been geared around getting him to his spots, and letting him operate from the possessions in which he’s been the most successful. However, against the Nuggets this season (and a few other teams), just getting Kobe to his spots hasn’t produced the results we’ve become accustomed to seeing, and that’s largely due to the defensive prowess of certain defenders and the trend of increased attention to team defensive schemes over the last four or five seasons. This series, we’ve seen one of the most ventured efforts in trying to get Kobe in situations away from a particular defender than I’ve seen in his career — and it’s worked for the most part.

What we’ve seen to get Afflalo off Kobe are a quite a bit of 1-2 P&R actions to get the Nuggets point guard switched onto Kobe (like they attempted in the video above). In this particular set, Sessions brought the ball up to the wing on the left side with Kobe posting up Afflalo near the pinch with Bynum/Gasol/Ebanks all on the opposite side.


What the Lakers did different here than what they did in the first set is Sessions dumped the ball into Kobe, then they ran the P&R. With Kobe handling the ball, he’s more of a threat to shoot off the screen than Sessions is, and Lawson is forced to stay with him (compared to Afflalo letting Sessions go after he comes off the screen that Kobe set for him earlier). Kobe does a great job not rubbing shoulders with Sessions, but rubbing shoulders with Lawson as well. With the switch created, Kobe kicks out to Sessions and reposts with Lawson guarding him instead of Afflalo.

After the entry pass, Sessions clears out along the baseline, taking Afflalo with him. Now Kobe is isolated on a smaller defender and attacks him immediately. Without Afflalo’s strength and length, Kobe is able to attack the rim and score over a late Kosta Kufos (even with the contact).

With the small tweak in the P&R, the Lakers are able to manipulate the number of high percentage shots Kobe takes by deciding who defends him instead of where he’s being defended. Watch it in real time.

Another tweak the Lakers have made is one within their Horns sets. I’ll let Darius give you a brief overview of the Horns offense:

Basically, in a normal horns action, both bigs are at the elbows, the weak side wing is below the FT line near the three point line, the strong side wing is in the same position but on the ball side and the PG brings the ball up. Typically, Sessions will enter to Pau at the right elbow and go screen for the strong side wing. On the opposite side, the big man will screen for the weak side wing. Then, both wings come off picks either curling into the paint or flaring out looking for a pass from Pau. This set has been mildly effective all year and has been one of the go to actions for the Lakers to get Kobe the ball.

Typically, Kobe has been the wing on the strong side with Pau with Artest/Barnes/Ebanks on the weak side receiving the screen from Bynum. However, the Lakers have moved Kobe to the weak side with Bynum and changed Sessions’ action after entering to Pau, and the Nuggets have had issues trying to defend this.

The set starts off the same with both Bynum and Pau at their respective elbows, but after Sessions throws his entry pass, he goes down the lane to set a cross screen for Kobe. As Sessions cuts down the lane, Bynum is also going down the line to set a down screen for Kobe. Now, instead of consistently coming off a down screen from Sessions on the ball side, he has an option to either take the screen from Sessions and cut across to the opposite block or to take the Bynum screen for either a curl or catch-and-shoot situation around the elbow – both good situations for the Lakers.

On this play, Kobe takes Sessions screen and cuts across right behind Kufos, who is focused on Bynum. Danillo Gallinari is the weak side defender on Ebanks, and is much too far away to contest anything around the rim by the time Pau releases the pass from his hands and Kenneth Faried is focused on defending Pau. Since Afflalo trailed the screen, he’s much too late to defend the pass and Kobe ends up with an easy dunk. Had Afflalo jumped ball side, Kobe would have likely taken Bynum’s down screen for an open jumper around the free throw line. Kobe’s ability to read and react the way Afflalo is defending him has given the Nuggets fits in trying to keep Kobe out of the box score.

