You Are Here > Basketball-Reference.com > BBR Blog > NBA and College Basketball Analysis

SITE NEWS: We are moving all of our site and company news into a single blog for Sports-Reference.com. We'll tag all Basketball-Reference content, so you can quickly and easily find the content you want.

Also, our existing Basketball-Reference blog rss feed will be redirected to the new site's feed.

Basketball-Reference.com // Sports Reference

For more from Neil, check out his new work at BasketballProspectus.com.

Boxscore Breakdown: Finals, Game 5

Posted by Neil Paine on June 15, 2009

And so it came to pass that Game 5 of the NBA Finals, at home in Orlando, would be the site where the weary Magic would make their last stand. Having allowed two games to slip through their fingers in the series already, Orlando now faced the sobering reality of needing to win 3 consecutive games against the Lakers, a team that did not suffer a 3-game skein all season long, to capture the prize. The odds were heavily against a comeback, but then again, the odds had been against the Magic all season. Did they have one last epic surge left, or would the Lake Show permanently crush their collective will in Game 5 on Sunday night?

(Special thanks to PopcornMachine.net for helping me get the player minutes -- wrongly tabulated at NBA.com -- sorted out!)

Name Tm Pos Min Poss PProd ORtg %Pos Floor% Stops Stop% DRtg
Trevor Ariza LAL SF 41.5 14.6 13.8 94.2 18.9 0.430 8.6 0.556 96.1
Pau Gasol LAL FC 42.2 11.2 15.6 139.1 14.3 0.695 10.8 0.682 90.6
Andrew Bynum LAL C 16.9 10.6 7.7 72.9 33.4 0.355 3.7 0.592 94.5
Kobe Bryant LAL SG 43.3 22.4 28.7 128.1 27.7 0.563 11.9 0.736 88.2
Derek Fisher LAL PG 32.0 8.2 11.9 146.0 13.7 0.629 5.4 0.448 100.7
Lamar Odom LAL PF 31.7 14.5 16.1 110.9 24.5 0.461 6.9 0.584 94.8
Luke Walton LAL SF 14.1 2.0 2.8 138.6 7.7 0.667 2.1 0.405 102.7
Jordan Farmar LAL PG 13.6 2.4 2.2 91.5 9.6 0.447 1.9 0.367 104.3
Sasha Vujacic LAL SG 4.7 0.7 0.0 0.0 7.7 0.000 0.6 0.367 104.3
Los Angeles Lakers 89.7 99 110.4 95.9
Name Tm Pos Min Poss PProd ORtg %Pos Floor% Stops Stop% DRtg
Hedo Turkoglu ORL SF 42.1 10.7 11.5 107.2 13.7 0.492 5.8 0.367 115.9
Rashard Lewis ORL PF 44.5 21.2 18.3 86.5 25.5 0.375 8.4 0.507 109.8
Dwight Howard ORL C 39.2 12.3 10.6 86.5 16.8 0.439 9.0 0.611 105.2
Courtney Lee ORL SG 26.3 10.4 11.1 107.6 21.1 0.514 4.6 0.468 111.5
Rafer Alston ORL PG 33.0 17.4 12.6 72.0 28.3 0.335 6.6 0.539 108.4
Mickael Pietrus ORL SG 16.7 4.2 3.3 78.9 13.3 0.395 1.9 0.305 118.5
Jameer Nelson ORL PG 12.6 7.9 6.5 82.6 33.6 0.343 1.9 0.400 114.4
Tony Battie ORL C 3.5 1.4 1.2 85.5 21.0 0.388 0.7 0.545 108.1
Marcin Gortat ORL C 8.8 3.2 3.0 94.7 19.4 0.474 0.8 0.248 121.0
J.J. Redick ORL SG 13.3 3.6 6.7 185.1 14.6 0.724 1.3 0.254 120.8
Orlando Magic 89.7 86 95.9 110.4

Unfortunately for the Magic and their faithful, while the team came out strong in the early going, this was never really a game after the middle of the second quarter. Trailing 40-36 with 7:11 left in the first half, L.A. went on a 16-0 run that, in retrospect, was the most significant nail in Orlando's coffin. The Lakers never looked back after the run, outscoring the Magic by 17 points in the 2nd and 3rd quarters combined, and cruised through the fourth to the 15th championship in franchise history, leaving Orlando with just 1 win in club's last 9 Finals games. When the dust cleared, Kobe had earned MVP honors and his 4th championship ring as a player, while Phil Jackson secured coaching title #10, passing the Celtics' great Red Auerbach as the league's all-time leader in that category.

People will make much of Bryant & the Lakers' offensive performance in Game 5 over the coming days -- and don't get me wrong, they played very well in that department, notching a 110.4 offensive rating against the NBA's top D -- but the real secret to Los Angeles' success, not just last night but all series long, was their defense. In the Eastern Conference Finals against Cleveland, Orlando had their way with the Cavs' D (which ranked 3rd in the league during the regular season), averaging 113.2 points per 100 possessions and raining down 3-pointers from all over the court. By contrast, against L.A. in the Finals the Magic averaged just 100.5 pts/100, and their vaunted 3-point attack never really got off of the ground (in the Game 5 clincher they were limited to just 29.6% shooting from beyond the arc). Over the course of 5 games, that's an extra 58 points the Lakers saved versus the Cavs' defensive performance against the same Magic team, and that ultimately proved the difference between a 5-game championship victory & a disappointing 6-game loss in the conference finals.

And Now, Let's Close 2008-09 With One Last Rant About Kobe Bryant

Kobe was terrific in this series, of course, and no one can take his accomplishments away from him, but I fear that in the upcoming Kobe lovefest, many will forget his talented teammates and the way they contributed to title #15. First of all, no one man can make a defense -- especially if that man is a guard -- so the Lakers' defensive credit against Orlando belongs to all of Los Angeles' players, especially Pau Gasol, who made life hell for Dwight Howard inside, and Lamar Odom & Trevor Ariza, who hustled their butts off on D to shut down the Rashard Lewis/Hedo Turkoglu duo. With all due respect to Kobe, he may have won this ring "without Shaq's help", but he also won it with the help of a really great collection of supporting players, without whom there's no way Kobe would be hoisting another Larry O'Brien trophy.

That's why it was more than a little insulting to everyone involved (Kobe's teammates, the home viewers, hoops historians, etc.) when ABC's announcers tried to artificially pump up Kobe's performance -- and his playing abilities -- as "the best there's been since Jordan" and "among the best ever" (culminating with Jeff Van Gundy calling Kobe "Machiavellian" and Mark Jackson actually saying Kobe was "the best we have seen at the shooting guard position") in an effort to make the fans feel like they were watching something as special as MJ in his prime. Because look, folks, it just wasn't that special. I hate to drag out the tired, played-out LeBron James comparison again, but here's how they stacked up in their respective series vs. the Magic -- the same team, the same players, the same defense:

Name Tm Pos G Min Poss PProd ORtg %Pos Floor% Stops Stop% DRtg
LeBron James CLE F 6 265.5 199.7 234.8 117.6 40.1 0.558 49.6 0.499 112.8
Kobe Bryant LAL G 5 218.9 148.2 163.9 110.6 37.3 0.512 43.3 0.546 100.1

The Standard Sportswriter Take™ this week will be that Kobe has definitively reclaimed the mantle of "NBA's Best Player" with a Jordanesque offensive performance that carried the Lakers to the NBA title. Don't believe it for a second. As you can plainly see, James actually performed better than Kobe on offense against Orlando's top-ranked D; the defensive end is where Bryant would hold any edge, and we all know that the difference between Cleveland's defensive performance vs. the Magic and L.A.'s had far more to do with the two superstars' supporting casts than it did with Kobe and LeBron themselves.

So remember: although many Kobe fans will attempt to use this championship as "proof" that Kobe Bryant is a superior player to LeBron James, Kobe is still not definitively "better" than LBJ. In fact, to the contrary: every shred of statistical evidence we have still suggests that Bryant is inferior to James, and by no insignificant margin, either. The fact that the Lakers won a title Sunday night proves nothing except that the Lakers are a better team than the Cavaliers (actually, check that, it doesn't even necessarily prove that either, but that's a rant for another post). So don't be fooled. Bryant is a fantastic player, an Olympic Gold Medalist and a 4-time NBA Champion, but team honors should not be confused with individual ability. Sorry I had to go into rant mode, but the utility of this public service will become clear to you over the coming weeks and months...

ShareThis

98 Responses to “Boxscore Breakdown: Finals, Game 5”

  1. UB Says:

    Do I detect a hint of bias?

    Let's see...

    Bryant had a larger positive difference between his offensive and defensive ratings in this series than did James - and one of the common delineating factors between the two had been Kobe's capabilities as a standout defensive player. True or not (and really more false than true, often), you can't deny that according to a fairly significant "shred of statistical evidence" Kobe had a greater positive impact on his team's series against the Magic than did James.

    But wait! Of course, "we all know that the difference between Cleveland’s defensive performance vs. the Magic and L.A.’s had far more to do with the two superstars’ supporting casts than it did with Kobe and LeBron themselves."

    Do we? Really? Because I was pretty sure that the idea behind Defensive Rating was to attempt to quantify THAT PLAYER'S contribution to the team's defense. So despite the fact that LA's weaker (over the regular season) defense outperformed Cleveland's, and by a fairly large amount (but we can't credit Bryant or debit James for that, apparently), Kobe's own significantly better DRtg should still suggest a better defensive performance on an individual level than Lebron's even including the successes of the rest of his teammates.

    And furthermore, if you argue that DRtg IS going to be dependent on the performance of teammates, I respond that ORtg is as well - and in this case, it's Bryant's position versus Lebron. While James and Bryant are both primary ball handlers, LeBron's significantly greater role as a defensive rebounder inflates his statistical presence. Both he and Bryant have similar ORB% (1.3/g veruss 1.1, or 4.3% vs 3.5%) - but James gets an extra pair of defensive caroms per game (6.3/g versus 4/1, or 19% vs 12.8%). You're telling me that you can instinctively correct for the relative team defenses on the two players' DRtgs, but not do the same for their offenses, even though both have wildly different teammates and roles on both sides of the ball?

    ... Huh. Okay then.

    Cheers!

  2. UB Says:

    Actually, a couple more notes (sorry for the double post).

    I just find it so difficult to watch, when Bryant dominates the ball, and it's assumed that he makes everybody around him worse to inflate his numbers. But after a series in which LeBron used a -hilariously- high amount of his team's possessions, and saw effectively every Cavalier play worse except LeBron, he's somehow absolved of any wrongdoing and his numbers are held up in a vacuum?

    I mean, Pau Gasol's best Offensive Rating ever in Memphis is 115 in 06-07. He comes to LA and -immediately- improves by a huge amount, becoming one of the most efficient players in the league. Look at his split in 07-08; he jumps from 114/111 (Off/Def) to 128/105 - and it's not a sample size issue, given that this season he put up 126/105. Boy, it's almost like he moved to a team with a top-shelf perimeter player that opened up his offensive game and offered significant help on a consistent basis defensively (Bryant's 1-on-1 defense is highly overrated, largely because he prefers to act as a help defender). That's also not an improvement issue, unless you believe Gasol just happened to make a huge leap in skill *right* when he was traded.

