By Ben Holcomb
Chris Broussard posted an article five hours ago suggesting that Kobe Bryant is the reason the Lakers are sub-.500 so far this season. The article, a generally cowardly approach to the subject, hypothesizes that Kobe’s incessant shooting is the main reason for the Lakers’ early failures, and that they’d be better off with him shooting less. He lets an unnamed NBA scout, GM and assistant coach make the argument for him, which is a little silly, but the crux of the piece totally misses the mark regardless of who’s taking credit for the idea1. The truth is that the evidence for which Broussard bases his case is a classic example of correlation not equaling causation. I’ll never stop being confused as to why I have to be an apologist for one of the top 10 greatest basketball players of all-time, but we live in a world of cynics now, and many people, especially those in Bristol, CT, can’t resist taking various shots at KB24.
The ESPN article’s main thesis was this, “When Bryant has fewer than 20 attempts in a game, the Lakers are outstanding. When he shoots 20 or more times, they’re only slightly above mediocre. It seems pretty clear cut: The Lakers are better, and would be better this season, if Bryant shot less.” After reading Broussard’s article, 54% of America agreed that Kobe is shooting too much for the Lakers’ good. Allow me to help you have a change of heart.
Here’s what we know, the facts, if you will: the Lakers are 12-14 this year. Kobe Bryant is leading the NBA in scoring at the age of 34. He’s also at, or beyond, his career averages at every major statistic. He’s shooting 48% from the field, and has the 4th highest PER2 in the NBA right now at 25.81. Steve Nash has been injured since the first half of the second game of the season, Pau Gasol sat out for about 6 games in the past month, and Dwight Howard is playing despite the fact that some doctors suggested he wouldn’t be fully healed until mid-January.
With that in mind, are the Lakers really better off when Kobe shoots less? Is he the source of their problems?
I could stop this article there and just let the lunacy cease, but I think it’s important that I at least articulate why Chris Broussard and his “insider sources” are woefully mistaken on this particular subject. The idea of judging Kobe’s usage based on his shot attempts in wins and losses is a misnomer for many reasons, chief of which is that the person pushing this logic is willfully deciding to ignore game situations and a whole host of other factors that may work to contaminate that data. After all, logic would suggest Kobe would shoot less shots in a blowout, when he sits the fourth quarter, than in a game where the Lakers are trying to stage a comeback.
Broussard said the Lakers “are just 4-11 when Bryant takes 20 shots or more in a game. Yet, they are 8-3 when he shoots less than 20 times”. That is a correlation. It’s not the cause. In the 15 games where Kobe shot more than 20 times, he played about 42 minutes. In the 11 games when he shot less than 20 times? Just 35. That’s a difference of 7 minutes, which may not seem like a lot, but is almost an entire quarter’s worth. Kobe averages 21 shots a game this year. If you factor in a 48 minute regulation time period, that’s about one shot per 2.28 minutes of play.
So, just looking at the vast difference of minutes in Broussard’s false stat, Kobe misses out on about 3-4 shots in that time. This is all to say that Kobe’s lower shot totals in the 11 games ESPN mentions aren’t because of some conscious effort to distribute the ball around more, but instead the simple fact that he can’t shoot from the bench.
I’ll keep going. In those 11 games where Bryant shot under 20 times, his team won by an average of 13 points…and he lost three of those games. Doesn’t that tell you all you need to know? We’re talking blowouts here. Way to crack the case of the confounding 2012 Lakers, Broussard – Kobe shoots less when they blow teams out… and yes, they tend to win those games.
Kobe’s lower shot totals in the 11 games ESPN mentions aren’t because of some conscious effort to distribute the ball around more, but instead the simple fact that he can’t shoot from the bench.
For the same reasons, when Kobe’s teammates show up, he doesn’t have to carry as much of the load, and thus his FGA diminish. That means, despite what NBA scouts, GMs, or assistant coaches say, Kobe is not the problem. He’s the answer. I’m almost positive he’d admit that in a perfect world, he wouldn’t have to shoot 20+ times a game. When Nash gets back into the lineup, and Blake returns, and Dwight’s back fully heals, the chances are likely that Kobe’s 20+ shot games will greatly diminish in regularity.
Broussard’s reasoning is asinine, and does a poor job extrapolating answers to why the numbers look the way they look. I’ll leave you with this: the Lakers are 9-3 when Robert Sacre plays this year. Think he should start because of that fact? That’s what I thought.
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