More from Darius:

The thing I like most about how the Lakers are trying to get Kobe open is the fact that they’re simple actions that are difficult to defend based off how they utilize his varied skill set. In the “horns” sets where the point guard cross screens for Kobe, they have Kobe working off the ball (where he’s quite good at getting separation) and moving him into positions where he can do the most damage. His ability to seal his man and use his strength to hold him off is something he does quite well. He’s savvy, knows how to hold his ground, and then can typically finish inside even while in traffic. Plus, by giving him the option to come to the elbow area and/or curl into the lane off Bynum’s screen, it’s moving him to a spot on the floor where he can either shoot a FT line jumper or further compromise the D by getting deeper into the paint. These options force the D to make hard choices by either playing the basket cut or the curl and put multiple defenders into the action where miscommunication can occur more easily.

Watch it in real time.

Coach Mike Brown has gotten a lot of the blame for the Lakers losses this season, but he hasn’t gotten enough credit for being able to make adjustments in a lot of the Lakers wins this season. Compared to the first 10 to 15 games of this season, the Lakers look like a completely different team on the offensive end, and a lot of it has to do with what Brown and his staff has done to accommodate the individual talents of the guys on his roster. Toward the end of Game 2, JaVale McGee started challenging a lot of shots around the rim, and this disrupted a lot of what the Lakers were trying to accomplish, so if McGee gets more time because of his defensive presence, Brown will be forced to adjust again (more on this in tomorrow’s preview). But for now, the Lakers have to like the position they’re in. They’re up 2-0 and Kobe is shooting relitavely well against the team he struggled most against in the regular season.

Statistical support for this post provided by NBA.com

Phillip Barnett

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61 responses to The Breakdown: Keeping Afflalo From Kobe

  1. Awesome. The type of stuff I come here to read.

  2. GREAT stuff here, Phillip. Love the visuals and the video.

  3. Awesome stuff, love this kind of detailed breakdown.

    In the game preview, would it be possible to make some guesses on the type of counters Karl would put in to disrupt this new wrinkle in the horns set?

    Extra day between games with the travel should give both coaching staff the time to dive in even deeper and come up with adjustments.

  4. Freaking great post. thanks!

  5. the other Stephen May 3, 2012 at 2:37 pm

    thanks for the great post, phillip!

  6. Phillip-
    This is such an awesome write-up! Thank you for putting it together.

    For years we have been so spoiled by Kobe. He didn’t really need to have plays run for him that would force mismatches in order for him to be efficient. (With the notable exception here or there. Tayshaun Prince comes to mind.)

    Now that he is older/injured, and there are more players that can guard him effectively, it is more difficult for him to be efficient.

    Kudos to Mike Brown for tinkering with the offense in order to make life easier on our super-star. It’s not lost on me that he’s tinkered with how we get Bynum the ball, as well. Just dumping it down to him and letting him go to work is not as efficient as moving him around and lobbing him the ball/getting him easy looks from dump off passes. It helps that we have another 7-footer that is a great passer- in Pau!

  7. KenOak,
    The difference is young Kobe would get others shots… Old Kobe needs other to get him good looks. Im sure everyone has noticed that the shots Kobe makes in ISOS are very difficult outside shots. He no longer can get to the rim in one on one situations and can’t create much space for his jumpers. I’ve discussed Kobes career being defined by his unique longevity, but it’s also going to be sculpted by his evolution as a player. He came in as a Jordan clone and is leaving more similar to a Bird twin. Kobe used to rely so much on athletisism and explosiveness to score points by breaking down his man off the dribble or taking jumpers as the defender baked off fearing a lay up. Now he looks just like Larry Bird. He uses footwork, strength, length, and basketball IQ to create just enough space (some would say not even enough) to barley get shots off from the outside. Some are ugly and awkward ala Bird but some are rediculously beautiful… Ala Bird. From taking Hakeem’s low post footwork to Dirks one legged fade aways… We now know Kobe wasn’t copying Jordan’s moves and fade aways… He was just beginning to copy every great player he could. And boy oh boy were we lucky to see his thievery pay off in LA for going in sixteen years.

  8. Solid breakdown. Love the Kobe back cut play. That kind of set for Pau would be great.

  9. Aaron,
    I can agree with that for the most part. He still does create shots for others, or he wouldn’t be averaging nearly 5 assists per game this year. You are right though, in that he needs other players to help him more than he did in his younger/less injured days.

