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Kobe & the Percentage of a Team’s Points Produced

Posted by Neil Paine on December 8, 2010

I was messing around with the database this morning, and I decided to check out the 2010-11 leaders in the percentage of team points produced by a player while he's on the court:

Player Year Age Tm G MP PProd PProd%
Kobe Bryant 2011 32 LAL 21 697.0 537.1 34.0%
Russell Westbrook 2011 22 OKC 22 823.0 580.0 33.6%
LeBron James 2011 26 MIA 22 816.0 547.3 32.3%
Derrick Rose 2011 22 CHI 18 698.0 461.8 32.2%
Eric Gordon 2011 22 LAC 20 751.0 464.8 31.0%
Deron Williams 2011 26 UTA 22 832.0 525.9 30.6%
Devin Harris 2011 27 NJN 20 631.0 365.2 30.4%
Kevin Durant 2011 22 OKC 18 719.0 453.0 30.1%
Dwyane Wade 2011 29 MIA 21 737.0 456.4 29.8%
Steve Nash 2011 36 PHO 19 646.0 423.5 29.4%
Carmelo Anthony 2011 26 DEN 20 694.0 448.5 29.3%
Chris Paul 2011 25 NOH 20 688.0 391.8 28.8%
Amare Stoudemire 2011 28 NYK 22 811.0 519.2 28.8%
Dirk Nowitzki 2011 32 DAL 21 757.0 445.8 28.7%
Kevin Martin 2011 27 HOU 21 678.0 420.4 28.5%
Blake Griffin 2011 21 LAC 22 792.0 445.5 28.1%
Rodney Stuckey 2011 24 DET 21 684.0 369.1 28.1%
Kevin Love 2011 22 MIN 21 721.0 428.4 28.0%
Brandon Jennings 2011 21 MIL 20 705.0 369.2 27.8%
Monta Ellis 2011 25 GSW 21 832.0 489.9 27.8%

No doubt that this has been a good season so far for Kobe, but if he's producing 34% of L.A.'s points at age 32 on a team with Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom, Ron Artest, & co., what must his % have been around 2006 or so, when he was lining up with guys like Smush Parker and Brian Cook?

Curious, I dialed up the post-1977 single-season leaders in this stat:

Player Year Age Tm G MP PProd PProd%
Dwyane Wade 2009 27 MIA 79 3048.0 2399.9 39.0%
Michael Jordan 1987 23 CHI 82 3281.0 2741.7 38.6%
Kobe Bryant 2006 27 LAL 80 3277.0 2575.3 38.3%
Tracy McGrady 2003 23 ORL 75 2954.0 2277.5 37.8%
Dwyane Wade 2010 28 MIA 77 2792.0 2075.2 37.3%
LeBron James 2010 25 CLE 76 2966.0 2321.5 37.0%
LeBron James 2009 24 CLE 81 3054.0 2345.9 37.0%
LeBron James 2008 23 CLE 75 3027.0 2223.9 36.9%
Allen Iverson 2006 30 PHI 72 3103.0 2335.8 36.8%
Michael Jordan 1988 24 CHI 82 3311.0 2626.7 36.6%
Michael Jordan 1989 25 CHI 81 3255.0 2573.7 35.8%
Bernard King 1985 28 NYK 55 2063.0 1600.7 35.7%
Jerry Stackhouse 2001 26 DET 80 3215.0 2258.6 35.6%
Allen Iverson 2005 29 PHI 75 3174.0 2311.9 35.6%
Michael Jordan 1990 26 CHI 82 3197.0 2573.5 35.6%
LeBron James 2006 21 CLE 79 3361.0 2403.3 35.4%
Allen Iverson 2002 26 PHI 60 2622.0 1750.3 35.3%
Dwyane Wade 2006 24 MIA 75 2892.0 2088.1 34.8%
Allen Iverson 2001 25 PHI 71 2979.0 2021.4 34.7%
Kobe Bryant 2007 28 LAL 77 3140.0 2301.4 34.6%

He was at 38% in '06, which is actually the 3rd-highest rate since we can calculate this stat (btw, I'm guessing Wilt Chamberlain would have a presence on this list if we extended it back to the 1960s). Career-wise, Kobe ranks 5th since '78:

Player G MP PProd PProd%
Dwyane Wade 492 18454 12670.0 34.3%
LeBron James 570 22924 15657.2 33.8%
Michael Jordan 1072 41010 29882.9 33.7%
Allen Iverson 914 37584 23675.2 31.4%
Kobe Bryant 1042 38063 25091.1 31.3%
Tracy McGrady 836 28501 17291.6 30.4%
Shaquille O'Neal 1185 41497 26239.2 29.8%
Vince Carter 870 32118 18636.4 29.7%
Carmelo Anthony 534 19441 12350.7 29.6%
Karl Malone 1476 54852 34350.9 29.5%
Dominique Wilkins 1074 38113 24509.6 29.3%
George Gervin 709 23831 16651.6 29.2%
World B. Free 737 23519 15306.8 29.0%
Gilbert Arenas 482 17913 10719.9 28.9%
Tim Duncan 997 36165 20657.8 28.8%
Adrian Dantley 878 31335 20007.9 28.5%
Paul Pierce 904 33632 19166.7 28.3%
Yao Ming 486 15818 8624.3 28.0%
Bernard King 874 29417 18021.7 27.9%
David Robinson 987 34271 19989.2 27.8%

Of course, the critic would point out that Kobe has also used more possessions than anyone else when creating those points, and that's true both this year...

Player Year Age Tm G MP Poss Poss%
Kobe Bryant 2011 32 LAL 21 697.0 476.1 34.9%
Russell Westbrook 2011 22 OKC 22 823.0 526.8 33.0%
LeBron James 2011 26 MIA 22 816.0 499.4 32.3%
Derrick Rose 2011 22 CHI 18 698.0 428.7 31.5%
Dwyane Wade 2011 29 MIA 21 737.0 434.2 31.1%
Carmelo Anthony 2011 26 DEN 20 694.0 423.5 30.4%
Kevin Durant 2011 22 OKC 18 719.0 420.7 30.2%
Amare Stoudemire 2011 28 NYK 22 811.0 469.6 28.9%
Deron Williams 2011 26 UTA 22 832.0 450.0 28.6%
Eric Gordon 2011 22 LAC 20 751.0 406.1 28.2%
Dwight Howard 2011 25 ORL 19 664.0 349.7 27.7%
Devin Harris 2011 27 NJN 20 631.0 323.1 27.6%
Michael Beasley 2011 22 MIN 19 637.0 358.7 27.5%
Blake Griffin 2011 21 LAC 22 792.0 411.5 27.1%
Steve Nash 2011 36 PHO 19 646.0 346.4 27.0%
Monta Ellis 2011 25 GSW 21 832.0 446.6 26.9%
Gilbert Arenas 2011 29 WAS 17 569.0 295.8 26.8%
Tyreke Evans 2011 21 SAC 18 659.0 339.3 26.8%
Dirk Nowitzki 2011 32 DAL 21 757.0 383.9 26.8%
Brandon Jennings 2011 21 MIL 20 705.0 355.8 26.7%

...and historically:

Player Year Age Tm G MP Poss Poss%
Kobe Bryant 2006 27 LAL 80 3277.0 2265.2 36.5%
Dwyane Wade 2009 27 MIA 79 3048.0 2083.5 36.5%
Michael Jordan 1987 23 CHI 82 3281.0 2350.2 35.9%
Allen Iverson 2002 26 PHI 60 2622.0 1738.2 35.8%
Dwyane Wade 2010 28 MIA 77 2792.0 1831.5 35.1%
Allen Iverson 2006 30 PHI 72 3103.0 2102.9 35.1%
Allen Iverson 2005 29 PHI 75 3174.0 2192.8 34.9%
Kobe Bryant 2011 32 LAL 21 697.0 476.1 34.9%
Allen Iverson 2004 28 PHI 48 2040.0 1297.1 34.7%
Michael Jordan 2002 38 WAS 60 2092.0 1332.4 34.6%
Tracy McGrady 2007 27 HOU 71 2539.0 1652.9 34.4%
LeBron James 2009 24 CLE 81 3054.0 1928.1 34.2%
Tracy McGrady 2003 23 ORL 75 2954.0 1956.3 34.1%
Jerry Stackhouse 2001 26 DET 80 3215.0 2165.2 34.1%
LeBron James 2010 25 CLE 76 2966.0 1920.1 34.0%
Allen Iverson 2001 25 PHI 71 2979.0 1901.0 33.8%
LeBron James 2008 23 CLE 75 3027.0 1911.9 33.6%
LeBron James 2006 21 CLE 79 3361.0 2082.4 33.1%
Bernard King 1985 28 NYK 55 2063.0 1415.8 33.1%
Russell Westbrook 2011 22 OKC 22 823.0 526.8 33.0%

Kobe is 5th in career possession % as well:

Player G MP Poss Poss%
Dwyane Wade 492 18454 11433.0 33.0%
LeBron James 570 22924 13705.1 31.8%
Michael Jordan 1072 41010 25331.5 31.7%
Allen Iverson 914 37584 22478.0 31.1%
Kobe Bryant 1042 38063 22390.5 30.5%
Carmelo Anthony 534 19441 11539.4 29.9%
Tracy McGrady 836 28501 16016.8 29.6%
Shaquille O'Neal 1185 41497 23247.7 28.9%
Dominique Wilkins 1074 38113 21972.9 28.6%
George Gervin 709 23831 14900.5 28.4%
Karl Malone 1476 54852 30462.2 28.4%
Vince Carter 870 32118 17063.7 28.3%
Gilbert Arenas 482 17913 9731.8 28.0%
Mark Aguirre 923 27730 15822.5 27.9%
World B. Free 737 23519 13927.3 27.9%
Tim Duncan 997 36165 18789.0 27.9%
Paul Pierce 904 33632 17545.3 27.2%
Jerry Stackhouse 903 29405 15229.0 27.1%
Chris Webber 831 30847 16376.0 27.0%
Zach Randolph 605 18873 9513.5 26.9%

One simple way to balance these two pieces of information out is to look at the player's points produced per team possession when he's on the court, which rewards both efficiency and usage volume. Here are the 2011 leaders by that metric:

Player Year Age Tm G MP Poss PProd PProd% Poss% PP/TmPoss
Kobe Bryant 2011 32 LAL 21 697.0 476.1 537.1 34.0% 34.9% 0.39
Russell Westbrook 2011 22 OKC 22 823.0 526.8 580.0 33.6% 33.0% 0.36
LeBron James 2011 26 MIA 22 816.0 499.4 547.3 32.3% 32.3% 0.35
Derrick Rose 2011 22 CHI 18 698.0 428.7 461.8 32.2% 31.5% 0.34
Deron Williams 2011 26 UTA 22 832.0 450.0 525.9 30.6% 28.6% 0.33
Steve Nash 2011 36 PHO 19 646.0 346.4 423.5 29.4% 27.0% 0.33
Dwyane Wade 2011 29 MIA 21 737.0 434.2 456.4 29.8% 31.1% 0.33
Kevin Durant 2011 22 OKC 18 719.0 420.7 453.0 30.1% 30.2% 0.33
Eric Gordon 2011 22 LAC 20 751.0 406.1 464.8 31.0% 28.2% 0.32
Carmelo Anthony 2011 26 DEN 20 694.0 423.5 448.5 29.3% 30.4% 0.32
Amare Stoudemire 2011 28 NYK 22 811.0 469.6 519.2 28.8% 28.9% 0.32
Kevin Martin 2011 27 HOU 21 678.0 354.0 420.4 28.5% 26.3% 0.31
Devin Harris 2011 27 NJN 20 631.0 323.1 365.2 30.4% 27.6% 0.31
Manu Ginobili 2011 33 SAS 20 652.0 323.6 398.0 27.7% 25.3% 0.31
Dirk Nowitzki 2011 32 DAL 21 757.0 383.9 445.8 28.7% 26.8% 0.31
Chris Paul 2011 25 NOH 20 688.0 316.9 391.8 28.8% 24.4% 0.30
Dwight Howard 2011 25 ORL 19 664.0 349.7 373.6 27.7% 27.7% 0.30
Monta Ellis 2011 25 GSW 21 832.0 446.6 489.9 27.8% 26.9% 0.30
Stephen Curry 2011 22 GSW 19 662.0 342.6 389.5 27.8% 25.9% 0.29
Blake Griffin 2011 21 LAC 22 792.0 411.5 445.5 28.1% 27.1% 0.29

The post-'77 single-season leaders:

Player Year Age Tm G MP Poss PProd PProd% Poss% PP/TmPoss
Dwyane Wade 2009 27 MIA 79 3048.0 2083.5 2399.9 39.0% 36.5% 0.42
Michael Jordan 1987 23 CHI 82 3281.0 2350.2 2741.7 38.6% 35.9% 0.42
LeBron James 2009 24 CLE 81 3054.0 1928.1 2345.9 37.0% 34.2% 0.42
Kobe Bryant 2006 27 LAL 80 3277.0 2265.2 2575.3 38.3% 36.5% 0.41
LeBron James 2010 25 CLE 76 2966.0 1920.1 2321.5 37.0% 34.0% 0.41
Michael Jordan 1990 26 CHI 82 3197.0 2090.1 2573.5 35.6% 32.4% 0.40
Michael Jordan 1988 24 CHI 82 3311.0 2136.5 2626.7 36.6% 32.4% 0.40
Dwyane Wade 2010 28 MIA 77 2792.0 1831.5 2075.2 37.3% 35.1% 0.40
Tracy McGrady 2003 23 ORL 75 2954.0 1956.3 2277.5 37.8% 34.1% 0.40
Kobe Bryant 2011 32 LAL 21 697.0 476.1 537.1 34.0% 34.9% 0.39
Michael Jordan 1991 27 CHI 82 3034.0 1890.2 2370.5 34.2% 31.3% 0.39
Michael Jordan 1989 25 CHI 81 3255.0 2099.6 2573.7 35.8% 31.9% 0.39
LeBron James 2008 23 CLE 75 3027.0 1911.9 2223.9 36.9% 33.6% 0.39
Michael Jordan 1993 29 CHI 78 3067.0 1936.1 2310.4 34.6% 32.8% 0.39
Allen Iverson 2006 30 PHI 72 3103.0 2102.9 2335.8 36.8% 35.1% 0.39
Michael Jordan 1996 32 CHI 82 3090.0 1830.9 2261.7 33.5% 31.2% 0.39
LeBron James 2006 21 CLE 79 3361.0 2082.4 2403.3 35.4% 33.1% 0.38
Dwyane Wade 2006 24 MIA 75 2892.0 1809.7 2088.1 34.8% 32.8% 0.38
Kobe Bryant 2007 28 LAL 77 3140.0 1995.1 2301.4 34.6% 32.6% 0.38
David Robinson 1994 28 SAS 80 3241.0 1912.9 2280.1 33.9% 31.4% 0.37

And, last but not least, the career leaders:

Player G MP Poss PProd PProd% Poss% PP/TmPoss
Michael Jordan 1072 41010 25331.5 29882.9 33.7% 31.7% 0.37
Dwyane Wade 492 18454 11433.0 12670.0 34.3% 33.0% 0.37
LeBron James 570 22924 13705.1 15657.2 33.8% 31.8% 0.36
Kobe Bryant 1042 38063 22390.5 25091.1 31.3% 30.5% 0.34
Allen Iverson 914 37584 22478.0 23675.2 31.4% 31.1% 0.33
Shaquille O'Neal 1185 41497 23247.7 26239.2 29.8% 28.9% 0.33
Karl Malone 1476 54852 30462.2 34350.9 29.5% 28.4% 0.32
Carmelo Anthony 534 19441 11539.4 12350.7 29.6% 29.9% 0.32
Tracy McGrady 836 28501 16016.8 17291.6 30.4% 29.6% 0.32
Dominique Wilkins 1074 38113 21972.9 24509.6 29.3% 28.6% 0.32
George Gervin 709 23831 14900.5 16651.6 29.2% 28.4% 0.32
Vince Carter 870 32118 17063.7 18636.4 29.7% 28.3% 0.31
Gilbert Arenas 482 17913 9731.8 10719.9 28.9% 28.0% 0.31
World B. Free 737 23519 13927.3 15306.8 29.0% 27.9% 0.31
Tim Duncan 997 36165 18789.0 20657.8 28.8% 27.9% 0.31
Mark Aguirre 923 27730 15822.5 17226.2 27.6% 27.9% 0.30
Charles Barkley 1073 39330 19977.8 23835.5 27.5% 25.4% 0.30
Adrian Dantley 878 31335 16771.6 20007.9 28.5% 25.3% 0.30
Magic Johnson 906 33245 17357.7 20966.4 26.8% 24.9% 0.30
Dirk Nowitzki 941 34489 16890.1 19800.6 27.3% 25.6% 0.30

Is this the best way to balance usage vs. efficiency? Probably not. But even so, I think it's a somewhat underrated way to see who is making good things happen for his team offensively while he's on the floor.

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93 Responses to “Kobe & the Percentage of a Team’s Points Produced”

  1. AHL Says:

    Well how about that. Except for some of Michael Jordan's campaigns, there's a notable lack of championship teams on that PP/TmPoss leaderboard, and none on the PProd% and Poss% boards. I guess unless you have the G.O.A.T. you can't really win with that kind of team formula, huh.

  2. storyofgreats Says:

    nice post Neil!Thanks.

  3. dsong Says:

    I've watched enough basketball to figure out that team success depends on five guys playing well, and not just one player playing well.

    If you look at blowout victories, one of the things that tends to stand out is the balanced scoring. And that's not just because the scrubs are getting in early - even if you just look at the first half stats, contributions are usually spread out among several players, and there are a lot of easy looks and assisted baskets.

    Stats (and championships) are heavily based on context so there's no real way to figure out whether these stats make a player "great". If Magic Johnson played for the Bulls, could they have still have won several championships? What would have happened if Jordan was forced to play second banana to Shaq early in his career? And how would have Shaq fared if he was forced to deal with a hotshot guard who fired the coach? (Wait, we already know the answer to that one)

    Make no mistake, though, there are a lot of great players near the top of the list.

    P.S. There's actually considerable evidence that Jordan's ball hogging actually hurt team chemistry, but the Bulls were so good that they were able to overcome these difficulties.

  4. huevonkiller Says:

    The way it rewards Allen Iverson... It just confirms that this PP/TmPoss stat is dubious to me. It senselessly rewards high usage rate. MJ/LeBron, then Kobe/Wade/Shaq are the best modern offensive players.

    1991 Jordan vs 2011 Kobe? Kobe in 2006 is also tied with LeBron's third best season offensively, at best.

  5. huevonkiller Says:

    Just saying, the way it sorts some of these seasons is perplexing (really takes an emphasis off efficiency). Whereas with PER, at least the all-time rankings look much more appropriate offensively.

  6. AYC Says:

    "There's actually considerable evidence that Jordan's ball hogging actually hurt team chemistry, but the Bulls were so good that they were able to overcome these difficulties."

    Really? What is this evidence?

  7. AYC Says:

    "The way it rewards Allen Iverson... It just confirms that this PP/TmPoss stat is dubious to me."

    I'm no Iverson fan, but I wouldn't dismiss him quite so quickly. His top two seasons in PP were also his top two years in assists, and he shot relatively well from the field those two seasons.

    06: 33.0 ppg, 7.4 apg, .467 eFG%, 3.4 TOpg
    05: 30.7 ppg, 7.9 apg, .453 eFG%, 4.6 TOpg

  8. AYC Says:

    PS Surprised Bird doesn't show up on any of these lists....

  9. king t Says:

    It'd be really cool if you guys could include possessions used and possession % in the players pages. I know it's easy to calculate but it could be useful to let us sort by it in the PI.

  10. Gil Meriken Says:

    Russell Westbrook is ballin!

    I'd like to know who has the highest usage with the lowest points produced. Those are the players truly worthy of the "ball hog" tag. The guys on this list above are simply ballers.

  11. Gil Meriken Says:

    Oh, I also have a random data request.

    Are you able find the maximum and minimum point margin within a game for each team? Then avg out the max margins, and the min margins for each team. Would be interesting to see which team builds the largest leads, and who builds the largest deficits. Probably wouldn't be much different than the rankings for pure point differential, but it could give us a different look at the numbers, and take out some of the noise that comes from building a big lead and coasting, like we've seen the Heat and Lakers do.

    For example, a team that builds a 20 point lead every game, but ends up winning by 2 points, you might say that they're better than a team that holds a two point lead every game and wins by two points. You know, because it's the regular season and all. Would be fun to see. Thanks.

  12. MM Says:

    @4

    According to this data, the Kobe's 2006 being not better than Lebron's third best season isn't true. If you want to use a different metric fine, but that information isn't reflected in the data shown above.

    Also, you do realize that both MJ and Lebron have high usage rates as well don't you? So they are also both "senselessly rewarded." And it's not a really big dropoff in usage rate between Kobe/Wade historically and MJ, so I don't get why that upsets you. They all benefit the same way from having a higher usage rate. lol.

    1991 Jordan vs. 2011 Kobe is obviously different in terms of individual ability, I mean a 14 year vet off of knee surgery or a player in the prime of his career, but the data is not judging individual ability but points created for the team. Also, it doesn't take away the possibility that Kobe could in fact drop off as the season goes on. It could just be victim to the fact that the whole season hasn't played out yet.

  13. Greyberger Says:

    I love posts like this. It's ,still pretty remarkable that two out of the four players who are in the Jordan-tier of scoring production ended up on the same team.

  14. Anon Says:

    "There's actually considerable evidence that Jordan's ball hogging actually hurt team chemistry, but the Bulls were so good that they were able to overcome these difficulties."

    This goes back to the legendary "Does a player shoot more because his teammates struggle, or do his teammates struggle because the player shoots more?" debate.

    From my experience playing/watching the game and also the data I've seen on the matter, I'm going with the former line of reasoning. I know people will point to the Bulls two win difference in their records between 93 and 94 as proof of MJ disrupting team chemistry, but if one looks deeper at the performance of the squads outside the team W-L record and also the fact that the Bulls weren't winning titles during MJ's hiatus, you'll see a different story.

  15. Get Buckets Says:

    Kobe Bryant is one of the most fascinating characters in the history of the NBA. On one hand, he's maximized every bit of physical ability he has -- the only things he can't do on a basketball court are things no aging 6'6 shooting guard could do. This tells me he has a very, very high basketball IQ -- every single time Kobe laces 'em up, he knows exactly what he is doing.