    [Or, to reword it, clearly Kobe Bryant has nothing to do with the fact that Vlad Radmanovich's offensive rating nosedived as soon as he left L.A.]

    The apparent storyline on the BBR blog, though, more or less?

    'Pau Gasol's efficiency saves Kobe Bryant from himself, despite the fact that his O/D splits are actually better than LeBron's against the same opposing team, in a late-season situation in which the much-older Bryant would be far more likely to be wearing down than physical freak LeBron.'

    (I extrapolated a bit - sorry).

  3. Larry Says:

    I'm sorry Neil but that little rant was garbage. Kobe is the best player in the league, hands down the best SG we've seen since MJ. Lebron's very good but he tried to win the series against the magic by himself and he failed miserably. Don't talk about supporting casts please, the cavaliers had the best record in the league for a reason.

  4. anonymous Says:

    wow, i'm usually a big fan of your analysis but that last rant was just way off. defensive rating and offensive rating only matters if it favors lebron? i also find it funny that lebron's cast suddenly became useless. remember what you wrote before?
    "Why they can win: They have the league’s best player, its most balanced team, and a deep roster that looks tailor-made for the playoffs (the formula: surround a superstar with role players who can make shots when called upon). They also have the experience of the 2007 Finals run to fall back on. Simply put, this was the best team in the NBA during the regular season."
    why is it that now, his cast of role players contributes nothing on defense while kobe's cast is the sole explanation for his numbers?
    now i'm not saying kobe's the best by any means. i'm just questioning your abandonment of what the numbers say. this blog opened my eyes to the the methods that try to scientifically reduce the complex interactions of 10 people into individual contributions. why are you backing out from everything the numbers appear to indicate now?

  5. Larry Says:

    Because Neil is just another kobe hater

  6. Michael Says:

    Second UB on the LeBron`s vacuumed numbers. Offcourse i dont find the "whos best" disscusion all that interesting, but had Kobe done the same LeBron did against Magic it would have been ALL Kobe`s fault the team lost.

    LeBron shot the ball nearly 30 times most games that series, and guess what, when Kobe`s shooting that much, thats when Lakers also loose.One day LeBron will have a great supporting cast, and then we will see how great he can be.

    LeBron did not manage to actvate his teammates against Orlando, how is that playing better?

  7. Anon Says:

    @ UB,

    I read your "counter rant" and I just have ONE thing to point out to you.

    Lakers DRtg in the Finals: 101.4
    Kobe's DRtg in the Finals: 100.1

    Still want to complain that Neil isn't making a fair analysis here? Everyone KNOWS that DRtg is largely a TEAM function (about 80% according to Dean Oliver's definition). Kobe certainly gets credit for playing a little better defense than his team (and to play a whole point better is actually very good) but clearly he's also benefiting greatly from the rest of his team's defensive performance in the Finals. That's why you simply can't compare Kobe's and LeBron's DRtgs in a direct manner.

    @ Michael,

    Your post reads like a straw man argument.

  8. Justin Says:

    UB's rant was almost spot on.

  9. TQ Says:

    There are always several flaws with the typical statisticians anti-Kobe rant. The first is confusing productivity with skill. Lebron is the most productive player, yeah, we get it. But there is clearly a difference between productivity (as measured by scoring, rebounding, assists, etc) vs. skill. The notion that Lebron is more skilled than Kobe is as laughable as the notion that Kobe is as productive as Lebron. I'm not sure how exactly you measure Kobe's mid-range and post-up game, and his unbelievable footwork, and his ability to create shots under duress, but, clearly, with or without a metric, these skills are leaps and bounds more advanced in Kobe than in anyone else in the league (and in anyone since Jordan). There is a reason coaches focus obsessively on how to stop Bryant. James is a one or two trick pony--it's merely that those tricks are near impossible to stop based solely on his size and athleticism. There are other parallels to this--say Hakeem and Shaq. Shaq was more productive (by PER or whatever net metric you choose), but Hakeem was more skilled. Again, I don't know how you measure Hakeem's skill in the low post, but if we were to say measure complexity of low post moves, Hakeem wins this hands down. He was easily more skilled than Shaq by a mile. So then, in some sense, "better" comes down to aesthetics. Do you value productivity (measured as some collection of statistics) or do you value skill (as measured subjectively by the human eye)? I understand the desire to want to quantify and use hard data, but, I think we suffer from a limitation of our measurement abilities. There are clearly important things that occur on the court and subtleties that we haven't quite figured out how to measure. A boxscore based measure is easy, but I also think it necessarily incurs the cost of great data loss.

    A second issue for me is the teammates issue. This is problematic on several fronts. First, as UB points out, there is a "Kobe effect" if you will, wherein there is a measurable improvement in boxscore metrics for players playing with Kobe, but often a drop off when they cease playing with Kobe (Shaq is an obvious example, as is Caron Butler, though I'll get to Butler more specifically in a moment...). It isn't that these guys aren't good before they played with Kobe (Odom and Gasol, for example), it is more that playing with him improves their game. Part of this is the defensive attention Kobe receives (I'd argue this can be measured pretty easily if you had the time). The other, often overlooked part, is that Kobe pushes guys to be better (I'll touch upon this at length later). Then we have the "well Kobe needed other really good players to win." To this I retort, well, for what player hasn't that been the case? Jordan had exceptional players in Pippen, later Rodman, an all-star in Grant, a solid player in Kukoc, and often an excellent supporting cast of role players. Magic had, oh gee, Kareem, Worthy, Scott, Nixon, Wilkes, McAdoo, etc. Bird had Parrish, McHale, Archibald (for one or two seasons I think). Irving had Malone, Cheeks, Tony. Duncan, had Parker, Ginobili, Robinson. That's the thing, championships teams almost universally have to have a collection of exceptional talent.

    The teammate issue has another effect--and that is that often individual stats are lowered playing with great teammates (witness KG, Allen, Pierce). But wait, didn't I just argue Kobe made guys better? Sure. But this effect seems to be largely confined to FG% and offensive rating, not across the board statistical improvements. So this brings us back to productivity. Lebron has to be more productive because he doesn't have 3 double digit rebounders like Kobe does. He gets more assists because he is the primary playmaker, whereas Kobe plays with good passers in Gasol, Odom, Walton. Kobe doesn't fill the boxscore as much, but he doesn't need to, nor does he have the opportunity. One could then point to Kobe's first post-Shaq years as evidence that he's still not as productive as Lebron. Well, we're still confounded. Kobe played with Odom all those years, who is an elite rebounder. Hard to average 8 boards when Odom gobbles them up. As for assists, in this case, one can point to the fact that Lebron has better shooters around him than Kobe had at the time (in the days of Smush Parker, Luke Walton, Kwame Brown). If we could measure good passes to open players that resulted in missed shots, Kobe would likely have had the edge. We can play the thought experiment of putting Kobe on the present day Cavs and Lebron on the Lakers circa-2006 or so with Smush, Luke, Kwame and Odom. I'd argue that if we could do such an experiment we'd see a convergence of their stats. But while we can't do the experiment, I also don't think we can overlook that there is some confounding effects of teammates on individual stats.

    Lastly, the thing that really separates Bryant from Lebron (and everyone else) is leadership. It was obvious in the Spike Lee documentary. It was obvious during the Olympics. It's been obvious these whole playoffs. It has been so obvious that Alonzo Mourning pointed out that Kobe was essentially coaching the team. Brian Shaw also said as much in a recent interview. You can't measure this (other than by rings), but you can't overlook that Kobe is constantly with the whiteboard in hand on the sidelines explaining things to guys, that he's always pulling guys aside and giving instructions, teaching, encouraging. You can't measure, but can't overlook that he has gotten guys to play harder, to work harder. To the last man every guy on his team will tell you this (and I think they have, in fact, all said this in one way or another at some point this season). Guys from the Olympic team (including Coach K) have pointed out how Kobe taught them, coached them out there, made them better players. Now this isn't to say Kobe is a perfect player (he isn't), or that he doesn't do dumb things on the court himself (he does), but that he has led by example, by instruction, by building trust in his teammates. And this makes guys better. And so like back to Caron Butler, or now Trevor Ariza, these guys will tell you that working with Kobe made them better players. Not that they weren't talented to begin with, but like in any human endeavor, working against the best every day, having a mentor, having someone teach you, encourage you, challenge you, these make you better. The only way you measure that I suppose is by the guys holding the trophy at the end of the game.

  10. Jason J Says:

    TQ that is an excellent post! you know what i love about this argument? "lebron is the most PRODUCTIVE player since young jordan (according the the numbers)." "kobe is the most SKILLED player since mature jordan (according to our eyes)." common theme? seriously though in support of your argument for production not necessarily telling us who the best player is - let's take a look at MJ. his metrics drop off noticeably after '88. are we to believe that he peaked at 25 and that his ability co-incidentally diminished as Pippen's increased? Or can we just accept that winning requires every player on a team to be focused and involved and that great players need to cede some responsibility to their teammates in order to win? Haven't we seen this happen enough to believe it yet?

    I actually have this problem even moreso when I look at what possession-based metrics do to Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. The two of them were incredible do-it-all players who did not need to be the focus of every play. They could give you 40+ minutes while allowing their all-star teammates to shine, acting as set-up men or decoys. They could take over one game and direct traffic the next. And of course they won titles with all that team-wide talent. You can say the same for Tim Duncan actually. Now should we believe that these players were giving us their maximum possible productive output and measure them that way? Why is Usage x efficiency the measure of ability? It just doesn't make sense.

    As team talent increases, individual output decreases - and it's not always relative to the number of possessions being played. Bird could play 40 minutes on a very fast paced team, but if KC wanted to run plays for McHale, Parish, Ainge, Walton, and DJ ... how is that a problem? Why should we think less of Larry for any of that? Or if Magic saw that Worthy was abusing a post defender, why shouldn't he keep dropping the ball down on the block, even if he didn't get assist credit for those scores?

    All that being said, I am a fan of WS and PER and all the rest, and I honestly do think that LeBron is the better player at this point. I think he does more than anyone else to impact the game overall. But Kobe clearly has the mental edge and a greater range of scoring options. He just played a phenomenal playoffs and he used teamwork and leadership and all the things people accuse him of not being able to do. He's up there with Duncan and Shaq as one of the very best players of the decade, and he may rank alone as the most brilliant player of the decade (at least among stars - though Timmy & Nash seem to understand situations equally well).

  11. UB Says:

    Anon 9:19 -

    I understand that there's a team component to DRtg. I simply fail to understand why LeBron James, the "leader" of the 3rd-best defense in the league for most of this season (102.4) somehow ends up getting a pass for his team's incredibly poor performance on that end in the ECF. Meanwhile, Bryant, the "leader" of the 6th-best defense (104.6) is relegated to receiving almost no credit for the 'team' effort despite his excellent work on that end in the series.