    Love the Bird comparison, and I have to admit that I had never seen that similarity before… Man I got chills the first time I heard that he was working with Hakeem and then I actually saw him do a mini dream-shake in a game!? What I love and respect about Kobe more than anything else is that he worked so damn hard to perfect his game when he could have coasted along like so many of his modern day counterparts. Every one of those guys that the media propped up as being better than Kobe, will never be thought of as highly as he will be. (in terms of all-time great status.)

    *with the exception of Lebron James if he continues the way he is going. He could potentially be a top 5-10 player if he wins it all a few times. I already believe that he may be the greatest athletic specimen we’ve ever seen.

  10. This post illustrates, clearly, why we all enjoy this blog so much. Thank you Phillip!

  11. KenOak,
    Exactly. But Jerry West saw it right away. He raves about Kobe’s drive as much as he did about his athleticism. Kobe’s work ethic was so rare it was easy to see from just own workout and interview. And you know I agree with you on LeBron. If he starts taking and making more shots in the Finals he can go down as the best of all time. Statistically only a few come close to him. He just needs more Kobe and even Bynum in him. He has to stop caring what others think. He can’t be afraid of missing big shots. Although the only time I’ve seen him shrink in big moments was the fourth quarters of last years Finals. And I think a lot of that has to do with his close friendship with Wade and wanting wade to “be the man” like everyone told LeBron he was. After all… Until this year everyone with the Heat said it was “Wades team”.

  12. The lakers are on fire and will stay ignited on friday with a win!! i have why that is is hwo to bet it and all th games on my site so come check it out! http://nbawagers.com/2012/05/lets-start-the-weekend-off-with-a-bang-for-your-buck/

  13. As a professional NBA gambler ;) Never bet on individual games unless you’re betting on the home team in a home close out game. In that case bet every time like I do. And never bet on anything having to do with the regular season. I only bet during the playoffs when things are always a series and everyone is playing at a 100 percent. Sorry Tom :)

  14. The thing about Kobe, genuine or fake, was this bit he said a while back:

    ‘(paraphrased) I want to be remembered as a guy who overachieved despite his talents.’

    It’s possible that this is only a small part, say, compared to his desire to be in the conversation for greatest ever, but the fact that it is even a part of his mindset is what endears him to me regardless of his personal defects.

    A player who wants to be remembered for overachieving when he is damn well aware that his talents are off the charts? That’s a player I want playing on my team.

  15. boy is MSG a great playoff crowd, such a shame the Knicks have sucked for a decade

  16. Total half court game and Miami or knicks have no post presence.

  17. A fantastic post by Phillip and the comments are littered with a back and forth argument about a fictional idea by a writer that should probably be read solely for entertainment purposes and certainly not for his objectivity.

  18. Big suck-up moment for me—I can’t remember going to any team-centric site and consistently seeing “X and O” breakdowns of the quality that appear here–and Phillip’s post today is the paragon….I pride myself on having watched this team long enough to see nuances and wrinkles—but you guys are about sixty-seven leaps ahead of me…

  19. Phillip! Way to go! I saw Darius’s “horns” tweet the other day and had no idea what he was talking about. Now I know. Thanks for putting this together. I’ll be looking for these actions on Friday.

  20. KenOak,
    There is no way most bloggers can remember athletes of 50 years ago, but Wilt Chamberlain was a an All-American caliber track-and-field athlete and Jim Brown was also an All-American lacrosse player. Of course there is Cassius Clay/Muhammad Ali.

    You can’t rule out those athletes as all-time greats. Then again, even I can’t remember Jim Thorpe – and he was great at everything he tried.

    Sure we can say the training and medicine is better today, but these athletes aren’t necessarily better. If you go by statistics Wilt will never be equaled – so simply say Lebron is the greatest athlete of his era and leave it at that. Frankly, that should be good enough for anybody.