    Which makes his insistence on dominating the ball despite playing with some extremely efficient post players VERY interesting. I think Tex Winter said it best:

    "He understands the game. But — and don’t misinterpret this — he understands it a lot better than he plays it.”
    O.K., Tex, so as not to misinterpret: Are you saying that he knows the right thing to do but sometimes chooses not to do it?
    “Yup, that’s it,” says Tex.

    http://getbuckets.fantake.com/2010/10/25/kobe-vs-lebron-how-the-lion-king-explains-the-nbas-new-season/

  16. Anon Says:

    "Which makes his insistence on dominating the ball despite playing with some extremely efficient post players VERY interesting."

    Since he's had a good start to the season, I don't think Lakers fans are complaining too much about the extra possessions he's using.

    The question however, is how he'll fare throughout the season especially given that he's in his 30s and not his 20s. When the same shots aren't falling, that's where Gasol becomes a valuable asset that the Lakers need to use more often (and this is when he's having a good game, not games where Gasol struggles and shoots more to compensate).

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  18. king kong Says:

    @ 16

    from what I've seen of the Laker games, especially losses, if Pau is struggling (which he has been the last few games), Kobe's mindset seems to be to take over. This can be good sometimes - like when he hit 5 straight against Utah, or bad like in that Denver game

    which kind of makes sense considering Fisher and Artest don't produce a lot of offense, so the only other player to go to is Odom

    part of it is also the players giving Kobe the ball instead of asserting themselves. Pau, for example, doesn't seem to assert himself even when Kobe is not on the floor

    of course Kobe also takes lot of stupid shots, but Kobe's always done that, and since the Lakers are so dominant, it doesn't really matter

  19. Anon x 2 Says:

    When bynum comes back I think we'll see Kobe's usage drop as when gasol is out or tired, Bynum will be around to play with.

    I think people forget the Lakers are playing without an actual backup center and are using a very raw undersized backup to man the spot who looks lost half the time and moving Artest or Barnes to the PF spot.

    It's an imbalanced bench since Theo Ratliff got hurt and I doubt we'll see Kobe doing this once it's re-balanced in a week.

  20. Cloud King Says:

    Kobe isn't that inefficient considering how many jumpshots he takes and the shooting volume, but sometimes I think he just likes taking difficult shots for fun

    how else do you explain all those fadeaways and deep deep 3s? He's a smart enough player to know that those are bad shots but he still loves to shoot them

  21. Jason J Says:

    I agree with King Cloud to some extent. Kobe has Larry Bird disease where he believes he can hit any shot he wants to take no matter how ridiculously difficult. And at times that confidence makes him unguardable. At other times it makes his career shooting percentage 45%.

    Phil Jackson was asked in an ESPN chat whether he'd want Bryant or Jordan to take the last shot of a tied game. He hedged his bets and said that Bryant was the better player at hitting tough shots while Jordan was better at creating good shots.

    To the poster who pointed out how Chicago may have won despite Michael Jordan, I'd just say this: Dean has proved that there's an inverse relationship between usage and efficiency. So every bit of usage that Jordan removed from his teammates increased their efficiency, while his efficiency remained amazing (take a look at seasons where players have ORtgs over 120 and Usage over 30 - there are 10 and Jordan has 7 of them). Jordan's ridiculously efficient high usage play inherently made the game easier for every other player on his team without detracting from team efficiency the way most high usage players do. This is why the vast majority of stat-heads, even the young uns like Neil, consider Mike the GOAT, and Jordan's '92, '96, and '97 Bulls had three of the very best statistical seasons of all time.

  22. Greyberger Says:

    "Which makes his insistence on dominating the ball despite playing with some extremely efficient post players VERY interesting."

    Kobe Bryant would take issue with this statement. He is of course an extremely efficient post player.

  23. Akg Says:

    I'd agree that Kobe is not as inefficient as he is perceived because of the jumpshots. For a volume shooter who takes as many jumpshots as he does, I find it still remarkable that his FG% has stayed relatively "decent" and consistent.

    I think part of him taking those shots is because he believes he can rise up over anybody in the league and hit a shot. How many games has there been when he's shooting 1-9 and he's still taking long jumpers? Just ridiculous confidence (almost to a fault sometimes).

  24. Gil Meriken Says:

    21. "Dean [Oliver]has proved that there's an inverse relationship between usage and efficiency. So every bit of usage that Jordan removed from his teammates increased their efficiency."

    This makes a ton of sense because really, for less talented players, there are fewer good quality shots, so if they start trying to do more than they are capable, their efficiency will drop. In essence, the others can be more selective in their attempts, because MJ is taking away their bad shot attempts. He then converts their bad shot attempts into something better - still not as good as his own good shot attempts, but better than their bad shot attempts.

    So the criteria for success for any high usage player is not whether his FG% is high, it is whether he is doing better with those shots than his teammates would have done if they had to take those shots. A high usage player is that is sopping up the potential bad shots of his teammates that might have been converted at 30%, and making them at 40% is still doing his team a good service.

  25. Walter Says:

    I have been working on a post (probabily will put it on silverscreenandroll.com as that is the only forum I have) that takes a deeper look at the Kobe vs Jordan debate but I figured this would be a very appropriate time bring up a few points that people often forget to take into account when comparing Jordan and Kobe on FG%.

    1) Three Point shots - 19.4% of Kobe's FGA have been threes over his career compared to only 7.2% of Jordan's. To make a better apples to apples comparison one should really look at eFG%.

    Kobe's a career 45.4% FG shooter while Jordan finished at 49.7%. Obviously a gap of 4.3% is huge and people will quickly dismiss Kobe as a much less efficient shooter. However, looking at eFG% and Kobe jumps to 48.7% and Jordan increases to 50.9% but now the gap is only 2.2%! In other words, HALF of the FG% gap is due to the different amount of 3 point shots attempted.

    2) Shortened 3 point line - People quickly forget that Michael Jordan's run after the first retirement came during a brief 3 year span (1994-1997) where the league shortened the three point line. What affect did this have? In the years where the 3 pt line was not shortened Jordan shot only 28.9% from behind the arc. In fact, of the 12 seasons he played with the traditional 3 point line he only exceeded 30% twice! As for those 3 seasons in which the league had a much shorter 3 point line, he shot 40.4%!! His lowest of the 3 seasons was 37.4%!!! That is a huge change. Even the NBA League as a whole saw a jump during this 3 year span.

    If we assume that had the 3 point line remained at the traditional distance and Jordan hit his career average of 29% from behind the arc then Jordan would have seen his career eFG% drop by 0.4% down to 50.5%.

    3) Free Throws - Kobe was a slightly better free throw shooter (83.8% to 83.5%) but Kobe got more FTA per FGA so he was slightly better at getting to the line. Now I am sure most people will quickly point out the "hand checking" rules and dismiss this difference but interestingly the league stats show free throws per FGA were actually higher during Jordan's run. The highest league FTA/FGA rate during Kobe's career was 26.3 however Jordan played only 3 seasons where the league had a lower rate than that and those were also three of the years where Kobe was in the league.

    TS% is probably the best statistic to look at for shooting effeciency as it would take into account free throws. Interestingly Jordan's career was 56.9% while Kobe's was 55.6%, a difference of only 1.3%. If we make the aforementioned adjustment for the shortened 3 point line then the gap narrows down to only 0.9%!!! So basically the true difference between Kobe and Jordan's shooting efficiency is less than a percent.

    4) League Defense - The final item to point out is the level of defense they eached faced. People quickly assume that Jordan faced much tougher defenses than Kobe has but take a look at the league statistics during Jordan and Kobe's careers and a different story emerges. It is quite evident that the league had higher offensive ratings (thus worse Drtg) and higher field goal percentages during Jordan's days thus the there is evidence it was easier to be more efficient during the 1990's than during the 2000's. The difference between the two is more than 1% on FG%. So taking this into account it would appear that Kobe was every bit as efficient as Jordan when it came to shooting the basketball.