    Meanwhile, it seems like you're brushing aside the fact that a player's role absolutely contributes to his ORtg (or do you really think Steve Kerr was more valuable to the offense of the Bulls than Jordan) - James's job is to more often attempt to facilitate, which is a much lower-risk proposition with regards to efficiency. I take a shot and miss - my efficiency goes down fairly significantly. I take a shot and make it - my efficiency goes up fairly significantly. I make a pass and my teammate misses - my efficiency isn't harmed at all. I make a pass and my teammate scores - my efficiency still goes up farly significantly due to the value of the assist. (I won't even get into what I perceive as the difference in how the two players are refereed - generating LeBron's extra 6 free throws per game - as that reaches beyond the realms of statistics and into my own pure bias)

    So yes, I do still want to take issue with Neil's rant. I don't believe it to be an intellectually honest one - that may be fair for him to do (given that there will certainly be far too much hyperbole on the other side of the coin calling Kobe 'BEST [X] EVER'), but in isolation this piece reads like one written to highlight the numbers that prove a predetermined point.

  12. Anon Says:

    Just one more note about UD's post, he raises an interesting point below:

    "I mean, Pau Gasol’s best Offensive Rating ever in Memphis is 115 in 06-07. He comes to LA and -immediately- improves by a huge amount, becoming one of the most efficient players in the league. Look at his split in 07-08; he jumps from 114/111 (Off/Def) to 128/105 - and it’s not a sample size issue, given that this season he put up 126/105. Boy, it’s almost like he moved to a team with a top-shelf perimeter player that opened up his offensive game..."

    I think you're severely underrating Pau Gasol's talents here. Playing alongside another great offensive player can help with your own game but it's not like Pau hasn't been great before. As a matter of fact he's had THREE seasons of 10 WS/3000 min before coming to LA (when he was the alpha dog in Memphis) and his previous high was 11.2, before reaching his mark of 14.4 this season (which led everyone on the Lakers). Also keep in mind that at age 28 he's entering the prime of his career. I don't think that this is a statistical aberration, but it might be a good future post, similar to the "'Steve Nash effect' on Shawn Marion" blog entry that was done awhile back.

  13. UB Says:

    "It isn’t that these guys aren’t good before they played with Kobe (Odom and Gasol, for example)..."

    I'm actually going to borrow from TQ's post to make one other point. Why do people believe Odom was particularly good before he played with Bryant? His ORtgs for his entire career:

    100
    102
    94
    99
    102
    ---- (trade to LA)
    107
    112
    107
    116
    110

    ... I mean, I think the guy's a fantastic player to watch, but he really just wasn't efficient at all until he began playing on the Lakers. Yet his presence is -proof- that Kobe simply benefits from his teammates, instead of an example of how Bryant improves them?

  14. TRad Says:

    I think you can't give all credits of Odom's improving to Bryant. Lakers offensive system is unique - and perfectly fits to Odom's skills. He's a good player by any means - but I think he plays in the system which is perfect to him, Bryant or no Bryant.

  15. Walter Says:

    I found these stats from 82games.com to very interesting regarding Kobe and Gasol.

    The Lakers played 3,956 of game time during the regular season. Of that 3,956 minutes here is the distribution of minutes with combinations of Kobe and Gasol.

    Both Kobe and Gasol on the floor together: 2,533
    Kobe on the floor with Gasol on the bench: 424
    Gasol on the floor with Kobe on the bench: 465
    Both Kobe and Gasol on the bench: 534

    Now here are the total +/- numbers for each the aforementioned break-downs:
    Both Kobe and Gasol on the floor together: +600
    Kobe on the floor with Gasol on the bench: +58
    Gasol on the floor with Kobe on the bench: -29
    Both Kobe and Gasol on the bench: -1

    Now taking the +/- on a per 48 minute basis to adjust for the different minutes played:
    Both Kobe and Gasol on the floor together: +11.4
    Kobe on the floor with Gasol on the bench: +6.6
    Gasol on the floor with Kobe on the bench: -3.0
    Both Kobe and Gasol on the bench: -0.1

    Look at those numbers it become quite clear that when Kobe and Gasol are both on the floor the Lakers are very dominant team, outscoring their opponents by over 11 points per 48 minutes. But what is interesting is what happens when one of them is taken out of the game. When Gasol comes out, the Lakers production is hurt but Kobe and the remaining cast continue to outscore their opposition by a fairly significant amount. On the other hand, when Kobe comes out of the game Gasol and the remaining cast cannot continue to outscore the opposition.

    To give a better feel for the magnitude of the difference in +/- with Kobe or Gasol let's perform the following exercise. Let's assume under scenario (A) that Kobe is still a Laker and Gasol is not. Kobe plays 40 minutes per game and spends 8 minutes on the bench. Based on the aforementioned +/- stats the Lakers would finish the season with an average margin of victory of +5.5 points per game. That still would have been tops in the Western Conference this year and somewhere around mid to high 50's in wins.
    Now perform the same exercise but with Gasol being a Laker playing 40 minutes per game and Kobe no longer on the team. The Lakers would finish the season with an average margin of victory of -2.5 points per game. That would have put them right with the New Jersey Nets, Toronto Raptors, and New York Knicks teams at somewhere around the low 30's in wins.

    I think we can safely say that Kobe and Gasol make the Lakers a championship team. However, even without Gasol the Lakers would still be a 50+ win team (as evident by them being the #1 team in West when the Gasol trade occured) but a Lakers team with Gasol and no Kobe would not even be close to playoff team.

  16. Anon Says:

    @ UB

    "I understand that there’s a team component to DRtg. I simply fail to understand why LeBron James, the “leader” of the 3rd-best defense in the league for most of this season (102.4) somehow ends up getting a pass for his team’s incredibly poor performance on that end in the ECF. Meanwhile, Bryant, the “leader” of the 6th-best defense (104.6) is relegated to receiving almost no credit for the ‘team’ effort despite his excellent work on that end in the series."

    Except that Bryant wasn't the "leader" of the Lakers defense this season -- that honor goes to Odom and Ariza respectively. And while I can't speak about LeBron's performance on defense since I don't have access to the Cavs defensive metrics in the ECF you're still putting too much stock into individual defense in relation to team defense anyway. LeBron still could've played well on that end even if as a TEAM the Cavs did not -- it depends on what the Cavs DRtg was in the ECF. This was simply the point that Neil was making in the first place.

    "Meanwhile, it seems like you’re brushing aside the fact that a player’s role absolutely contributes to his ORtg (or do you really think Steve Kerr was more valuable to the offense of the Bulls than Jordan) - James’s job is to more often attempt to facilitate, which is a much lower-risk proposition with regards to efficiency. I take a shot and miss - my efficiency goes down fairly significantly. I take a shot and make it - my efficiency goes up fairly significantly. I make a pass and my teammate misses - my efficiency isn’t harmed at all. I make a pass and my teammate scores - my efficiency still goes up farly significantly due to the value of the assist. (I won’t even get into what I perceive as the difference in how the two players are refereed - generating LeBron’s extra 6 free throws per game - as that reaches beyond the realms of statistics and into my own pure bias)"

    Don't forget that there's more to evaluation of ORtg than what the number tells you in isolation -- you need to also take a look at it in relation to offensive possession %, which takes offensive role into account. There's no preference for those who pass the ball more because it also takes shooting tendencies into account, and there's a natural tradeoff in basketball between passing and shooting the ball (as a matter of fact, those who don't shoot the ball a ton don't have high offensive possession %s in the 1st place). And if you take a look at it you'll notice that LeBron has had to carry MORE of his team's offense than Kobe all season long and in the playoffs and still performed incredibly well.

    If you haven't yet read Dean Oliver's excellent "Basketball on Paper" I suggest that you give it a try. It will help in understanding the reasoning behind the derivation of these metrics.

  17. TRad Says:

    @Walter
    All your exercise proves is that Lakers have a better backup for Gasol (instead of Bynum-Gasol/Gasol-Odom frontline they play Bynum-Odom) than for Bryant (Vujacic - ouch!).

    Yes, both Bynum and Odom are more productive than Vujacic.

  18. Anon Says:

    @ Walter,

    Interesting stats, but I went the website and looked at the five-man units...what helped Bryant when Gasol is not on the floor is that he often played with players such as Odom, Ariza and Bynum at the SAME time, who are among the better players on the Lakers. In contrast, Gasol without Bryant on the floor has mainly played with with Ariza and Odom, but he's also had significant PT with either just Ariza or none of these players at all (while playing with Vujacic, Farmar, Walton, and Powell; all of whom belong in the next tier of players on the squad to put it kindly). This can certainly account for the +/- disparity.

    TRad also brings up an excellent point in his post, although Vujacic didn't nearly a bad a season as some may think. His shooting took a step back but he compensated by improving his defense and playmaking, and he also did a better job of taking care of the ball.

  19. Neil Paine Says:

    Anon #16 gets it. There seems to be a misconception here about the nature of these numbers -- offensive rating cannot be used as a standalone metric, but rather in concert with the % of possessions used while on the court. It's something of a crude model, but we're basically saying that "as the percentage of the team's possessions you use goes up, your own ORtg will decrease because of extra defensive attention and higher degree-of-difficulty offensive actions (i.e. greater risk of missed shots and turnovers), but at the same time your teammates' ORtgs will increase because you have diverted that attention/responsibility away from them." So offensively, whoever said LeBron's higher possession % somehow made his teammates worse is completely off base. In both theory and reality -- did you even watch that series -- James did everything humanly possible for the Cavs on offense. The fact that his teammates failed to convert shots when called upon is something he should not be held accountable for.

    Defensively, you must realize that DRtg is a much, much more blunt instrument of evaluation than ORtg and % of possessions used. It assumes every player faces 20% of an opponent's possessions while on the floor (certainly not always true), and as a result uses the team's defensive rating for roughly the other 80% of the metric. That's a necessary assumption to make in the absence of more data, and over an 82-game regular season it typically does a decent job of identifying good defenders vs. bad ones. But in a short series with such wide discrepancies in team performances, you're going to see it falter for guys who were not the most important defensive players for their teams. Anyone who watched the Cavs/Magic series knows that it was Cleveland's bigs' utter inability to defend Howard and the pick-n-roll that allowed Orlando to do almost all of the damage they did on offense. So James' DRtg should be mentally lowered in recognition of the fact that the Cavs' poor performance on D was, to a great degree, not his fault. Likewise, the Lakers' great defense had much more to do with the performances of Ariza, Gasol, and Odom than anything Bryant did, so we shouldn't credit him with quite as much of the Lakers' dominating team performance as DRtg naively does with its 80/20 split. This is the intersection of the numbers and actually watching the games and diagnosing where DRtg's flaws are particularly glaring. Does Kobe deserve more defensive credit than LeBron for their respective series vs. Orlando. Yes; he logged the most minutes on a team that played much better defensively. But is the gap as wide as DRtg would suggest? Plainly no.

    Finally, to address the notion that I'm a "Kobe hater"... A) I warned everyone that this charge would be leveled at me; B) My personal feelings for Bryant as a human have nothing to do with my feelings for him as a basketball player (to use a rather extreme example from football, I also think O.J. Simpson was one of the very best running backs ever); C) My problem with Kobe is that his numbers do not match his reputation and they never have. His numbers are not on par with Jordan. They are not on par with Magic or Bird. They are not even on par with Tracy McGrady at his peak in 2003, and certainly not on par with LeBron James (a much younger player) the past 4 seasons. Were Kobe's numbers truly Jordanesque, I would be lavishing him with praise. I care deeply about the numbers, and I wish that Kobe's numbers matched his reputation. But they don't. And until they do, I'm always going to point out uncomfortable truths that some will perceive as "hating". That's the nature of this business. Sorry.