  21. Great post and breakdown on two Lakers plays.

  22. I must say – that was an excellent post.

    My only question – was it that Brown (in the first 10-15 games of the season) hadn’t implemented this horns set, or that the Lakers didn’t have legitimate ball handler at PG that could be a release?

    I guess what I mean is – do the Lakers ever run this “horns” set with Blake in the game, or is it stifled because Blake’s defender will just leave him?

  23. The thing about those plays Kobe ended up with paint points didn’t settle.

    The Kobe/Sessions PnR produced good shots for Sessions last game. If Bynum flashed under the basket after the second screen high percentage of points.

    On the Kobe back cut if you switch Kobe and Pau/Bynum I can see results. Because in a similiar set Pau takes him man off the dribble that game for a dunk. Kobe has the option to do that but the bigs would get a easy bucket if that play is ran for them.

  24. C-Dog,
    They run horns even with Blake in the game. But, a major key to the set is actually Gasol. He’s the only big the Lakers have that is both a threat to shoot/score from 16-18 feet after making the catch while also having the ability to make pin-point passes to cutters opening up.

    The action that doesn’t work as well with Blake in the game is the 1/2 P&R as Blake isn’t as much of a threat as Sessions.

  25. Craig W.
    I agree with you whole-heartedly about Wilt. I had actually forgotten that he was a track star too! He’s on my short list along with Lebron. I should have been more specific, as well. I was only talking about basketball players.

  26. Indeed, that is a good analysis from Philip on the horn theory.

    It does not exonerate Mbrown’s coaching where 60% of the points came from two players while Sessions got the bulk in the 4th, was it because of the horn concept or individual prowess. Barnes and Blake are relatively scoreless and allowed the Nuggets close the gap through careless T/O’s , poor shooting which gives them the psychological lift when they get to their Mile High City.

    Lakers should continue the “killer instinct” which is missing because MWP is suspended. As often said this is not the round that Lakers are in danger but in the succeeding contest, therefore they have to put the Nuggets out of commission immediately not through horns but put the dagger straight to the heart. You can’t kill the bull by the horns so whatever is their vaunted reputation as a great offensive team during the season, Lakers are the Spartans in this contest – Aim for the kill with no fear! We are now in playoffs, eliminate the weak and threaten the strong contenders.

  27. Mavs are toast.

  28. Tom

    Save your money. This us the game Lakers will lose. By 8 points matter of fact. First game in Denver, home crowd, team over achieving.

    Denver had one of the best home court record for a reason.

    Aaron if your a professional gambler like you claim you would never take Jazz in the first round. That would be beyond stupid.

    Two guaranteed wins were Spurs and Heat. You can bet on that!

  29. I’m okay with OKC. I actually think its better this way. I want this Lakers team to be known as one of the best teams of all time. I think it can be that kind of 8 man rotation. Let’s beat the Thunder, Spurs, and Heat. Let’s destroy them. Every year there is a champion… But it’s not every year a team dominates three teams of that caliber. I have been saying this roster is loaded since Ramon and Hill were traded to LA. Let’s prove it.

  30. Simmons’ latest is on teams that caught a lucky break on their way to winning an NBA title. Without having scrolled farther than the opening three sentences, I’ll say now that he will whine about:

    A) McHale’s injury in 1987, as if that team had any chance against the Lakers that year.

    B) Perkins going down in Game Six of the 2010 Finals

    C) Make no mention whatsoever of the Lakers missing Bynum, and having a partially healthy Ariza, in 2008

    D) All of the above

    Let’s read on and see where the BS flows, and I’m not talking about his initials…

  31. OK, credit where credit is due… D was the correct answer, but Simmons was fair in how he said the Bynum/Perkins absences canceled each other out.

  32. This is a great post. Thanks for the breakdown, Phillip. Posts like this one are the reason I visit FB&G daily.

  33. Can we just start talking about the 2nd round?

    All i’m thinking about is can Ebanks contain durant for 2 games until mwp comes back.

  34. 28,

    Aaron, it is easy to say beat Thunders, Spurs and Heat without showing their power in the early rounds.

