A lot of words are thrown around when Kobe’s name comes up. From the nice, such as competitor, winner, clutch, GOAT (Greatest of All Time), to the not so nice: ballhog, selfish, once even rapist. At the beginning of his career, everyone thought he looked just like Tupac Shakur (above). While there was a resemblance way back then, It doesn’t seem to be true any longer. But that’s not really the point of this post. The point is that a lot has been said of Kobe, especially this season. With his team struggling to remain relevant, Kobe has tried everything. From taking all the shots to, recently, becoming a pass first point guard. In that time the Lakers have gone 3-0 and Kobe has averaged 13 assists.
Still, the most frequented knock on Kobe’s game this season has been that he is a ballhog. Not necessarily that he is selfish, he’s just trying to win and it is not selfish to want to win–at least not from a team’s standpoint. But is this even true? Is he taking more shots than normal? And how valuable and effective has he been for his team? His AST% or percentage of teammates buckets he assisted on while on the floor, is 26.4%, up from last year’s 23.7. Still, that might be boosted from the last three games. So what is his USG% (A measurement of the percentage of plays utilized by a player while he is in the
game)? Basketball-reference.com says it is 32%, down from last year’s 35.7% and well below his career high of 38.7%. His offensive rating is also up to 114. He even has more Win Shares that last year at 6.8 compared to 6.2 last year.
Kobe’s Effective Field Goal Percentage is a career high 51.6% this year. His True Shooting Percentage is a near career high 57.4%. What does all of this mean? It means that he actually doesn’t have the ball in his hands as much this year, is shooting significantly better, and is actually getting more assists. Kobe is averaging 6.57 assists per 48 minutes on the court. He is taking 21.42 shots per game this year, 26.567 per 48 minutes. That’s a lot. But is it a lot for him? For his career, Kobe shoots 19.62 shots per game. So he is shooting 1.8 more shots than his career average. But those numbers are diluted. He didn’t become a starter until his 3rd year in the league. Taking that into account, Kobe has averaged 21.15 since his 3rd year in the league. However, last year Kobe was shooting 23 shots per game, and at his peak he was shooting 27.2 shots per game. So on the whole, this is about average for Kobe Bryant. At 23.98, Kobe’s PER is higher than last year’s too, which was 21.99.
Kobe’s Assist to Turnover Ratio is higher this year too at 1.59. Last year it was 1.29. Kobe has only topped 40 points four times this year. In 2006 he topped it 27 times. He already has seven triple doubles compared to last year’s three. He even has a triple double.
Realgm.com uses the FIC stat, or Floor Impact Counter. It is similar to the PER, Plus-Minus system, and the Player Value System. Kobe’s FIC is 15.93. Last year it was 13.63. His unadjusted Player Value is 8.58, so he is currently as valuable as a star point guard, but a very weak shooting guard. Last year, Kobe had an 8.85. For his career, Kobe is a 51.66. His Adjusted Player Value this year is 12.95. Last year it was 13.846. For his career, Kobe’s Adjusted Player Value is 89.1. The longer a player plays in the NBA, the more valuable their career is. In other words, the longer a player plays, the more likely they are to win a championship.
Michael Jordan once had a 152.02 unadjusted Player Value in a season. That isn’t even a record. This year, LeBron has a 154.64. LeBron is having a historic season. There is a reason he is a 3 time MVP and was a champion last year. Last year he had a 107. So unless a couple other players have taken major hits in their Player Value this year, the Heat are the favorites to win it again this year.
There is something about Kobe that lowers his Player Value. He is a terrific player individually. One of the top five players of all time talent-wise. He’s even won five championships. But he’s been surrounded by a wealth of talent as well. He was coached by the greatest coach of all time. He’s played with Shaquille O’neal, Karl Malone, Gary Payton, Steve Nash, Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol, Ron Artest (Metta World Peace), Andrew Bynum, Glen Rice, Dennis Rodman, Horace Grant, Nick Van Exel, Eddie Jones, Lamar Odom, etc. Not all of these players were in their prime when they played with Kobe, and some were at the very dead end of their career (Horace Grant). But all these players added leadership and veteran experience, and some of them could have taught a young Bryant. Some of the super stacked rosters that he was on didn’t pan out. This year is an example. So was the Karl Malone-Shaq-Gary Payton-Kobe team. But when he doesn’t have another star or two next to him, the Lakers have always failed to make a major impact in the playoffs. You have to remember that LeBron had very little talent around him in Cleveland, and took a very talentless team to the NBA Finals. The Utah Jazz Finals teams were devoid of scoring talent outside of John Stockton, Malone, and Hornacek. In 1997, Bryon Russell was the only other player averaging double digits for the Jazz. The next year, only Malone, Hornacek and Stockton did. That trio carried the team to The Finals two years in a row, but they never won the championship.
In conclusion, Kobe is actually passing and sharing more than usual this year. But compared to the rest of the NBA, he still isn’t sharing very much. Because he doesn’t share the ball as much as he should, his Player Value takes a hit. He’s not as valuable as everyone thinks he is, and that is why he only ever won a single MVP trophy. He is certainly one of the top five most talented players in NBA history, but he’s not the most valuble to his team. Big numbers and flashy play often just hypnotizes fans and teams into thinking that. He’s won a lot, but he probably relied on the other stars on the team more than people realize.