  20. Neil Paine Says:

    Oh, and to address Odom and Gasol's "magical" increases in ORtg since arriving in L.A.: this is perfectly in keeping with the usage-efficiency tradeoff model. Both went from being "the man" on their respective teams to being sidekicks to Bryant in L.A. So of course they're going see their efficiencies increase -- they went from taking on 25% of the possessions when on the floor to 20% (or less in Odom's case). You can't conceive of how that might make a difference in the caliber of shots you're taking?

    Now, they were able to take those easier shots because Bryant was there and willing to take on the difficult possessions himself. But the fact remains that this reality is captured by his ORtg & possession %, and that someone like James' ORtg & possession % is higher.

    I just realized that the problem with Kobe's fans is this: I'm not saying he's a bad player. I'm not even saying he's merely a "good" player. I'm saying Kobe Bryant is a great player, one of the best in the game today... But it's not good enough for them. They want nothing short of a signed statement that Kobe is not only the best player in the NBA right now, but also that he belongs in the same sentence as Michael Jordan. And when reasonable people say, "I just can't do that in good conscience; the evidence just isn't there," you get branded a "hater".

  21. Justin Says:

    No one even mentioned wanting Kobe to be in the same sentence as Michael. Where are you getting that from?

  22. steve norris Says:

    numbers dont always tell the story. he clearly gave his team a belief and numbers will never measure heart and desire. appreciate greatness when its in front of you neil. your still young though.

  23. Neil Paine Says:

    I'm getting it from Jeff Van Gundy, Mark Jackson, Jon Barry, and Michael Wilbon last night.

    And how did Kobe contribute beyond his numbers by giving his team a "belief"? Was it by pitching a tantrum and asking to be traded before the 07-08 season? By trashing Andrew Bynum in a YouTube video? I can't help it, but this "Kobe loves his teammates and they love him" act that we've seen over the past few years seems so phony, especially in light of what I have to believe were Kobe's true colors as described in Phil Jackson's tell-all The Last Season.

  24. Justin Says:

    Oh, so the truth comes out. This goes beyond numbers for you. Yup, this goes into the dislike category. No one really cares what the ESPN guys say. I'm talking about the arguments presented here on your blog.

  25. Neil Paine Says:

    Look, I'll use the O.J. Simpson example again... I hate him as a person. I think he murdered two people. But at his peak (1973), his numbers were insane, so I have to give it up to him as a brilliant running back. There's no conflict; I'm perfectly capable of compartmentalizing my personal feelings for him away from my assessment of him as a player.

    The same would be true of Kobe Bryant. If only he would put up the numbers sometime.

  26. Neil Paine Says:

    And to be fair, the comments of Van Gundy, Jackson, Barry, & Wilbon were what sparked this rant in the first place. Because whether you realize it or not, people do listen to them and do care what they have to say. And what they were saying last night was a shameful case of using hyperbole to sell a product. It was like they felt the need to keep evoking Michael to try to force us to feel like what we were watching was as significant as what we saw in Jordan's heyday. I'm a Celtics fan, but last year ESPN force-fed some imagined reincarnation of the Celtics-Lakers rivalry on us for ratings, and this year they tried much too hard to convince us Kobe was the second coming of Jordan. Both of their attempts felt forced and contrived, and ultimately empty.

  27. John Says:

    @ Neil: I don't necessarily feel a need to label you a "Kobe hater". (Even as a southern california resident, I didn't want the Lakers to win the Finals - though I would have been even more averse to the Cavs winning.) Of course, it's possible that you're a "LeBron doter", and that's your prerogative. You've said yourself that you "care deeply about the numbers" and it's true that LeBron's numbers are fantastic.

    Still, for as much as you care about the numbers, I wish your perspective (at least as expressed here) were more holistic. TQ's point about productivity vs. skill is not to be brushed aside casually. The issue may come down to aesthetics, as TQ notes, but it IS an issue. I hated the championship Rockets teams of the 90s, but I look back at Hakeem with a certain respect that I may never have for another center that I've actually watched during his career. Shaq may have been more productive at times (and he was fun to watch in his own right), but to compare him to Hakeem in terms of refined skill doesn't sit right.

    When you watch LeBron play, do you really see the same skill level as when you watch Kobe? Again, LeBron's numbers are fantastic, but it seems his production depends much more on his combination of brute strength with great athleticism (**to an extent**, this is not unlike Dwight Howard, though the two are clearly different players). It may be easy to dismiss someone who dissents as "not getting it"; keep in mind that I'm not even arguing the productivity issue. Still, the danger in "getting it" or caring so deeply about the numbers (in one's broader worldview, as well as in basketball analysis) is developing a myopia that prevents one from seeing other pieces of the puzzle that don't fit conveniently enough into the metrics.

    All of this is not to say that you have no concept of a difference between skill and productivity; rather, it's to say that such a concept is not clearly evident in your remarks here. Cheers.

  28. John Says:

    Oh, and for the record, i don't like listening Jackson/Van Gundy/Breen anyway. Some people may be looking for those guys to define their view of Kobe, but I'm not.

  29. Anon Says:

    Neil, I think you would be better served if you turned the entire BBall-Reference Blog into a Kobe Bryant fansite, complete with an online virtual shrine where visitors can show "reverence" in front of a game-worn #24 Lakers jersey. Maybe then you'll finally catch less falck from Kobe's fans :)

    As per TQ's aesthetics vs. performance argument, until the day comes when the NBA actually awards extra points to players who can hit shots with a certain flair or style that pleases its spectators (like in gymnastics or figure skating) two points in basketball is two points (whether it's a dunk, a layup, a set shot, a jump shot, a twisting fadeaway, a 1080 while jumping off a trampoline, whatever have you) and this very fact makes this argument pretty irrelevant. Give me performance anyday of the week.

  30. John Says:

    LOL, Anon #29. Totally missing the point. First, while I realize your comments aren't necessarily addressed exclusively or even primarily to me, I wasn't even rooting for the Lakers in the finals (even though I live in SoCal, the Laker/Kobe-fanatic heartland).

    Second, imo, you're just off on the skill vs. productivity (note: this is not aesthetics vs. performance; for one thing, performance is not limited to productivity - e.g., give me a stat for back-door screens leading open looks, made or not). Besides, if it's really just the point-total ("performance") you care about, then at least two things should happen: (1) You should be the ultimate front-runner; you're favorite team should be whatever team wins the championship in any given year (or even whatever team wins by the biggest margin on any given night). If there's NO appreciation for STYLE of play, for the skill of a team, then why take that into account in being a basketball fan? Just pick the biggest winner on any given day or in any given year, and that's your team. (2) I hope you don't watch basketball. Just check the box scores when the games are over. The only way you get a W is by scoring more points than the other team, regardless of how you put the ball in the hole and how you kept the other team from doing so; who cares about the details?

    Finally, skill itself has a lot to do with producing wins, particularly over time. The more ways a player can beat you, the harder it is to gameplan against him and the easier it is to build a team around him. To be sure, LeBron is a phenomenal talent and it is extremely difficult to stop him. However, Kobe has had to play with another future Hall of Famer, has had to play as "the man" on a bad team and has now had the opportunity to play as "the man" on a good team. LeBron's ability to fill different roles on a team (other than uber ball-handler through whom everything runs) leading to enough winning to hoist a trophy (that end-result that your position would seem to be so concerned with) remains to be seen.

    And, again for the record, I wasn't even rooting for the Lakers. I don't need a Kobe shrine, thank you.

  31. John Says:

    Oh, and to repeat the Q raised by someone else, was Jordan's 32.5/8/8 season in 88-89 the peak of his career? It was all downhill from there except that he had good teammates to carry him to 6 championships? (And, no, I'm not diminishing the roles of his teammates in those championships. He needed them. The question is whether we should just assume that 88-89 was Jordan's peak as an individual player, simply because it was arguably his most productive year.)

  32. Anon Says:

    @ John

    "The only way you get a W is by scoring more points than the other team, regardless of how you put the ball in the hole and how you kept the other team from doing so; who cares about the details?"

    I don't mean to be rude, but you're stating something that's inherent about sports in general. Seems like a STRANGE and RADICAL concept, doesn't it?? ;)

    "Finally, skill itself has a lot to do with producing wins, particularly over time. The more ways a player can beat you, the harder it is to gameplan against him and the easier it is to build a team around him. To be sure, LeBron is a phenomenal talent and it is extremely difficult to stop him. However, Kobe has had to play with another future Hall of Famer, has had to play as “the man” on a bad team and has now had the opportunity to play as “the man” on a good team. LeBron’s ability to fill different roles on a team (other than uber ball-handler through whom everything runs) leading to enough winning to hoist a trophy (that end-result that your position would seem to be so concerned with) remains to be seen."

    Not sure what all of this even means in the first place. But once again this goes right back to the post Neil made earlier about taking on a certain burden of your team's offense and your production within that role. If you can take on a larger role and still maintain your performance, you give your teammates an opportunity to perform better by diverting the attention of the opposing defense away from them. And I hope you're not suggesting for even a SECOND that LeBron was not been doing that. I'm just speaking for myself here, but as someone who has watched nearly the ENTIRE PLAYOFFS despite having his lowly and hapless Wizards miss the playoffs (funny, since you suggested I was a front-runner and must not watch much basketball), that much was obvious from watching the ECF, never mind the actual numbers that also support that observation.

    "And, again for the record, I wasn’t even rooting for the Lakers. I don’t need a Kobe shrine, thank you."

    My comment was not directed towards you in particular. So there's no need to get so personal about it.

  33. John Says:

    @ #32: No, see, a W going to the team who scores more than the other team isn't strange and radical at all. Furthermore, I didn't imply that you ARE a front-runner. The connection between these two is that if **all** you care about in sports is the end-result, if as a **fan**, you have no appreciation for things like style and versatility of skill, then **why not** simply become the ultimate front-runner? Why watch games, when only the final outcome matters?

    For better or for worse, my fault, yours, or both, I don't think it's likely that much fruit will come of furthering this discussion. That's not meant to preclude you from responding, but I'm done. Maybe that seems diva-ish or whatever, but there's only so much a guy can explain himself on the internet. It ought to have already been clear that I wasn't suggesting it's a radical concept that the team that scores the most wins. Likewise, it ought to be clear that for most sports fans there's a lot more to enjoying the game than just looking at individual stats or team box scores. Here's to a better season for your team (the Wizards) and mine (the Clippers).

  34. KC Says:

    First of all I will never forget reading this entry. This is just a real classless post by this blogger Niel Paine. I like your site but after you wrote this trash I definitely don't have any respect left for you.

    "In fact, to the contrary: every shred of statistical evidence we have still suggests that Bryant is inferior to James, and by no insignificant margin, either. The fact that the Lakers won a title Sunday night proves nothing except that the Lakers are a better team than the Cavaliers(actually, check that, it doesn’t even necessarily prove that either"

    Way to rain on our parade while taking shots at our players. That's the problem with people like you and John Hollinger; you taunt the fans and flaunt the line so that you can relish in the emotional outbursts that come from the other side.

    "proves nothing" what crap. Winning a Title means we are World Champions, it means everything.

