Our preseason player profiles end with where this team often begins: Kobe Bryant. There is hardly a storyline on the court (and off the court) about the Lakers that doesn’t involve Bryant in some shape or form. Although last season was one of the roughest in franchise history, Bryant had one of his best, but ended with the rupturing of his Achilles. This year will be in interesting one as he looks to not only come back from out of the roughest injuries in sports, but to build on the season he had last year with a huge part of the rotation gone to Texas.
Name: Kobe Bryant
Year: 18th Season
PPG: 27.3 RPG: 5.6 APG: 6.0 SPG: 1.4 BPG: 0.3
FG%: 46.3% 3PT%: 32.4% FT%: 83.9%
PER: 23.0 USG%: 31.9% ORTG: 112 DRTG: 107
TS%: 57.0% EFG%: 50.4% DR%: 13.1% OR%: 2.5% TR%: 7.9%
Last Season Summary:
Considering his advancing age, Kobe Bryant submitted one of the best seasons of his illustrious career. Bryant proved that there is nothing he can’t do on the basketball court, and in a season of such turmoil, the Lakers literally needed Bryant to do everything and he delivered until his body couldn’t go anymore.
Bryant posted his highest rebounding average since 2007-2008 and his highest assist average since 2004-2005. Bryant adjusted his game every night depending on what the team needed. Whether he needed to score 30 points, grab 12 rebounds, dish out 15 assists, or guard the opposing team’s best player, Bryant did it all, sometimes in the same game. Bryant also was a more efficient scorer posting his third highest true shooting percentage, and highest effective field goal percentage of his career.
And when you thought Bryant couldn’t raise his game anymore, he stepped it up when it mattered most. With the Lakers staring down the possibility of missing the playoffs, Bryant posted averages of 30.5-7-7.5-2.2-1.2 in six games in April before succumbing to the torn Achilles. Even through the team struggles, Bryant cemented himself among the greatest to ever play the game.
Bryant has always been an interesting player because sometimes what makes him great, ends up hurting him and the Lakers the most.
While Bryant no longer has the elite athleticism and explosiveness of his younger years, he makes up for it on offense with arguably the greatest basketball mind in the game, and the largest array of offensive moves we’ve seen in this lifetime. Bryant can score any way, from anywhere on the court. Post ups, step backs, fade aways, three-pointers, mid-range, pump fakes, face-up game, Bryant has it all. It is his amazing arsenal of moves and counter-moves that has allowed him to continue scoring even while defenders have become quicker and more athletic than him.
Bryant has also become a more willing passer and his vision is top notch. He is a solid rebounder from the guard position, willing and able to come down with tough rebounds in traffic. When locked in, he is still capable of hounding some of the top players in the league on defense in short stints. And there is nobody you would rather have shooting with the game on the line than Bryant.
His weaknesses, however, come because of some of his strengths. Bryant believes he is the best and there are times when that manifests itself as Bryant trying to do everything himself instead of moving the ball around. His attempts to go one-on-one with the likes of defenders like Paul George and Andre Igoudala often end in disappointment as he no longer has the lift to elevate over superior athletes.
His biggest weakness has been his defense. One-on-one, when locked in, Bryant is still capable. But off the ball, Bryant has a horrible habit of roaming and over-helping often leading to either a layup or open three pointer. In transition he tends to point and bark more than stopping the ball, leading to confusion.
Bryant is still the face, and leader, of the Lakers. When he returns to the court is still unknown, but when he does come back, he will still be counted on to be the top scorer. What Kobe must do this season is pick his spots to dominate. He has said that he wants to reduce his minutes, meaning he will have to be efficient when on the floor.
Bryant showed last season he has the ability to be an amazing playmaker, and with an improved supporting cast he should have more opportunities to do so. If this team is to exceed expectations, it will have to be a team effort and that means Kobe has to consistently be a playmaker so the likes of Chris Kaman, Nick Young, and Wesley Johnson can thrive. Of course, these players have to produce in order to allow Kobe the rest he needs, if they struggle, we may see Kobe attempt to defy Father Time again, and I wouldn’t put it past him.
This Year’s Expectations:
I put nothing past Kobe Bryant. If he wants to shut everyone up by averaging 35 points after a severe injury, he can do it. I think we will see a decent reduction in Kobe’s minutes leading to his scoring dropping to the 23-25 point range.
That supporting cast will allow Kobe more playmaking duties which could lead to a career high in assists. Kobe is going to do whatever he has to do to get back on the court as soon as he can. And when he is there, Kobe’s mindset should be to do whatever he has to lead the Lakers to a victory.
I will never doubt what Kobe is capable of doing, but I see him having a role similar to Tim Duncan with the Spurs. His minutes won’t be reduced to that level, but his role with the team as the standard bearer and leader will be the same. The team will go as Kobe goes, and Kobe expects greatness at all times.
Coach Mike D’Antoni Talks Kobe’s Return, Being On The Hot Seat, And Steve Nash. Don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel by clicking here!