    Where the true differences in the players shows up in stats like PER is that Jordan was a slightly better rebounder, turned the ball over less, got more steals, and more blocks. It is those stats that drive his PER up above Kobe but not the shooting percentages as commonly thought.

    I am a huge fan of Kobe's but in my opinion Jordan was clearly the better player at his peak than Kobe iwass. However, if Kobe continues to play at this current level for a few more seasons the debate will not be one of Jordan's peak being better than Kobe's, but what is more valuable... the slight gain in Jordan's peak over Kobe's or the longer duration that Kobe maintained his play compared to Jordans? Peak vs Longevity?... and that will always be debatable.

  26. Cloud King Says:

    I don't think anyone seriously ever argued that Kobe is better or as good as Jordan, so comparing them and trying to prove Jordan is better seems pointless to me.

    It's a common thing for someone to look at the current 'greatest' player and compare them to best ever - the same thing happens to music, movies, books, etc.

    In fact, it seems that general opinion is that Kobe is a top 10 player, and could possibly be a top 5 player when he retires.

  27. AYC Says:

    Also, Kobe is far superior to Jordan in his ability to play with hall of fame big-men...

    #21, Larry Bird disease? Bird shot .496 from the field and .376 from three. Kobe can only dream of efficiency like that

  28. AYC Says:

    Only Lakers fans and kids with no knowledge of NBA history (or advanced stats) think Kobe is a top 5 player

  29. Cloud King Says:

    It's a good thing no one said that he's top 5 right now?

    But do you really think that if he retires with 6 or 7 rings, going to 8 or 9 finals, the rest of his accolades, being #1 on playoff scoring and top 5 in all time scoring, having been a top 3 player for over a decade (not to mention the 81 points, 62 in 3 quarters, 50, 40 and 35 point game streaks), and being the leader in a whole bunch of Laker records (which would be the most storied franchise), he wouldn't be a top 5 player?

    There's something to be said for NBA history and remembering the players from the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s, but come on

  30. Anon Says:

    Walter,

    You brought up some thoughtful points. You need to keep some things in mind: MJ wasn't simply slightly more dominant than the players he's often compared against. He was HISTORCIALLY more dominant. In the same number of seasons - and keep in mind he missed one season to injury, two seasons in his prime away from basketball, and played another two seasons well past his prime - he is STILL a more productive player than Bryant. And this is all considering the changes in league efficiency over the years.

    This site has given Kobe his due props time and time again. But it's easy to forget just how good MJ was at his best - his most recent season at that level was 14 years ago, before things like Internet, digital recording, etc. became commonplace in society. Players like Kobe, LeBron, Wade, etc. have the advantage of being more fresh in our minds.

    There's also a post on the dominance vs. longevity question from awhile back.

  31. Anon Says:

    "Bird shot .496 from the field and .376 from three. Kobe can only dream of efficiency like that"

    While creating less shots for his team, however. This goes back to the points Jason J and Gil brought up.

    If you take both efficiency and usage into account, Kobe has actually been a little better offensively than Larry Legend. Of course better player is another topic for debate.

  32. Eric Says:

    @25

    I think you have left out an important factor in 3 point analysis. If we take out the 94-97 period completely and look only at Jordan's performance from the traditional 3-point line, there is a strong correlation between 3PT percentage and 3PT attempts. Many of his poor shooting years he attempted less than 1 a game. He attempted more than 230 in 1990 and 1993 (and shot a combined .364) and never attempted more than 126 in any other year (and shot a combined .238).

    As you say, the 3 was never as big a part of Jordan's game as it is of Kobe's, a reflection not only of their personal abilities but those of their respective eras. I think we have to take this into account in quantitative analysis as well. There were many years where Jordan wouldn't consider shooting a 3 except in very unusual circumstances: perhaps when the shot clock was running down, or a 50 foot heave as time expired in a quarter, and so on. These shots are obviously more difficult than a planned 3 point attempt. Without more in-depth information than is available it is hard to say for sure, but I think that simply comparing 3P% to 3P% obscures fundamentally different approaches.

    #29

    Kobe will never be #1 in playoff scoring. He *might* reach #1 in points scored, but in the same way that no one would ever say Karl Malone was superior to Michael Jordan in regular season scoring, no one would ever say Kobe was superior to Michael in playoff scoring.

    I also think people forget Kobe's struggles without an All-Star big man too easily when crediting him with team success. In the years between Shaq and Gasol, Kobe's team had the following finishes:

    2005: Missed playoffs.
    2006: Lost in 1st round to Suns (7 games).
    2007: Lost in 1st round to Suns (5 games).

    (By comparison, in years where Michael Jordan was not in a Wizards uniform, his teams never missed the playoffs.)

    Finally, while no one would question whether Kobe was the *best* player on the recent Lakers teams, there is serious question whether he is the *most productive*. Last year Pau Gasol had a higher PER and more Win Shares in the regular season and more Win Shares in the playoffs. Two years ago the numbers are in Kobe's favor, but only barely. Michael Jordan (again, besides his Wizards tenure) was dramatically more productive than everyone else (on his team and usually in the league). Hakeem Olajuwon, as a for instance of a player you have to start leapfrogging to talk about top 5 all time), had similar gaps on his title-winning teams.

    These are not concerns that make me think Kobe is a bum, or not worthy of being called great. Top 5 (or even top 10) all time is serious praise that I think should be taken seriously. "Kobe is just a proven winner" doesn't cut it.

  33. Jason J Says:

    Walter - Why would you think Jordan's three point shooting for 1996 and 1997 (the only seasons he got the advantage of that line (which Kobe actually had as well for 1997)) would revert to career 29%? There's a clear improvement in Jordan's long range game over time. From 1990-93 his 3 point field goal percentage was 34% in the regular season and 38% in the playoffs. The only season he took anywhere near the amount of threes that Kobe regularly attempts (1990) he made them at a better rate than Kobe ever has, so the notion that he'd somehow shoot significantly worse than he did even in 1993 (his last full season prior to early retirement) seems odd.

    Also if we're factoring in the 3 point line change, shouldn't we factor in the change in perimeter foul calling? Kobe has averaged 9 or 10 free throw attempts while taking over 5 threes per game several times. No one ever did that back in the 80s or 90s. You just didn't get the whistle as a jump shooter. Figure one of Jordan's misses every game becomes a foul drawn, and that eFG% takes a nice bump.

    I actually think the better point brought up by the three point shooting difference is how different Bryant and Jordan really are as scorers despite the cosmetic similarities. Kobe is much more of a jump shooter, where Jordan was more of a slasher, and they both excel in the post.

  34. Gil Meriken Says:

    @32 "I also think people forget Kobe's struggles without an All-Star big man too easily when crediting him with team success."

    What an unfair game you are playing. And an easy one to play, at that. For example, what was Michael Jordan's playoff record without Hall-of-Famer Scottie Pippen?

  35. huevonkiller Says:

    #7: He has a career PER of 20.9, and a TS% of 51.8

    He's a chucker, who's not even close to Shaq offensively for most of his career.

    I liked him in 2006, but as Neil said these rankings are off.

  36. Anon Says:

    "What an unfair game you are playing. And an easy one to play, at that. For example, what was Michael Jordan's playoff record without Hall-of-Famer Scottie Pippen?"

    It is.

    Which is why I ain't talking about other players when comparing them. This becomes more of an issue when you're comparing players defensively, but defense is mostly tied to team performance anyway, especially for perimeter players.