  35. Neil Paine Says:

    Exactly, it can only prove the Lakers are the best team in the league, not that Kobe Bryant is the best player in the league (contrary to what ABC's announcers were saying last night, that the ring proved Kobe was the NBA's top dog). Because championships are won by teams. And for the hundredth time, congratulations to the Los Angeles Lakers, the entire team, for winning the 2009 NBA Championship. Or is it classless to congratulate the Lakers? I get confused sometimes.

  36. KC Says:

    NP, a classy person like Derek Fisher would of waited at least a few weeks to rant about your point out of respect for the franchise, feat and fans.

    Krolik is classy and he has a real reason to be heart broken; you do not.

  37. KC Says:

    Sorry, I don't really want to escalate the point but I want to say that I do think it's very cool that you actually respond to what people write about your stuff. That is definitely classy.

  38. Tsunami Says:

    It just amazes me that Kobe can chuck up all those shots, hit at around 40%, and get so much love.

    I seriously don't even think people remember Michael Jordan. And they certainly don't appreciate LeBron James.

    People coming out and saying he isn't as "skilled" as Kobe Bryant?

    MY God in Heaven - he is 10x the passer, 5x the ball handler, can play almost every position, and is more efficient at every aspect of basketball except FT shooting.

    And he's not as SKILLED?!

    Will people even remember Pau Gasol in a few years? He was the most important player on the Lakers. Insert about 10 different SGs and the Lakers still win this title.

    What is it about Kobe that his hyperventilating fans stop at nothing to promote him? I just don't get it.

  39. Neil Paine Says:

    Re #37:

    Thanks. And you're probably right, in retrospect, I probably should have waited and included "The Kobe Rant" in a separate post. That was poor judgment on my part, for I was so intent on responding to the comments of Wilbon, Barry, Jackson, & Van Gundy last night that I didn't think about how even rational Laker fans would take it the wrong way (even though I have always had nothing but praise for the way the team has played, except for the odd occasions during the Houston series when I called them out for not playing to their potential). Let me make it clear that I think Los Angeles is/was a great team this year, a worthy champion, and that Kobe is one of the best players in basketball. My entire rant was simply a reaction to the way ABC's commentators were hyperbolically conflating Kobe's performance last night with Michael Jordan's in his prime. No offense was intended to the Lakers franchise or its fans.

  40. Anon Says:

    @ John

    "No, see, a W going to the team who scores more than the other team isn’t strange and radical at all. Furthermore, I didn’t imply that you ARE a front-runner. The connection between these two is that if **all** you care about in sports is the end-result, if as a **fan**, you have no appreciation for things like style and versatility of skill, then **why not** simply become the ultimate front-runner? Why watch games, when only the final outcome matters?"

    Well of course I love to watch the actual games, and yes I like to observe the different styles of the individual players at work. But I can be wowed as a fan without letting the WAY athletes play cloud my reason. Apparently some people take issue when someone simply states that "Player X outperforms Player Y" and confuse it with a failure to appreciate the "beauty" of the game, or that he doesn't really care about watching sports. This is complete nonsense. As long as the objective of basketball remains to put the round orange ball into the round orange cylinder more often than your opponent, then the players who can help to achieve that objective are going to be more important than those who can't, PERIOD. Style is great, but unless it's truly helping you reach the objective of basketball (or any other sport of your liking that shares a similar goal) then it's 100% irrelevant. People really need to save the "style" arguments for an art class.

    Best wishes for your team's success next season.

  41. Neil Paine Says:

    I think the "style" argument is a roundabout way of saying that Kobe's skillset is more able to score on any defense, whereas LeBron's is more likely to dominate inferior teams but be shut down by elite Ds.

    However, we already showed that while Kobe retains more of his "typical" performance against top-level defenses than James does, James' numbers against the best defenses are still better than Bryant's. And you can see that in their stats against Orlando -- Kobe had his usual strong numbers, but LeBron's stats were better. The reason Cleveland lost and L.A. won had to do with the fact that Kobe and his mates played better team defense and his teammates made the shots that LeBron's teammates missed.

  42. Mountain Says:

    MJ-Kobe even Kobe-LeBron doesn't move me to comment even if I have direct opinions and opinions about the data and arguments presented.

    I would be interested though in seeing how Phil Jackson's championship teams look on the 4 factors and other stats compared to the teams his teams beat, other modern era champs, and his non-championship teams. What numbers do his on the court system and philosophy produce? How similar was the Bulls era to the Lakers era?

  43. Jordan Says:

    I just don't understand then, if Lebron's teammates are so inferior to the Lakers, how did the Cavs end up with the best record in the league?

  44. Neil Paine Says:

    Because LeBron is that much better than Kobe. Think about it, he was essentially the only significantly above-average player on a team that won 66 games. I mean, how good does LBJ have to be for that to be true?

  45. Caleb Says:

    "And to be fair, the comments of Van Gundy, Jackson, Barry, & Wilbon were what sparked this rant in the first place. Because whether you realize it or not, people do listen to them and do care what they have to say. And what they were saying last night was a shameful case of using hyperbole to sell a product. It was like they felt the need to keep evoking Michael to try to force us to feel like what we were watching was as significant as what we saw in Jordan’s heyday. I’m a Celtics fan, but last year ESPN force-fed some imagined reincarnation of the Celtics-Lakers rivalry on us for ratings, and this year they tried much too hard to convince us Kobe was the second coming of Jordan. Both of their attempts felt forced and contrived, and ultimately empty."

    Spot on. Kobe is a great player.... duh. But he's not the best in the game, he never has been and he never will be. A lot of people want us to believe this, but its simply not true.

    It was absolutely obnoxious when Mark Jackson and crew started gushing over the guy in the manner that they did. I couldn't believe that Jackson actually said "I don't think people appreciate how great Kobe Bryant is." What?? Even though your network has been worshipping at the altar of Kobe since the playoffs started? Seriously?

  46. Neil Says:

    Yes, you are just a Kobe hater... people like you don't even deserve to be called a "sports blogger". And why did you have to write this at the time the Lakers captured their title? Oh oh, I guess them being champions and you having to write a hate blog about them would make you feel a lot better because you were one of the people who jock for Orlando just because they're not the ones wearing purple and gold. Man, this is just basketball... you're not even playing.

    The Lakers winning titles with Kobe as the leader doesn't actually mean much to you. Get on with life... you'll live.

  47. JayOh Says:

    I just realized that the problem with Kobe’s fans is this: I’m not saying he’s a bad player. I’m not even saying he’s merely a “good” player. I’m saying Kobe Bryant is a great player, one of the best in the game today… But it’s not good enough for them. They want nothing short of a signed statement that Kobe is not only the best player in the NBA right now, but also that he belongs in the same sentence as Michael Jordan. And when reasonable people say, “I just can’t do that in good conscience; the evidence just isn’t there,” you get branded a “hater”.

    Couldn't have said it better myself, Neil. Biased Kobe fans cannot deal with the idea that people consider another player in the league to be better than him. It's almost as if they think it's a travesty that he be called the 2nd best player in the league, whereas any fan of another player would be quite content with that. They're just a bunch of arrogant crazies.

  48. Alton Says:

    Not once in your rant do you mention the consistency of his numbers. He passed the 1,000 game mark this season. He's playing with a finger that's more screwed up than Iran. He played the maximum number of games this season after going to the finals last season. He had no summer vacation, and, though obviously on a great team, pulled the Redeem Team to victory against Spain. I invite Neil to do a piece on how KG and Duncan compare how they have handled reaching the same mileage, while not participating in the Olympics, or making it to the finals back to back. To only look at his numbers without the ability to recognize how much he has played in the last 2 years is not objectivity. It's limiting your analysis for your own preferences.

  49. Mountain Says:

    To clarify I meant look at Phil Jackson's championship teams on average and how consistent they were to that pattern. If ever there was a case for a system his teams are it. How much is players and how much is system? Will never be able to fully separate but I think you could find some stuff out about the impact of system by such a study and a look at players in and outside of it.

  50. Anon Says:

    @ Alton

    "He’s playing with a finger that’s more screwed up than Iran."

    I've heard more than my share of exaggerations before in sports but this has to be among the worst. Clearly the injured finger hasn't limited Kobe's production (and remember that this is over a span of well over a season, including Olympics and a Finals run, which makes playing many minutes with a bad injury incredibly unlikely), which either means that 1) it is not a severe injury, 2) he has gotten good treatment for it, or 3) it has healed over time. Or it can also be a combination of all of the above. But if this statement is supposed to suggest that Kobe's numbers should be way better if his finger had not been not injured, keep in mind that Kobe's performance has been pretty steady since the 05-06 season (albeit trending towards a slight decline) long BEFORE the injury took place, and that he is not a player entering his prime. He will be 31 this year and has played over 41,000 minutes in his career. Kobe has played well. There's no need to "mythicize" his injury.

  51. Michael Says:

    Just a question, do some of you think Carmelo Anthony is a better player today? or is he also declining, since his numbers are?

  52. Jason J Says:

    I'm a gigantic Jordan fan. Enormous. Have a Jumpman tattooed on my right shoulder, and I'm really not averse to the Jordan / Bryant comparison. I never was and don't see why people get so riled up.

    To the point that Mark Jackson and the ESPN crew are ramming the idea that Kobe is the second coming down our throats, and convincing many people under the age of 30... that's probably unavoidable, but I'm not sure it's a big deal. In the end the numbers may actually have a bigger impact than they do now. Right now what people see is a big deal to them. Ten years from now when people don't remember Kobe in his prime and are comparing him on his old knees to Durant and LeBron, they'll rely more on numbers, and the numbers and honors are in MJ's favor.

    But actually I'd like to take a look at those stats and just see if we can maybe backup what Mark Jackson says even if he can't.

    Real quick (crude) comparison for the decades where Mike and Kobe won their rings (since most GOAT evaluators consider titles to be paramount):

    Jordan in the 1990s - 38min, 31ppg (50%fg / 36%3ptrs / 83%fts), 6rbs, 5asts, 2.5stls, 1blk, 29PER, 18WS per 82 games

    Kobe in the 2000s - 39.5min, 28ppg (46%fg / 34%3ptrs / 84.5%fts), 6rbs, 5asts, 2stls, 0.5blks, 25PER, 13.7WS per 82 games

    Basically if we knock off the early years when Jordan was crushing the league but winning nothing (85-89) and those years when Kobe was backing up Fox & Jones (98 & 99) and winning nothing, we see Michael took 2 more shots to score 3 more points and had higher defensive stats. Otherwise they were basically even in production. Jordan shot 23.4 times per game and missed 11.4 shots. Kobe shot 21.5 times per game and missed 11.7 shots. I spot-checked player possessions and they are pretty much the same - Kobe played more minutes / Jordan played in a faster era.

    Now it's true that this comparison is very favorable to Bryant in that it ignores Jordan's most impressive statistical seasons and only includes Bryant's most productive years, but I think it again underlines what it takes to win. Team ball, shared responsibility, singleness of purposes, and no one person doing EVERYTHING. When LeBron's team is really good enough to win titles, I have a feeling we'll see his stats come down as well, not because he's worse at anything, but because more players on his team will be making decisions and contributing to their own success on both sides of the ball.

    As an example: over the last two months of the 1989 season Jordan averaged 30.4 pts, 9rbs, 10.4asts and shot over 50% from the floor - that's for about a third of the season (27 games), so clearly it's not a fluke. And his team lost a lot of games in that span. When Phil Jackson replaced Doug Collins he moved Jordan back off the ball, implemented the triangle, and "robbed" Jordan of a chance at Oscar Robertson's triple double record, but in the process he maximized what Pippen, Grant, and the role players had to offer and created a champion.