    My model here are the Lakers of 1981-82 when Riles took over the coaching job at the early part of the season. Lakers swept the early rounds against Suns and swept the WCF against Spurs. At that time, Dr. J & the Sixers were favored to win the Championship. Well, Lakers surprised them by rallying down 20 in the first half and ended with the lead of 20+ so there was 40 pts. turn around with Magic and Norm; Jamaal and Jabbar role players like Coop and McAddoo plus the hard nosed rebounder Mark Lansburger, Mitch Kupchak, Eddie Jordan etc. Four of the players here were recognized as HOF’ers.

    That’s the model I want to highlight in this playoffs, therefore go for 4-0 against Nuggets and another 4-0 against OKC that will send a chilling message to league. Don’t smile, no need to broadcast your strategies at the early going, just annihilate them. Ask yourself, do they have that kind of mojo in their games today?

  35. Chris J.
    I thought it was almost a fair article by Simmons. There is absolutely no way that you can compare the loss of Bynum for the rest of that year and playoffs to the loss of Perkins for one game though. Bynum was the Lakers second best player for 30 games that year before he got hurt. Perkins was the 4 best player Maybe? He was arguably the 5th best player on that Celts team.

    Meh whatevas..

  36. It looks like I’m the second biggest Bynum fan in the world :(

    “The guy had 27 and nine, I believe, and he wasn’t satisfied,” Lakers point guard Ramon Sessions said. “That’s just showing you his competitive nature and the ability he has to be one of the greatest centers to ever play the game.”

  37. How we play out this series is kind of preparation for OKC and their up tempo game. Denver runs even more then the Thunder. If we can control tempo in Denver it could carry over to the next series.

  38. Nice read, especially showing the flow of these offensive plays. I think its best we focus on our own battle instead of seeing our next opponent. Dallas will most likely bounce with a win, at least 1 maybe… Anyways, we should not lose focus on the prize, take 1 game at a time. These Nuggets are at home, ready to battle. We should take game 3 and move on from then.

  39. Great post.

    Another thing that makes these new plays for Kobe work, is the way Sessions is running them.

    I noticed Sessions setting up this play two times in a row, first on the left (for a backdoor cut and beautiful backwards layup for Kobe). Second time everyone had set up on the same side, but Sessions patiently guided everyone to switch sides, then ran the play (for a FT-line jumper).

    He is really grabbing the reins and running the sets.

  40. Totally unrelated, but I just read Kurt´s article on international players declaring for the draft: http://probasketballtalk.nbcsports.com/2012/05/04/seventeen-international-players-declare-for-draft-you-should-care-about-a-few/

    One guy, Max Kleber, totally flies under the radar. He is propably one of the three best international players of his age group. He had bad luck with freak injuries in the past, but is not injury prone. He is a monster talent: athletic, smart, shooting touch, defense, court vision – you name it, he has it. His American head coach and his teammates are sure he will play in the NBA and be successful. They actually compare him to Gallinari. If we can draft him late in the second round and give him two years in Europe to develop, he´ll be a steal. Kleber will emerge as the best German player (Nowitzki excluded) in the next three years, count on it.

  41. I feel so badly for Abbott. He writes a great piece and because it shows what every advanced statistic says (that Bynum is a better player this year than Kobe) everyone hates him and his work. Just so sad. How many actual genuinely well written NBA articles do we get to read from actual smart people and not writers or ex athletes? Finally there is one and Kobe fans (not Lakers fans) try and quickly throw dirt on it. So sad. I’m sure many on this site will do the same.

  42. Renato Afonso May 4, 2012 at 8:11 am

    Great read. The reason I love this site…

  43. Michael H,
    Haha. I only really read a few posters. I saw your name so I had to get your insight because I know you know your stuff. I couldn’t agree more. Both OKC and the Nuggets are bad half court teams with no low post offensive players except Andre Miller and Westbrook. Of course putting Kobe on both players renders them useless. Getting to play Denver who is a poor mans OKC is the best possible practice round before playing the Thunder.