  37. Cloud King Says:

    @ 32

    Actually, he's #4 o all time playoff points (http://www.basketball-reference.com/leaders/pts_career_p.html), and considering he scored about 650 points in the last 3 years (finals runs), 2 deep playoff years should put him at #1

    And of course, being able to win with good teammates should be a credit, not a negative. No one, not Jordan or Shaq, has managed to win without a good team. Consider that Pau Gasol joined the Lakers over half way through 2008, and only started 27 games, and the Lakers went to the finals that year.

    So the only years Kobe didn't have a deep playoff run were when half the team and the coach left, and when he was playing with scrubs that aren't even in the league anymore

  38. Eric Says:

    #34

    I had thought that the Jordan without Pippen comparison was obvious and clearly in Jordan's favor, but I see that the particulars need to be stated explicitly:

    1985: Lost in 1st round to Bucks (3-1).
    1986: Lost in 1st round to NBA Champion Celtics (3-0).
    1987: Lost in 1st round to EC Champion Celtics (3-0).
    1988, playing with Didn't-Even-Start Scottie Pippen: Lost in 2nd round to EC Champion Pistons (4-1).
    1989, playing with Cracking-the-Rotation Scottie Pippen: Lost in EC Finals to NBA Champion Pistons (4-2).
    1990, playing with Inexplicably-an-All-Star Scottie Pippen: Lost in EC Finals to NBA Champion Pistons (4-3).

    The teams Jordan lost to in the playoffs without Pippen were manifestly better than the teams Bryant lost to in the playoffs without Shaq/Pau (when he made the playoffs). The years of his career where Bryant was losing were ages 26-28 and his 7th-9th full NBA years, compared to Jordan being aged 21-26 and his 1st-5th full NBA years.

    You are correct, it is easy to simply *say* "but Jordan and Pippen!", but I respectfully suggest that is difficult to make such a comment a reasonable justification for Kobe's struggles.

  39. AYC Says:

    "Bird shot .496 from the field and .376 from three. Kobe can only dream of efficiency like that"

    While creating less shots for his team, however. This goes back to the points Jason J and Gil brought up.

    If you take both efficiency and usage into account, Kobe has actually been a little better offensively than Larry Legend. Of course better player is another topic for debate."

    Anon, I think you mean "less points for his team", not "less shots". And does this mean you think Iverson is a better offensive player than Bird (and Kobe, and Shaq)? Since when did being a low-efficiency ball-hog become respectable on this site? I know you love to disagree with me, but how about being consistent?

  40. huevonkiller Says:

    "According to this data, the Kobe's 2006 being not better than Lebron's third best season isn't true. If you want to use a different metric fine, but that information isn't reflected in the data shown above."

    According to the data above, Neil also said these rankings are probably not the best barometer for a usage tradeoff. They give you an idea of who's doing good things, I cited specific rankings smart guy. They don't make sense and that is a fair criticism.

    Maybe you should pay attention. Kobe in 2006 was not better than LeBron James in 2008 in a variety of barometers, hence one of the reasons this statistic is incomplete to me.

    "Also, you do realize that both MJ and Lebron have high usage rates as well don't you? So they are also both "senselessly rewarded." And it's not a really big dropoff in usage rate between Kobe/Wade historically and MJ, so I don't get why that upsets you. They all benefit the same way from having a higher usage rate. lol."

    Well let me take time to point out, LeBron has about 30 Win shares on Mike up to this point in their careers (age 26), and 3 WS in the post-season. He also plays 40 minutes a game.

    Lol no you're incapable of understanding a simple concept. LeBron and MJ have O-ratings in the 120s in their prime, Kobe and Iverson are chuckers for most of their career. LeBron and MJ are at a different level.

    Iverson has a career PER under All-star level, he's a chucker. Kobe's obviously better, but still overrated if you're going by most other statistical barometers. They're still way too high per minute, in comparison to some of their other peers. Thus these kind of rankings fail.

    Ask Neil yourself what he thinks, and he'll use a variety of statistics to make his point. Not just this single one.

    "1991 Jordan vs. 2011 Kobe is obviously different in terms of individual ability, I mean a 14 year vet off of knee surgery or a player in the prime of his career, but the data is not judging individual ability but points created for the team. Also, it doesn't take away the possibility that Kobe could in fact drop off as the season goes on. It could just be victim to the fact that the whole season hasn't played out yet."

    Kobe in his prime is overrated, not sure what difference it makes whether it is 14 years coming off surgery. I would not take Kobe in 2006 over a prime McGrady, much less Jordan in 1991.

    You're speaking to a former Laker fan, so don't waste my time trying to hype up Bryant. These rankings are a little off, Neil even alluded to that.

  41. Cloud King Says:

    #34

    once again, no one is saying Kobe is better or as good as Jordan. No one is even saying that Kobe is clearly a top 5 player, although he is a top 10 player

    But these arguments that Kobe couldn't win without a good team, or that his playoff losses are a bad thing are just silly, and they could be applied to any other player you consider to be in the top 10

  42. Cloud King Says:

    @ 41

    Is that the same prime T-Mac that couldn't get out of the first round in the playoffs, and lost 3 straight game 7s?

  43. Anon Says:

    "Anon, I think you mean "less points for his team", not "less shots". "

    No, less shots. That's what usage is for: shot-creation.

    "And does this mean you think Iverson is a better offensive player than Bird (and Kobe, and Shaq)?"

    No. And I'm not contradicting myself by saying that.

    (Now back to the topic...)

  44. huevonkiller Says:

    I, the supposed Kobe hater, even put Kobe on par with Wade/Shaq offensively due to his longevity too. So I don't want to hear about how I hate him, I just pointed out something.

    When I see particular rankings that are off I'll mention them, this usage rate is being rewarded overzealously in my opinion.

  45. huevonkiller Says:

    #42, Yeah the same Prime Kobe that choked against the Suns with a 3-1 lead.

    The pistons had a great defense, the Suns did not. Kobe choked harder in his prime if you want to go that route.

    Lol Laker people are funny.

  46. Eric Says:

    #37

    The "terrible team-mates" argument is another that does not withstand serious scrutiny. In 2005 Kobe had Caron Butler (24, went on to 2 All-Stars) and Lamar Odom (25, clearly better player than Butler but inexplicably yet to receive All-Star), and missed the playoffs. Both of these players have their glaring flaws, but they are hardly "scrubs".

  47. AYC Says:

    Based on advanced stats, Shaq and Gasol are both better players than Pippen was. Shaq was also clearly better than Kobe when they played together, and Gasol has arguably been more productive in their time together. Pippen wasn't close to Shaq in ability, but Gasol is close to Pippen. Kobe had the same amount of success w/o Shaq and Pau that Pau had in Memphis.

    Is Kobe one of the top 5 scorers of all-time? Sure. One of the top-5 offensive players? Nope. One of the top 5 overall players? You're kidding, right? Championships are a team accomplishment; and Kobe clearly wasn't the best player on his first 3 championship teams. I'm OK with putting him in the top 10 based on championships... if we put Havlicek (8 titles, 2 without Russell), Sam Jones (10 in 12 years) and Tommy Heinsohn (8 of 9) ahead of him.

  48. Jason J Says:

    As an aside here, I personally like to look at ORtg to gauge efficiency between eras. It takes into consideration more than just shooting (turnovers for one), accounts for pace, and gives a pretty clear picture - points generated per 100 possessions. Easy to understand. Factor that against usage, and it gives a good comparison.

  49. Anon Says:

    "When I see particular rankings that are off I'll mention them, this usage rate is being rewarded overzealously in my opinion."

    I think part of the issue is that they lack the context of changes in league offensive/defensive efficiency averages over the seasons.