  53. Anon Says:

    @Michael

    "Just a question, do some of you think Carmelo Anthony is a better player today? or is he also declining, since his numbers are?"

    Carmelo is only 24 with 17,000 minutes played, and hasn't even entered his athletic prime yet. Nice try though.

  54. KC Says:

    Since the Laker's won I've been bumping Ice Cube "Today was a good day" and waking up with a gigantic smile on my face. The weather seems nicer, the girls are glowing a little more and the traffic isn't quite as bad (ok that's a lie) but still...

    This is going to be a great off season and summer for Los Angeles - I'll probably even hit up a few dodger games before we roll into College Football season.

  55. Michael Says:

    @ Anon

    Just trying to point out the fact that on a good team, one shouldnt over-do things. Most all-time greats have their best statistical seasons when the team maybe dont even make the play-offs. Wilt, Jordan,Kobe, Wade etc. And none of them won before they had other greats on the team.

    Expect LeBron`s numbers to fall a little to when he wins a championship :)Or if they could get him a point guard and let him be a scoring option, not 1 on 5 maybe he could get alot more points?

  56. Larry Says:

    Great post by Jason J, you're a true fan of the game.

  57. asmj Says:

    Excellent post Jason J.

    There's a reason why it has been a near consensus among coaches, GM's and his peers that Kobe Bryant has been the best in the league.
    They recognize talent.

    Our friend Neil Paine here, recognizes numbers and is a prisoner to follow everything they tell him.

    I'd make a lengthy post about the triangle offense and compare it to the Cavaliers' rather primitive pick and roll offense and how it affects each players' production and numbers, but it seems that it would quickly get lost in the pile of responses and simply ignored by those who just choose to follow the numbers and nothing else.

    Quite an ignorant approach to take, and sometimes just makes me question how much these stat crunchers really know the game and appreciate what they are seeing.

  58. Tsunami Says:

    @Asmj - The "primitive" pick and roll offense doesn't offer a higher "efficieny" than the triangle.

    It's one thing to postulate that LeBron gets more assists because he handles the ball more than Kobe, but how are you going to explain his consistently higher FG%? All season long the Cavs played a dynamic offense - after the first 2 rounds of the playoffs, it became increasingly clear that not a single Cavalier not-named LeBron was going to step up and hit shots (it got to the point where they wouldn't even TAKE shots). So the offense often broke down into LeBron at the top of the key. Should be way easier to defend that the triangle - but LeBron shot a much higher percentage anyway.

    I don't think people even realize how dominant LeBron is. He just took his game to an entirely different level this postseason.

    There is no comparison between Kobe and LeBron.

    Trust me when I say this, if you replaced the two, the Lakers would have easily won the NBA championship this year. And the Cavs would not have even had the top seed in the east.

  59. asmj Says:

    I never said it did offer higher efficiency, but when Lebron is the main cog in the pick and roll 90% of the time, his assist numbers are higher than what they would be in a triangle system.
    Also it allows him to get to the basket with much greater frequency as well.

    And as for your question, I'd just answer it with another question.
    Why does Shaquille O'Neal have a higher FG% than Lebron James, consistently?

    You can occupy yourself with asinine hypotheticals all you want, but it doesn't take away from that fact that Lebron James failed to win a title with a 67 win team. Don't blame his teammates, blame Lebron for making them become spot-up shooters while he bulldozed into the lane time after time.

    Keep wasting your pathetic little life posting on your foxsports blog about how much better Lebron is than Kobe, when the entire world just witnessed a monumental collapse by the Cavaliers and Kobe rising to the top of the basketball world once again.

  60. Jose Says:

    You guys are going too far. Suggesting that Neil is ignorant just because he's saying that the Lakers won as a team, that it's an exaggeration to put Kobe on the same level or beyond MJ, and that LeBron is better than Kobe (an opinion, but certainly an informed one)?

    How well did Kobe shoot for the series? 43%? What I saw in the last few games of the series was a demonstration of the fact that Kobe has a great supporting cast. Fisher hit a key three-pointer in Game 4 to send it to overtime and another in that very overtime to put a dagger into the Magic. In Game 5, it was Ariza who sparked the Lakers with 13 points in the third quarter when they made their big run. Odom played well for most of the series. Gasol played well for most of the series, scoring 7 points in the overtime of Game 2 to seal that particular victory. Truly, his supporting cast showed up in a way that Lebron's did not, and combined with Orlando's inconsistent shooting, the Lakers outplayed the Magic when it mattered most. What did I see from Kobe in those road games? Some poor decision-making in late-game situations, to be honest. He had a tendency to jack up threes (which annoys me to no end; you just can't defend the perimeter anymore with the handchecking rule) with plenty of time left on the shot clock and he was the one who tended to cough up the few turnovers they had in those games. Rather than playing the role of the ultimate closer, Kobe was more the opener in those games, playing very well in the first quarter and then fading away somewhat as the games progressed.

    Anyway, Neil hasn't actually said anything which warrants some of the angry responses he's getting from Kobe fans. Personally, I share his frustration with the way the media hypes up Kobe as the second coming of Jordan, because it's just dishonest and delusional. The love for Kobe gets ridiculous sometimes, and it's interesting how the analysts already forgot the way the Boston series went last year, wherein Kobe was outplayed by Paul Pierce. (let's put all the blame on Lamar Odom, right?) Jeff Van Gundy said that if Kobe were to win this one title, he would go down as the greatest Laker ever. Really? I thought Magic Johnson had 5 rings, last I checked. (speaking of Magic, he himself partook in some silliness, telling Kobe that he had an opportunity to become the greatest to ever play the game - what, by winning his first championship as the driving force of the team? Really?) And Mark Jackson...well, he's known for saying some questionable things, like putting Dirk Nowitski on the same level as Larry Bird.

    In closing, Kobe is one of the greatest shooting guards of all time, and now that he has arguably more talent around him than MJ ever did, he has a great opportunity to win a few more titles before he retires. Not only that, but today's league is tailor-made for his abilities, with the rules and style of the game favoring wing players like himself. If he ever reaches six rings (he won't get six Finals MVP awards, but the analysts and commentators have been downplaying that and focusing entirely on the rings, which is odd considering that Bill Russell and Robert Horry aren't thought of as superior to MJ), the debates will rage on as to whether or not he's as good or better than MJ, but when you look at what each player brought to the table on a consistent basis, the only honest answer will be that MJ was better.

  61. Jason J Says:

    To be clear, I'm not saying definitively that Kobe is better than LeBron. And I'm not trying to talk down Neil. I'm just saying that when a player produces less for the greater good, that should be recognized as a good thing, not a bad thing.

    In LeBron's case he HAD to produce insane numbers when his teammates disappeared (Cleveland guards, we're all waiting for you to show up in Orlando). The fact that he did it so well is immensely impressive. His PER for this playoffs is ludicrous for someone who made it to the conference finals (37!! that's over 14 games - and yeah Detroit has proven to be completely incapable of matching up with him, but still almost every #1 team gets a cupcake in the first round). However, no coach wants one player to have to carry that kind of load.

    I think it's just as dangerous to look at the Laker's championship and arbitrarily use the team success to say definitively that Kobe is better. I hate to use hypothetical examples, but honestly... Give Bron to Jackson, and see what happens.

    If people want to compare the two, let's do it right. Break down their games. Analyze. Conventional wisdom says that LeBron is the better passer. I'd say he's better at orchestrating a break and has better court vision. Kobe may be better at reading a defense and finding the right pass. Conventional wisdom says LeBron is the better rebounder. And I don't see an argument against that. He's bigger, more athletic, and spends time at the 4. You can break down every element using stats, which claim to be unbiased but don't tell you what happened to produce the numbers, AND using your eyes which are inherently biased but can pick up the nuances of how and why a player accrued the numbers he did.

    To me that's where you start to figure it out. Factor in the production. Factor in the team play and coaching style. Don't just look at rings or look at metrics and assume they tell the story. I used to post on Dave Berri's blog and ISH (dejordan), and I always tried to stress that when you look at the game, how a player accomplished what he did is as important as what he did. Maybe not to the masses, but to the educated fan who is going to take the time to really form a justified opinion.

  62. Anon Says:

    @ Asmj

    "I never said it did offer higher efficiency, but when Lebron is the main cog in the pick and roll 90% of the time, his assist numbers are higher than what they would be in a triangle system.
    Also it allows him to get to the basket with much greater frequency as well."

    Ah yes, the "triangle doesn't allow as many assist opportunities" cop-out. Didn't know Kobe is lacking opportunities to run an offense even though he carries at LEAST 30% of his team's offense pretty much every season.

    But I see what's going though. It seems that Kobe's fans want to angrily overrun the board and throw around the unfair accusation that he's not being "appreciated" (FALSE!!!), when they are unknowingly doing the SAME THING to a player like LeBron. Do THEY appreciate the fact that unlike Kobe in his offense, where other players with decent enough playmaking skills can take some of that load off of him in the triangle so Kobe can concentrate more on doing his thing as a scorer, LeBron in his offense has to play an ever LARGER role of being BOTH his team's primary scorer AND playmaker? Not only is this evident in watching the games, it's also reflected in LeBron's HIGHER offensive possesion %. And when his usually reliable teammates weren't hitting the shots that they were in the regular season during the playoffs, LeBron found himself taking an even LARGER role in the offense than usual. Yet, he still played off the charts...and Kobe's fans still want to criticize him.

    The hypocrisy really has to stop.

  63. Dave Says:

    Hilarious to listening to the abc announcers gushing about Kobe being as good as we've ever seen at the 2 guard spot after he...makes a jumpshot. It was just laughable. Kobe vs. Jordan is no debate. There is no credible way to argue that Kobe is on Jordan's level from the numbers standpoint, or any other.

  64. Neil Paine Says:

    Jason, when we say a player's "stats go down as his teammates get better," what we really mean is that a metric like his possession % will go down with better teammates as he shares offensive responsibility. But that does not mean his efficiency cannot stay the same -- in fact, according to our theory about the relationship between possession % and efficiency (which matches the conventional wisdom, by the way), his efficiency (measured by ORtg) will actually go up with less offensive burden. Unfortunately, Kobe's efficiency was lower than LeBron's even at a lesser level of responsibility! There's simply no logical way to make the case that Bryant is a more effective offensive player than James without resorting to subjective mumbo-jumbo arguments. Defensively, I'll again grant you that the Cavs' D was much worse than L.A.'s vs. Orlando, but here's some additional food for thought: during the playoffs, Cleveland's defense was 1.56 efficiency points better with LBJ on the court than when he was sitting; conversely, the L.A. defense was actually 1.56 points worse with Bryant on the floor. So I think it's more than fair to say that Cleveland's defensive no-show against the Magic was far more James' teammates fault than his own, and that L.A.'s dominating D vs. the same opponent was far more to the credit of Bryant's teammates' than himself. Again, when using the numbers, the objective records of what actually happened on the court, instead of subjective criteria that ultimately boil down to mere opinions, there is still absolutely no evidence that Kobe Bryant is the best player in basketball. Then again, I warned everyone that Mr. Bryant's devoted fan base would flood these comments with responses, perhaps because they still find it difficult to accept that the Lakers' championship this past week was a total team effort and not the product of one man playing by himself. But for the life of me, I can't figure out why it is so difficult for Los Angeles' fans to give their own players credit when their jersey number is not "24"...