  44. I hope everyone here remembers I was the first person on the Andrew Bynum will be/is now great bandwagon. On a related note… Here is ESPN’s Postseason MVP to date…

    “ANDREW BYNUM:

    The first thing to recognize about Bynum’s impressive start is that he’s capable of doing even more. Denver has had no answer for him on either end of the floor other than trying to avoid him when he drives to the rim. He followed up his triple-double in Game 1 — the first for a Laker in the postseason since Magic Johnson in 1991 — with a dominating 27 points, 9 rebounds and zero turnovers despite a chaotic Nuggets defense that was scrambling and double-teaming. Just as importantly, Bynum more than doubled the offensive output of all three of the Nuggets’ capable centers, who combined for 13 points in 47 minutes of play.

    Kobe made tough shots over and over again for the Lakers in their first two games, but it’s Bynum’s complete control of the area within three feet of the rim that is the story of this series thus far — a series that looked as though it would go six or seven games just a week ago. Considering how fast the Nuggets play and the high altitude in Denver, Kobe may work at finding Bynum more in the next couple games instead of doing work himself (at least until the end of the game). In other words, seeing Bynum continue to dominate is likely.”

    I want to stay on Bynum because I’m in love with his game… So I wanted to share a link Darius tweeted. Ive long compared Bynum to Patrick Ewing. I thought he was the only Center who’s game sort of compares. His body. His size. But Ewing was bigger and more explosive. Darius sent out a highlight reel of Hakeem. I always rememeber Hakeem as a Shaq like explosive athlete with Pau like coordination. I was wrong. In this clip of his actual in game moves that he practiced every game… You can see Hakeem was the super athlete Bynum might become. Not by 2002 Kobe like explosiveness but by 2012 Kobe like super coordination. Although Hakeem looked a little awkward (like Bynum) his coordination and hand/eye skills were breath taking. I’m not saying Bynum will be the next Hakeem (the guy I think is the best Center of all time) but if I would compare Bynums games and athletisism to anybody it would be 75 percent Hakeem with a splash of Ewing. Here is the link…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K7tPZ-KljR0&feature=youtube_gdata_player

  45. Aaron, 60 to 75% Hakeem seems about right – no more than that though
    nice Hakeem’s highlight, thanks for sharing. By the way, by watching it, you notice how the game as changed. Only once, in the video, Hakeem is doubleteam strong right after the catch (by Bird in the low-post)

  46. Aaron,

    Regarding Abbot’s article and the latest one you cited, I have a slightly different take. Statistically, Bynum has very impressive numbers, which is one valid means of analysis. But another consideration may be their respective roles and value to the team. My question to you: would you rather have Kobe out for the rest of the playoffs or Bynum. With which one gone would the Lakers be worse(r) for wear?

    For me, the answer is obvious. Without Kobe, we become a very single-dimensional team on offense. With Bynum gone, we lose on both sides of the ball, but our offense suffers less. And given Bynum’s inconsistent defensive showings (which advanced stats are less effective at demonstrating, imo), the defense may not suffer as much. Kobe is the more valuable player to our playoff hopes. Thus far, both have put together incredible efforts, and perhaps this is a masturbatory exercise, but so is using statistics alone to argue the “best” player on a team with two superstars (yes, I said two), especially when they play different positions and have different responsibilities for the team. We need both of them on all cylinders to have any chance.

  47. Alfahridi,
    Thank Darius… Haha. He tweeted those YouTube clips ;) But you raised a great point Darius and others have asked recently as they have watched Bynum get swarmed all over the court. Why is he getting double teamed so much more than Shaq was? And you just mentioned how little Hakeem was getting double teamed. In the middle 90’s though Hakeem was getting swarmed like Bynum is now. I just think there wasn’t enough scouting and athletes in the 80’s and early 90’s to run effective double teams. That’s my take. But I’m in the early stages of coming up with a fully baked answer there. It’s a great question you asked. Right now I’m not confident in my answer. And nobody tell me the shooters were better back then. Check the three point stats from the 80’s if you don’t want to take my word for it ;)

    I just came up with another theory. Coaches back then were smarter. I have long felt you should rarley double team players. Make them shoot 60 times that game. I doubt anyone has the stamina to play on both ends of the court and shoot the ball every time they touch it. Why double amd let other NBA players get wide open shots all game? That’s my take. I’ve never been a fan of double teaming players.

