To chuck, or not to chuck, that is the question. At least that is the ongoing debate among the pro- and con-Kobe Bryant groups (especially in the comments section of our All-NBA Teams article). The argument (at least for the anti-Kobe people) is that the Lakers would be a more successful team if Kobe shared the rock more often, especially with Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol, two the best big men in the league. The noise has become louder this season, as Bryant bumped his shots per game up to 23, while his shooting percentage plummeted to 43% (in the playoffs thus far, he’s shooting almost 27 times a night at the same 43% success rate). So the question is, is Kobe > Pau + Bynum?
I decided to do some basic number crunching to try to answer this question, based on Kobe, Pau and Bynum’s shot attempts in correlation to the Lakers success in the win-loss column. More specifically, are the Lakers chances of winning a game greater with Kobe Bryant shooting more than Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum combined. Are the Lakers more successful with a Kobe-centric offense or with an offense revolving around their elite big men?
In the regular season, when Pau and Bynum combined for more shot attempts than Kobe in a game, the Lakers won 59% of the time. In the games where Kobe shot more than Pau and Bynum combined, the Lakers won……..59% of the time. That’s right – the Lakers were just as successful with Kobe dominating the ball as they were when Pau and Bynum took charge. In the playoffs, they are 1-1 when Pau and Bynum combine to shoot more than Kobe; 2-1 when Kobe takes more shots than the duo combined.
So what does this all mean? While shot attempts isn’t a perfect stat (all shots aren’t created equal – How many shots does Kobe have to force up as the shot clock winds down? How many shots does he have to create all by himself? What’s the score in the game when these players are taking these shots? etc.), it does seems to point to the fact that the Lakers are a very dangerous team to stop. They can win just as easily with Kobe attacking from the wing as they can pounding the ball inside. So what are the Nuggets to do – let Kobe shoot 32 times like in Game 5, or force him to give it up? Damned if they do, damned if they don’t. And the Kobe debate shall continue unabated.