  50. AYC Says:

    Anon, I thought we were talking about points produced, not shots produced. Anyway, thanks for stating that you weren't contradicting yourself; now can you explain how you're not? I thought advanced stat-heads like yourself valued efficient scorers over high-volume chuckers?

  51. Eric Says:

    #41

    Let me be clear then: I am saying that Kobe Bryant *cannot* *possibly* be a top 5 player regardless of what his *team* does for the rest of his career. He is no longer the most *productive* player on his team, and if he ever is again it will be on a team incapable of winning the Finals. That part of his career is over: a human being cannot start to get better again after playing 45,000 NBA minutes.

    Consider, if you would, a parallel: Anybody who thinks Gary Payton's career became more impressive when he came off the bench for Miami in 2006 is being disingenuous. Gary Payton's career stands or falls based on what Gary Payton did, and what he did for years against everyone including Jordan ought to stand out a heck of a lot more than 1 for 1 with 2 turnovers in 19 minutes in one game in 2006.

  52. Cloud King Says:

    Once again, NO ONE is saying Kobe is a top 5 player right now

    But face it, the arguments used against Kobe could be used against practically any other player in the top 10, save for the top 3

  53. AYC Says:

    #42, I don't think T-Mac was better than Kobe, but I do think he would have multiple championships if he had played with Shaq....

  54. AYC Says:

    My top-ten
    1.MJ
    2.Wilt
    3.Kareem
    4.Russell
    5.Magic
    6.Bird
    7.Shaq
    8.Oscar
    9.Hakeem
    10.TD

    And Lebron will be ahead of Kobe when all is said and done too

  55. Anon Says:

    "Anon, I thought we were talking about points produced, not shots produced."

    I was talking about shots created for one's team, which is what USG%/Poss% looks at - and is also what Kobe has a higher % of than Larry. And which also (partly) explains Kobe's lower shot %s.

    "I thought advanced stat-heads like yourself valued efficient scorers over high-volume chuckers?"

    Not true at all. There's certainly value in both, and evidence suggests a 1 ORtg point per 1% USG tradeoff. SPM likes both too, except it gives a more "organic" take of the game (to paraphrase Neil here) based on adjusted +/- regressions.

    Both models are valid. And both see some value in Kobe's "shot-chucking".

  56. Eric Says:

    #52

    My top 10 looks like this: 1. Jordan. 2 (tie): Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Julius Erving, Hakeem Olajuwon, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson. The arguments I have proposed about Kobe could not be used against Jordan or Olajuwon (as previously stated).

    -Russell is markedly the most productive player on his teams without having the benefit of blocks, commonly agreed to be an area he greatly excelled at. It would presumably be almost embarrassing to see how much better he was than his Hall of Fame teammates with blocks included.

    -Chamberlain was by far the most productive player on his 1967 championship team, was 2nd at age 35 to Jerry West in 1972, presumably suffers to some degree from the same loss of measured blocks, was the greatest rebounder of all time, and puts the scoring abilities of anyone not named Michael Jordan to shame.

    -Erving dominated an entire league to a degree not seen before or since. It was an inferior league, of course, but his dominance was so complete that to achieve it last year in the NBA you would have needed the scoring of Kevin Durant, the rebounding and shot-blocking of Marcus Camby, the assists of Jason Kidd, and the steals of Dwyane Wade.

    -Bird's teams didn't even exit in the first round until 1989, when he played 6 games all year. In his rookie year he was among the best players on his title team, in the two later title years he was by far the best.

    Kobe Bryant is simply not comparable to these all time greats in anything but the most superficial terms. If being on a winning team is all it takes to be great, Robert Horry is one of the greatest small forwards of all time.

  57. Gil Meriken Says:

    @56 "If being on a winning team is all it takes to be great, Robert Horry is one of the greatest small forwards of all time."

    Being on a winning teams and playing a large part of the minutes on those teams is usually the broad benchmark for greatness. I'm talking about the casual fan's perspective here. Horry fails in this regard.

  58. Eric Says:

    I left off Magic from the previous post, which is a shame because his case is the most interesting to compare to Kobe's as someone who started out clearly inferior to his teammate center.

    Magic, as stated, was clearly not the most productive in 1980. In 1982 and 1985 he is neck and neck with Kareem, and by 1987 and 1988 it's no contest (as it ought to have been, Kareem being 40 years old at the time). Magic also gets more credit for playing with a more productive teammate due to his being primarily a creative role on offense, unlike any of the others listed (and certainly unlike Kobe).

  59. AYC Says:

    OK, Anon, as long as you admit that the same measure puts Iverson above Kobe, Bird, Shaq, Magic, Stockton, Malone, etc.

  60. Anon Says:

    OK, Anon, as long as you admit that the same measure puts Iverson above Kobe, Bird, Shaq, Magic, Stockton, Malone, etc.

    Admit to what? Iverson's numbers, adjusted for era and poss%, don't compare to the players that you mentioned.

    Not sure what he has to do with this discussion anyway.

  61. Cloud King Says:

    the Pau argument is hilarious, considering Kobe has a higher PER and WS than Pau in 2008 and 2009, and in 2010 Pau had a higher WS but lower PER

    but I guess advanced stats don't matter in this case?

  62. Cloud King Says:

    also, on the subject of PER and Win Shares in the playoffs, for Kobe and Shaq in the championship years

    2000: Shaq is clearly #1
    2001: Kobe has higher WS, Shaq has higher PER
    2002: Shaq is clearly #1

    So if we're going to be talking about Kobe needing Pau, surely considering the advanced stats, Kobe is was #1 in 2001.

    I guess we better knock Shaq for failing to win with Penny, Jones and Van Exel and needing Kobe and Wade to win it all

  63. Jason J Says:

    62. I actually think that's a valid knock on Shaq. Not that he needed help (everybody does - it's not a valid knock on Kobe either IMO), but that he needed someone to close out games in the clutch. Some of that was his free throw shooting and some of it was just how difficult it can be to get a deep post player the ball in position to score with limited time on the clock.

  64. Walter Says:

    #37

    With regards to the Lakers missing the playoffs in 2005, that was 100% a defensive issue. The Lakers were 7th in ORtg and were one of only two teams in the top 10 not to make the playoffs. On the other hand they were 30th (yes... dead last) in DRtg!!!

    Offense is typically the side of the floor that a star has more control over. There is one ball and the offense can determine if it goes to the star or not. On the other hand, defense is truly "only as strong as its weakest link" because the opposition determines where the ball goes and where the defense is going to be attacked.

    Interestingly enough, accourding to 82games.com here were the opponent PER's for the Lakers 5 man rotation:
    Atkins: 19.1
    Bryant: 15.1
    Butler: 20.0
    Odom: 17.6
    Mihm: 16.2

    Kobe was the only starter to hold his opponent to a PER at the league average. Clearly the "All-Star" Butler was pathetic on defense (not taken into account for All-Star selections usually) and "Should have been an All-Star" Odom was not great either.

    Here are the PER stats for the team as a whole by position:
    Pos.... Own..... Opp.... Net
    PG:....12.7.....18.9....-6.2
    SG:....20.1.....15.1....+5.0
    SF:....14.9.....18.4....-3.5
    PF:....16.5.....17.4....-0.9
    C:.....14.6.....17.5....-3.0

    It should be quite evident that the Lakers failure for that 2004-05 season weren't the result of Kobe Bryant, but mainly the rest of the team that simply wasn't any good, especially on defense.

  65. Neil Paine Says:

    #64 - It should also be noted that the Lakers' DRtg was 2.4 pts/100 worse when Kobe was on the floor, but was 3.4 pts/100 better when Odom was on the floor. Not to knock Bryant, but to add another data point to the mix (mainly because I think Odom is always underrated in these discussions).