  48. I mean didn’t Kobe shoot 1 for 7 in the fourth quarter last game after chucking up shot after shot through three quarters? Even highly conditioned athletes get tired. That’s why Kobe’s 81 point game is astonishing. Although he could barley talk after that game due to sheer exhaustion… He managed to hoist up all those shots. But rememeber that was one regular season game he was Kobe Bryant. I doubt many players can do that for seven straight playoff games.

  49. Actually, Aaron, I’m not sure how many of the people dumping on Abbott’s article think the same way that I do, but in my opinion, it’s not really about the article as much as it is about how Abbott is just generally anti-Kobe. In a lot of his articles, he does have some valid points that I might agree with. That being said, almost without fail, every time Kobe makes a game winner, he comes out with a new article about how terrible Kobe is for the Lakers offense at the end of games, or how terrible what he calls “hero ball” is. I don’t really have much of an opinion on whether what he says about hero ball is entirely true, what loses him credibility in my mind is his almost single-minded determination to dump on Kobe every time Kobe does something worth admiring. Even when it isn’t Kobe making a game winner, he always seems to find a way to turn the article into one bashing Kobe.

    As for being the first one on the Andrew Bynum will be great bandwagon, pretty sure Jim Buss or Mitch Kupchak were the first ones on that bandwagon, so…

  50. Manuel@40
    Wanna take bets on whether San Antonio picks up another great foreign player in this years draft? Evan Fournier looks promising and could create a ‘French Connection’ with Parker.

    We never seem to get as lucky as some teams when it comes to drafting foreign players. Is this mostly due to scouting efforts?

  51. 46,

    You are very right about how the game has changed. With today’s rules Hakeem would not only be doubled immediately on the catch, he would see doubles before the catch as well. I’m sure he could have made the adjustment. It just would have been different.

  52. Kareem,

    I honestly think Bynum is more valuable at this point. Look at the potential matchups out there. Westbrook (or Durant) can match Kobe. Tony Parker can match Kobe. Chris Paul can match Kobe. LeBron can match Kobe. Yet, none of those teams really have an answer for Bynum if he plays to his abilities. I know that “if” is the rub. Still I’d go as far to say if Bynum doesn’t play his best on most nights the Lakers can’t win the title no matter what Kobe does. If Bynum went down tonight and the Nuggets won I wouldn’t even count on the Lakers being able to finish this series. Their size is their advantage in this series.

    That is not to knock Kobe in any way. He is still an excellent player. But he is no longer the transcendent player he used to be. And there is no shame in that.

  53. 1. Zone defenses are allowed in today’s game which make it easier to double-team post players.
    2. The Lakers perimeter players are not enough of a deterrent for teams. Teams take their chances with our shooters because they are not afraid.
    3. Bynum hasn’t fully mastered how to pass out of double-teams. He’s better than he ever has been at this, but still struggles sometimes.
    4. Bynum is really good! They double him because they want to take the ball out of his hands on post touches.

    Add all these things together and you get a metric bleep ton of doubles for Drew. Now someone on this site will probably make the case that Drew is so great that he is getting doubled more than Hakeem ever did!!!

    /sigh

  54. 52,
    Indeed, I’m not saying he couldn’t have adjusted (Hakeem was a fantastic player) – today’s game is just different, and having great one-on-one skills is not enough. But i’m going off topic…
    I really enjoyed the read, great stuff

  55. 54)
    We know how he would have done. When he was winning two championships he was being double teamed the entire game in the mid 90’s. He is the best passing big man of all time from everywhere on the court. It’s just that there wasn’t a lot of double teaming in the 80’s and early 90’s. Probably because there was more team basketball with deeper rosters which made it very tough to send help. Look how tough it is to double the Lakers. This Lakers team (with MWP) has five offensive weapons on the floor at the same time. Like many have discussed on this site… It’s been since the 80’s since a team started five offensive players that could all inflict damage. That’s the a major reason Kobe is no longer being double teamed this year. Just too many good offensive players around him. Now of course Bynum is still being doubled… But that’s because if you don’t it’s a dunk, lay up, or hook into the basket. But even then I wouldn’t double him. Make him spend the entire game working to score in the post. That will eventually tire him out in a game and series. But that’s just my take. I’m not a guy who believe in double teaming on a regular basis.