  65. Lawrence Says:

    Kobe is the only finals mvp in history to fail to shoot 50% for even a single game of the series. He was quite poor in the clutch in games 2, 3, and 4. Next coming of MJ? Hardly.

  66. Jason J Says:

    Neil - Take a look at my last post, where I clarify that I'm not 100% in the Kobe camp. My whole point up there was that production does not necessarily equate to ability. There's really no argument to make for Kobe vs. LeBron (or Michael) based on efficiency. He's not as efficient, and all the metrics bear that out.

    If I was a Lakers or Kobe fan (I'm actually a Celtics / Bulls fan and sticking up for the boys in yellow makes me a little queasy), I'd argue that Kobe cedes inside touches for easy hoops to his bigs which in turn means he winds up taking harder shots even though he's sharing responsibility (a tenuous argument since he's really never shot a fantastic percentage I guess, but in a certain sense it's accurate to say that the offense may be a little less Kobe-centric now and so not as prone to creating easy shots for him).

    also while he's not as good at manufacturing lay-ups for himself as LeBron, when a good defense takes away lay-ups, he has more options because of his diversified offense. In fact if I was a Kobe fan, I would sort of hang my hat on this concept. Here's a guy who can score against just about any defense with his array of dribble moves, step-backs, post moves, etc. Is it as reliable as Shaq or LeBron against weak defenses? No. But it may be the least effected by great defenses. In theory.

    It's sort of a "sure, 95% of the time you're better off with Bron, but against that 5% of great defensive teams like 2007 San Antonio, 2008 Boston, or 2009 Orlando when the inside slashes are taken away, you'd be in better shape with a player who can score from the outside." (of course if I was counter-arguing I'd punch me in the head and ask if I watched Kobe bomb in the finals last year against one of those defenses).

  67. Neil Paine Says:

    I understand exactly what you're saying, but once again, we already debunked the idea that Kobe is more effective against elite defenses. While it is accurate to say that he is less affected by great Ds than James, his less-affected self is still worse than LeBron's more-affected self. Does that make sense?

  68. asmj Says:

    @Lawrence
    Michael Jordan also shot pretty awful in quite a few of his NBA finals appearances.. I believe 43% vs Utah in 98 and 42% vs Seattle in 96.. Are we giving him grief about that?
    Can we stop treating the man as an infalliable figure and realize that every player has his shortcomings?

    @Neil
    Just give it up. You have not "debunked" anything. Your "theory" of more offensive posessions = lower efficiency is just that, A THEORY. Because he took a larger role in the offense against better teams does not give you right to be an apologist and disregard the fact that he objectively played worse against the better teams? Lebron James performed absolutely horribly against elite teams this year and the Cavaliers couldn't get it done against the only good team they faced in the playoffs. What was their record against the top 3 teams in the league again (Boston, Orlando & LA)? The Magic CHALLENGED him to try to win this series on his own and he obliged, phasing out his teammates in the process.

    Your Lebron jocking/Kobe hating is just becoming embarassing and ruining your credibility.

  69. Neil Paine Says:

    I know I shouldn't keep feeding our lovely troll population, but "Lebron James performed absolutely horribly against elite teams this year"? And I'm ruining my credibility?

  70. Owen Says:

    Neil - Great great post. I have been banging this drum in a lot of places since suggesting two years ago on Knickerblogger I would much rather have David Lee on a rookie contract than Kobe Bryant on a max contract.

    I think this will become pretty much a perennial argument, people calling Kobe one of the all-time greats, and statisticians coughing loudly.

    Whatever people say, Kobe hasn't changed the game the way MJ and Magic did, revolutionizing their position the way Lebron is changing the way we look at the small forward.

    Have to say, I am excited for David Friedman of 20 Second Timeout to get wind of this post, may even have to drop him a line about it, should be very interesting to see his reaction.

  71. Anon Says:

    Me, my favorite line from Asmj is this one:

    "Can we stop treating the man as an infalliable figure and realize that every player has his shortcomings?"

    If he kept his OWN point in mind he wouldn't have much of a problem with Neil's insightful analysis on Mr. Bryant in the first place.

  72. Neil Paine Says:

    "Have to say, I am excited for David Friedman of 20 Second Timeout to get wind of this post, may even have to drop him a line about it, should be very interesting to see his reaction."

    You mean he hasn't already been posting anonymously? (Just kidding, Doc! I know you're a Kobe guy, but be gentle!)

  73. Neil Paine Says:

    In fact, for any future flamewars involving Kobe Bean Bryant, from now on I'm going to simply refer to this comic by the guys over at Garbage Time All-Stars.

  74. Tsunami Says:

    @ asmj -

    "Keep wasting your pathetic little life posting on your foxsports blog about how much better Lebron is than Kobe, when the entire world just witnessed a monumental collapse by the Cavaliers and Kobe rising to the top of the basketball world once again."

    lol - finally figured out who you are. Thanks for taking the time to read my work :) It makes my pathetic little life that much more meaningful. How quickly your points turn ugly when you aren't in a forum with 40 other trolls.

    @ Anon -

    The Kobe winning arguments never cease to amaze me. Because if you look strictly at winning and role in the offense, and then performance in the NBA - Kobe looks a hell of a lot like Manu Ginobili (only Ginobili has never lost in the Finals) - And Kobe/Manu comparisons are more valid than Kobe/Jordan comparisons. But the Kobe hype machine might be the biggest force in the NBA today.

  75. Owen Says:

    Tsunami - I have been beating that Manu/Kobe drum for years, good to know I am not the only one. It's just amazing how no one ever seems to notice that Manu looks like the better player per minute, while also topping Kobe in adjusted. Like a dirty little secret. Kobe is a lot more durable though.

  76. JD Says:

    I've been reading a lot of these type of articles and blogs since the end of the finals. The premise and responses are all pretty similar; anti-Kobe, pro-Kobe, pro-Jordan, pro-LeBron, with a bunch of numbers and arguments to back up each position. For just about every position presented you could make a sound, reasonable argument for, with one exception. Somewhere in post 60 it is said that "Kobe arguably has more talented teammates than MJ ever had". If you think this Laker team could when 55 games and a playoff series like the Bulls did sans Jordan then you're nuts.

  77. Chip Says:

    C'mon! They won the Finals! It doesn't matter that Kobe's not the best! Okay, okay! It's LeBron... but it will forever be in history that he won the first Bill Russell award! The Lakers won it all this year!!! That thorn in your backside will be there for a whole year!!! Scream and Shout!!!

    Just proud of the Lakers... not joking... so don't write hate!

  78. Jason J Says:

    Hey Neil - Thanks for sticking with this discussion so long. It's a fun one.

    I just wanted to get back you on the last point above re: http://www.basketball-reference.com/blog/?p=1827

    I had read that a while back, but to me it more illustrated how Wade raised his game against top Ds than LeBron.

    In terms of ORtg it actually shows us what we expect. Against the whole league LeBron's ORtg is 6 points higher than Bryant's, but against top 10 defenses, Kobe's ORtg is 4 points higher. That's a 10 ORtg swing when the going gets tough, though the sample size is pretty puny. And sure Bron does more, but as we've said over and over, Bron has to do more, and operating in an offense that features no one else, he also has the opportunity to do more.

    That's what I see anyway. I can't argue against LeBron's better versatility, and I wouldn't try. As I've stated above, I personally believe James is the better player because of his ability to impact the game in so many ways. But I don't see how we've debunked the idea that Kobe becomes the superior scoring option against tough defenses, and I think his supporters can lean on that claim a little bit.

  79. Anon Says:

    "The premise and responses are all pretty similar; anti-Kobe, pro-Kobe, pro-Jordan, pro-LeBron, with a bunch of numbers and arguments to back up each position. For just about every position presented you could make a sound, reasonable argument for..."

    Sorry, but if you really think Kobe is "the best player in the game today" and "the best SG ever" there ISN'T an argument to be made for him. And that's why Neil came with this rant of his (and trust me, he's far from the ONLY one who notices what's going on)...there no "anti-Kobe" sentiment here, it's simply that Kobe's legend is getting way too blown out of proportion and there is NO EVIDENCE WHATSOEVER TO SUPPORT IT. If Kobe's fans (and yes that includes YOU, Mark Jackson) simply kept the man's career in its proper perspective, people wouldn't have to continuously blow the whistle on it. These guys need to get their head out of the clouds and appreciate the man for what he IS (still a top 5 player today and a true all-time great) instead of making him into something he ISN'T.

  80. Jason J Says:

    Out of curiosity, where do people have Kobe All-Time at this point? Obviously he ought to be the #2 shooting guard, but overall, he's tough to place - hell everybody is tough to place! I could probably rattle off a top ten, but putting it in order would be tricky. Do we consider him a top ten player?

  81. Tsunami Says:

    Jordan
    Wilt
    Russel
    Magic
    Oscar
    Shaq
    Kareem
    Duncan
    Bird
    Hakeem
    Kobe

    He's a top 10-top15 player in my book. And in spite of that, I think he's the most overrated player of all time. That's saying something - because he is truly incredible. But it also speaks to his mythical reputation.

  82. Michael Says:

    Do you really have to go all the way down to Manu, i mean sixth man of the year(s), you cant really compare Kobe there sorry, even as good as Manu is thats just stupid. (please explain me otherwise)

    Also, and im not saying Kobe is the greatest ever, but why belittle everything he does, its just fine for Melo`s number to decline(as Anon stated) if he is on a better team, but if Kobe doesnt put up unbelivable numbers, well then he is just not as great.

    And the one thing that do go against Kobe, everyone seem to have forgotten. All-time you really wouldnt start building a team around Kobe, he made Shaq leave and broke up a championship caliber team. But his talent is kinda undeniable.

    Also to the guy who stated the Lakers were so lucky cause of Garnet/Yao Ming etc, well Bynum who was supposed to be the big difference this year wasnt excatly a big difference now was he?

  83. Anon Says:

    @Jason

    "And sure Bron does more, but as we’ve said over and over, Bron has to do more, and operating in an offense that features no one else, he also has the opportunity to do more...I don’t see how we’ve debunked the idea that Kobe becomes the superior scoring option against tough defenses, and I think his supporters can lean on that claim a little bit."

    Your last point is a little puzzling, and I don't know if you've fully grasped this important concept yet. As Neil has pointed out several times already, players become LESS efficient when they have to carry larger offensive loads. This is not only something that is observed when watching basketball but it has also been verified in several studies on the matter (the exact correlation is still being investigated, but the evidence STRONGLY suggests a 1-point decrease in ORtg for every 1% increase in offensive possession %). You need to keep this in mind when looking at ORtgs.

    "Out of curiosity, where do people have Kobe All-Time at this point?"

    I think that top 20 or even top 15 is fine. Top 10 at this point is pushing it, especially when you consider that Kobe is not even the BEST player of this decade (Tim Duncan and Shaquille O'Neal have better cases for that claim, and both should be ranked ahead of Bryant).

  84. Tsunami Says:

    @Michael

    I don't believe Manu is a better player than Kobe.