  56. Kareem,
    It’s an easy answer. We have other perimter players that can somewhat duplicate the high volume outside one on one shots Kobe generates (Ron Artest/Ramon Sessions). We have nobody that can play Center and score in the low post. Nobody else on the team. I mean that makes sense since there are only two low post scoring Centers in the league (Bynum & Hibburt). That’s it. Marc Gasol is a set shooting big man mostly and shoots a low percentage in the post in one on one sittuation against most Centers (against Bynum he shot 35 percent this year). There is no question who is more valuable simply by using the basic economic principles we all grew up with. Supply and demand. There is a supply of two (Bynum/Hibburt) for low post scoring big men and a demand of the entire league outside of the Lakers and Pacers. And I bet both teams wouldn’t mind having another Center who can aybwith his back to the basket. There are two guys on every team who do what Kobe does although obviously there are only three players that do it better (LeBron, Durant, and Wade). So if you are the Lakers and you can only pick Kobe or Bynum for this postseason (I don’t want to have to pick between the two since we need both!)… The obvious logical choice is Bynum as upsetting at that is for Lakers fan to hear.

  57. It’s not upsetting. It’s wrong. Bynum has yet to prove that he can carry/will his team to a win. Bryant has done it hundreds of times (and numerous times this season). Bynum has not consistently shown that type of dominance or competitive desire yet. Statistics don’t have a say in this. Maybe this will be the year that Drew changes my opinion. I sure hope so, because having two of those players on one team will make us very dangerous until Kobe retires.

    Although I agree with your assessment that our dominant center sets us apart, I think that you’re exaggerating the importance of Bynum’s offense. He could score ten points a contest and we could win it all, buy only if he shows up for defense. His value on offense is more as a decoy than an actual weapon. As you yourself said, doubling in today’s game invites defensive mistakes and mismatches. Let one player shoot 60 shots and they’ll get worn out. But the fact that he’s doubled so often makes every one of our other offensive players a little more effective.

    Bynum also offered insights toward this, admitting the Lakers don’t need him to score in the post. They have Pau Gasol, Kobe, & MWP. Throw in Sessions penetration, and we have a very potent offense that needs Bynum mainly for his automatic points (lobs, clean ups, 1 on 1 with good post position).

    I guess I provisionally agree with you, that Bynum is what makes our team potentially great, and will give us a great leg up on our competition. However, I do not think that Bynum has shown he can will the team to victory. That quality is something that all greats possess.

  58. Kobe and Bynum chemistry has been great this year. He’s the one feeding Drew in the post more than anyone I see. Some games it makes sense for him to shoot less with steady double teams instead of forcing shots but I’m sure Abbott wouldn’t mind that anything to get the ball out of Kobe’s hands.

    What Bynum needs to work on is getting to the FT line. A center as good as him should get there more than 6 times a game. He may need more touches for that but with this calibur starting 5 how many more can he realistically expect?

    The timing of this article stinks too. I like the way the team is playing. And when Bynum faces Perkins single coverage he’ll see more post touches.

  59. @KenOak

    Quite possible the Spurs will make another good choice on an international player. They seem to have a lot of knowledge on foreign players. maybe, the lakers scouting staff is not specialized enough to understand the different levels in different leagues. Remember that Chinese guy we drafted a couple of years back? Yup, me neither. They simply show year after year that they can´t find steals from outside the US. Maybe M. Gasol is the sole exception, but he is a Gasol, so the chances were good for him to become a solid player.
    I hope that drafting internationals will improve because of Messina and his influence on Brown. We´ll see!