    What I said was that if you look at many of the arguments Laker fans use in support of Kobe - Manu is actually better. He's undefeated in finals appearances. He is a better defensive player, he is a better shooter, and his per-minute stats look eerily similar to Kobes.

    The point is, that if you made a post comparing Kobe and Manu (I know, cus I did it a while back: http://community.foxsports.com/blogs/Tsunami/2008/08/23/KOBE_OverUnder_Rated_KOBE) you get eviscerated. I got 500 Kobe loving trolls come on my site telling me my credibility was now ruined.

    But it is a much more valid comparison than Kobe/Jordan.

  85. Anon Says:

    @ Michael

    "Also, and im not saying Kobe is the greatest ever, but why belittle everything he does, its just fine for Melo`s number to decline(as Anon stated) if he is on a better team, but if Kobe doesnt put up unbelivable numbers, well then he is just not as great."

    If you're going to paraphrase my posts, please do a better job at it.

  86. Anon Says:

    @ Tsunami

    If Kobe is a prime example of overrated players today, Manu is the COMPLETE opposite. Glad that you brought up the comparison.

  87. Michael Says:

    @ Anon

    Sorry didnt mean to single you out really, i enjoy everyones posts here, and there are many valid points. But still i cant help but feel that Kobe has to prove so much more to satisfy some of you.

    @Tsunami

    I bet you saw those 500 forum trolls coming hehe:) at least you shouldnt be surprised, even a non-Laker fan would find that one a bit tuned to your point...

    Still the Spurs in their prime would probably easily beat these Lakers, I actually picked the Spurs to win it this year, had there been no injuries.

  88. Jason J Says:

    Anon - I meant to address the -1 ORtg per each increased Poss assumption, just to say that I'm not sure there's evidence of it being true for Bryant on a season by season basis(which may be worth it's own topic - if his efficiency is not greatly impacted by possessions, then is he not taking advantage of good teammates the way he could by taking smarter / easier shots?).

    If I'm seeing the numbers right, it doesn't hold true for Kobe's history generally. http://www.basketball-reference.com/players/b/bryanko01.html His ORtg doesn't seem to directly correlate to possessions. Doesn't seem to work for Jordan or Wade either btw - it did seem to for LeBron, though it's tough to say since there's really only one season worth of data showing a major change (but it is MAJOR).

    It's difficult to determine since - season by season - we can't control for a player aging (getting better or worse with age I mean) or playing through injuries or whathaveyou.

    Can someone check my findings as regards Kobe? Maybe I'm looking at things the wrong way.

  89. Jose Says:

    For the guy who took issue with my comment about Kobe having arguably more talented teammates around him than MJ ever did:

    The funny thing about this Laker team is that they aren't very tough, they rarely play with great chemistry (if they did, they would be nearly unstoppable with so much height/youth/talent, but Phil Jackson insists on playing through Kobe as if this team doesn't have more offensive talent around him than his Bulls teams had around Jordan [hint to Phil Jackson: it does]), and their defense is inconsistent. For example, I think this Laker team is arguably more talented than the Laker team which featured Shaq as the driving force (something Kobe himself believes), but that doesn't mean they'd be able to achieve the same kind of playoff success that the Shaq & Kobe three-peat team did. Things like dominance and *offensive/defensive* discipline aren't always direct reflections of talent. That being said, except for the consistent presence of Scottie Pippen (who was great defensively, but not all that great offensively), MJ's championship teams did have a lot of *role* players who were less talented than the likes of Pau Gasol, Trevor Ariza, Lamar Odom, and (assuming that he ever returns to pre-injury form) Andrew Bynum. I doubt that Bill Cartwright or Luc Longley ever scored 45 points in a game (a feat which I believe Bynum achieved this season), and they certainly weren't as talented as Pau Gasol. In fact, the only guy who I can think of to put with those Lakers I mentioned might be the underrated Horace Grant from the first Bulls three-peat teams, and yet that's based more on effectiveness than talent. Dennis Rodman was certainly a factor when he arrived, but except for his uncanny rebounding skills, he hardly possessed the overall talent and versatility of a Lamar Odom.

  90. Gils_Keloids Says:

    I am mentioning Kobe and Jordan in the same sentence.

  91. Lawrence Says:

    #68, ASMJ. Yes, Jordan shot poorly in certain finals, only one worse than Kobe in this year's finals, however, Kobe DID become the ONLY finals mvp in history to shoot under 50% every single game of the finals. OUCH!

    Kobe's career finals FG% is just over 41%, or..what Jordan shot in his WORST finals performance. Worst Jordan = Average Kobe. Jordan's finals statistics put Kobe's to shame.

    So let us end the Kobe = MJ crap. As well all truly know and the statistics back up, MJ > Kobe, especially in the finals.

  92. Roland Says:

    JD, #76, no it is not nuts at all to think this Lakers team could win 55 games. A Pau Gasol led Memphis team already won 50, and they had less talent than this Lakers team.

  93. Anon Says:

    @ Jason

    The process that is used to show that there is an inverse relationship between a player's offensive rating and offensive possessions % is much more involved and requires a thorough understanding of statistics. But here's a little exercise that can help elucidate things for you: take the above numbers for Kobe's performance in the Finals. He posted about a 111 ORtg against the Magic while carrying 37% of his team's offense. If you adjust the load to what he usually carried during the regular season (32%), that gives you an ORtg of 116, which is right around how he usually performed during the regular season (115). Now do the same for LeBron...he had a 118 ORtg while carrying 40% of his team's offense. His usual load during the regular season was 34%; do the same adjustments and you get a 124 ORtg, which is close to his regular season ORtg of 122. Of course we're dealing with paltry sample sizes, and this is also a pretty rough method of showing the process at work here but nevertheless it should help demonstrate this principle.

  94. Jason J Says:

    anon - it sounds like i'm out of my depth here (and i'll need to go to CUNY and take a stats class rather than try to have you teach me here i guess), but what we're doing then is factoring in a generally accurate correcting agent (-1 ORtg per +1% offensive possessions) rather than looking at the actual numbers, right? i'm not trying to be obstinate here, just want to understand if we're seeing actual loss of efficiency w/ increased possession or just assuming that the adjustment holds true.

    my non-math brain is still not quite gathering in why it is that, when comparing the reg season and playoffs this year, LeBron's ORtg went up as his Usage increased. i guess it just seems to me that the concept of an inverse relationship between efficiency and offensive possessions should be at least somewhat apparent when we look at changes in ORtg and Usage.

    Even bringing in total possessions - Cleveland's possessions per game dropped by approximately 2 between the reg season and the playoffs. But LeBron's possessions increased because he played 4 more minutes per game. His Usage jumped 1.6% in the playoffs, and his ORtg spiked by 6 points (any way you cut it he had a ridiculous playoffs this year. his number are out of this world!).

    Of course I'm using the game's best / most productive / most versatile player as an example here, which is just stupid. it does make me wonder if this inverse relationship was determined according to total league weights and is thus more apparent with role players / non-superstars who are being asked to move out of their more limited skill sets. Asking Steve Kerr to take a bigger hand in anything except shooting is going to immediately lower his effectiveness. Asking Michael Jordan to take a bigger hand in anything seems far less likely to impact efficiency just because one is a specialist and one is versatile.

  95. Tsunami Says:

    It shouldn't be too difficult to understand the conventional wisdom that goes along with the relationship between usage and efficiency.

    1.) More usage means more activity, which leads to more fatigue, which leads to some flat jumpers and slower feet.

    2.) On a team like the Magic, where every single player not named Dwight Howard can pass, dribble, and shoot shoot shoot, you can't just hone in on one guy. When someone's usage starts going up very high, defenses are going to pay more attention to that person (especially if he is playing at a high level)

    Great posts: Jason J, Anon

  96. Anon Says:

    @ Jason

    "my non-math brain is still not quite gathering in why it is that, when comparing the reg season and playoffs this year, LeBron’s ORtg went up as his Usage increased."

    I would think that a 14-game sample versus an 82-game sample could very much be the culprit here. He just happened to hit a great performance stretch at the right time. But I think that the old saying "What goes up, must..." would definitely apply here, had he played in alot more games.

    Or perhaps, given that he's only 24, it might also mean he could still be tapping into the depths of his immense potential that he still hasn't utilized yet. Now wouldn't THAT be something?? :)

    "Of course I’m using the game’s best / most productive / most versatile player as an example here, which is just stupid. it does make me wonder if this inverse relationship was determined according to total league weights and is thus more apparent with role players / non-superstars who are being asked to move out of their more limited skill sets. Asking Steve Kerr to take a bigger hand in anything except shooting is going to immediately lower his effectiveness. Asking Michael Jordan to take a bigger hand in anything seems far less likely to impact efficiency just because one is a specialist and one is versatile."

    Yup, and that's EXACTLY what this model does a pretty good job of capturing. Steve Kerr had an insane offensive rating for his career, but seeing how he never really used more than about 10% of the offense in his career (by the way, just to let you know usage is not the same thing as offensive possession %...it's similar but there are differences in the calculations that yield different numbers) if you were to ask him to take on the role of His Airness (who carried THREE TIMES of the offenses that Kerr did) his ORtg wouldn't even reach triple digits. Neil actually explains all of this in the blog's glossary section; players who carry a mid-teens or less % of their team's offense are usually role-players or specialists while players who take on around 23% or more are the all-stars. And that's what makes guys like MJ, Kobe, LeBron, etc. so great; they can maintain tremendous efficiency even when carry large offensive loads. They still have their efficiencies drop however, they're just simply less impervious to larger loads (which is the mark of a great player).

    Anyway, you articulate yourself well and I'm glad that you're asking questions and trying to learn more about the data that is presented. This is not the perfect model of course (it still relies on box score data, which we all know doesn't capture all the nuances of the game) but it's one of the stronger set of basketball metrics out there. I think that if you want to learn more Dean Oliver's "Basketball on Paper" is calling you for some light summer reading, if you haven't done so already. :) I hope all of this helps.

  97. mamzi Says:

    come on now come on,please enlighten us with the FT anomalities and referees' and medias' unbound love for both MJ and LBJ and even for DWade in 2006.This is off the charts.Who could have T'd MJ back then?Basketball reference is a great site,but come on,everybody's bashing/degrading/trying to nullify Kobe on false arguments.This is not about being a fan,there are people who really objectively can write pieces.Not a sane person is saying Kobe is best all time.He simply is in the pantheon of greats and certainly a different version of MJ.Fully capable of lots of things,and as graceful nearly as athletic.Give their dues to players that make the game fantastic,will ya?Think if football did not have Pele,Maradona,Hagi,etc...Be grateful for Kobe,T-Mac,Vinsanity,Shaq,LBJ,etc.I would not watch Smush and Co for NBA.Sorry but I am European,have a love for basketball for 30 years,and Kobe Bryant is one of the best to ever play and most fun to watch with MJ.LeBron is a Tractor,powerboat,yoked oxen.I love him,but it is not as entertaining.He would be breaking all the records maybe but it is different.Kobe when and if he can play 80*6 or 7 seasons will be awesome in sheer numbers as well.Just give him his normal FT's.Nothing else..

  98. Joselyn Sauerbry Says:

    I have to say, I enjoy reading your article. Maybe you could let me know how I can bookmark it ? I feel I should let you know I found your page through Bing.