  66. Eric Says:

    #61

    An advanced perspective on advanced stats is what is required. A sample like the playoffs of one year is subject to substantially more statistical noise than a season that is nearly four times longer, in the same way that the statistical noise in a sample of 100 is (much) more than severe than the noise in a sample of 400. A cursory examination of the relative variations in Kobe's playoff and regular season PER from year to year is evidence enough of this. When looking at the regular season, the contribution levels become clear, or again, looking at how Hakeem stacked up vs. the other Rockets or Bird vs. the other Celtics. There are no questions there.

    #64

    The opposing PER you cite is misleading. I'm not sure how 82games divides this up, but in addition to the 15.1 PER allowed as a SG, they give a value of 16.1 for Kobe playing(?) PG and 18.9 for SF. It's not at all clear if he would actually be guarding the opposing SG, PG, or SF in any of these situations, though, or if the Lakers were even playing man defense. I am a big fan of 82games, but I do not put much credence in opposing PERs for these very reasons.

    I also take issue with the notion that we can draw conclusions solely from offensive and defensive ratings. Just last year, the NBA saw playoff teams ranked 1st/23rd (who else but the Suns), 24th/1st, 27th/11th, and 23rd/2nd. If a 27/11 team (the Bulls) could make it, why not Kobe's 7/30 squad? Defense may win championships, but does it win playoff berths? This is something I'm legitimately interested in now, so I'll be putting together a spreadsheet comparing O/D rtgs versus making the playoffs over the next few days.

  67. Gil Meriken Says:

    Too much ado about Kobe. Can we all agree he is top 100?

  68. BSK Says:

    This was way back at #15, but it peaked my interest:
    "Kobe Bryant is one of the most fascinating characters in the history of the NBA. On one hand, he's maximized every bit of physical ability he has -- the only things he can't do on a basketball court are things no aging 6'6 shooting guard could do. This tells me he has a very, very high basketball IQ -- every single time Kobe laces 'em up, he knows exactly what he is doing.

    Which makes his insistence on dominating the ball despite playing with some extremely efficient post players VERY interesting. I think Tex Winter said it best:

    "He understands the game. But — and don’t misinterpret this — he understands it a lot better than he plays it.”
    O.K., Tex, so as not to misinterpret: Are you saying that he knows the right thing to do but sometimes chooses not to do it?
    “Yup, that’s it,” says Tex."

    My guess would be that there is a large emotional element at play here. How many of us take actions against our own best interests, knowing we are doing so, because of how our intellect interacts with our emotion.

    This is not a knock, mind you. Emotion, in large part, has probably been a major motivating factor in Kobe getting where he is. But I'm sure it cuts the other way, too, at times. Thoughts?

  69. AYC Says:

    Gil, I know it's gone in a million different directions, but Neil's original post was about Kobe

  70. dsong Says:

    Man, I understand that you guys hate Kobe, but he's a great player. No amount of arguing will change that.

    I'm sure someone at some point will come up with yet another advanced stat that "proves" Kobe is not a great player. Or argue that Kobe is not as good as Jordan and thus is not a great player. Give it up, guys.

  71. Get Buckets Says:

    I think when people argue about legacy's they are conflating two different things: 1) a player's ABILITY/TALENT and 2) a player's CAREER ACCOMPLISHMENTS. Like if Derek Jeter played for the KC Royals, he's still be the same player, but he obviously would not have nearly as impressive as a career -- these guys aren't golfers, they have teammates.

    Now, talent-wise, Kobe is (in my estimation) somewhere in the #25-30 range of all-time players. He's a 6'6 shooting guard who can guard three positions at an All-Defense level; he can run point and he can create his own shot in almost any situation; these are all very valuable things for a basketball player to have. But he can't dominate in the paint, he's not going to average 8+ rebounds or block 2+ shots and he's not going to be nearly as efficient a scorer as someone like Shaq or Timmy Duncan. People will say yea he's not a center of course he can't do those things -- well that's why centers are more valuable than wing players! What they do on the court is more important! Same reason why an equally talented SS is much much more valuable than a similarly talented 1B.

    Career wise, you can start listing off all kind of stuff, and yes he's getting up there into the top 15-10 range in terms of "career accomplishments." But so much of that is the product of who he is playing with that I can't give him ALL the credit for it. Is anyone going to argue that if he played with Shawn Bradley and Erick Dampier his entire career, and not Shaq and Pau Gasol, that he would still have 5 titles? Doubtful.

  72. Cloud King Says:

    Yes, truly, Tim Duncan's career %TS of .553 makes him a much more efficient scorer than Kobe's %TS of .556

  73. dsong Says:

    When it gets right down to it, most fans just want their teams to win championships.

    I'm starting to get the feeling that Michael Jordan fans simply hate Kobe and are afraid that if Kobe ends up with more championship rings, it will diminish Jordan's accomplishments.

    As a Lakers fan, I hope the Lakers win the Championship this year, and it won't matter whether Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, or Sasha Vujacic is the Finals MVP. Last time I checked, basketball is a team sport.

    As for the Lakers right now, Kobe will have to stop taking so many bad shots - he's killing them with low-percentage shots. But Pau Gasol and Ron Artest have to do their part by getting into good scoring positions more often. They're not doing so well in that area lately.

  74. Jason J Says:

    As a huge Jordan fan, it bugs me when Jordan fans take a strong anti-Kobe stance. It stinks of paranoia. Kobe's a really fun player to watch, maybe the best hot-streak shooter and tough shot maker I've ever seen.

    As a consummate Laker-hater I've never really rooted for Bryant, but I don't see how anyone can fail to appreciate how great he's been. To me he's probably top 10 all time. His metrics stand up pretty well with other guards, and he's shown the ability to change his game over the years.

  75. AYC Says:

    If a white, 6'9" small forward put up the exact same stats as Kobe, nobody would compare him to MJ. Just because his game superficially resembles the GOAT doesn't mean he is comparable in effectiveness or production. Ridiculous Lakers fans want to ignore the fact that Kobe just doesn't compare to MJ statistically.

  76. Cloud King Says:

    NO ONE IS COMPARING KOBE TO MJ

    Your bizarre obsession with a player that you haven't been able to see on TV for a decade is quite frankly, sad

  77. Eric Says:

    #76

    You think that the greatest player of all time is a "bizarre obsession" for users of a site devoted exclusively to basketball statistics and trivia?

    #67

    I would go so far as to say that Kobe is certainly in the top... 99! :D

  78. Cloud King Says:

    Everyone knows MJ is the best, but what are you going to do, watch his youtube highlights all day?

    Being unable to appreciate other players greatness because they aren't the greatest ever, and being determined to prove this, is just sad. I don't go to the movies and start complaining that it's not as good as Citizen Kane

  79. AYC Says:

    "NO ONE IS COMPARING KOBE TO MJ"

    Maybe you aren't, but irrational Lakers fans, and the NBA hype machine, do it all the time. Go check out ESPN and the bleacher report for examples (and a good laugh). Just last week, Barkley called him an all-time top 5 player on TNT; that's his job, to hype the current stars.

    LA fans love their straw-men; "overrated" doesn't mean bad. Nobody thinks Kobe isn't a great player. But when you point out that stats (the best objective measure we have) don't support the belief that Kobe is a top 10 player, or point out that he played second fiddle to Shaq for his first 8 seasons, they lose their heads. The typical Kobe fan acts like Shaq never even played in LA. Too funny....

    "Your bizarre obsession with a player that you haven't been able to see on TV for a decade is quite frankly, sad"

    Nice try. Kobe and MJ are both subjects of this post we are responding to; there's nothing bizaare about mentioning either one. FYI, I wasn't a Jordan fan; I actively rooted against all his teams. But I recognize greatness when I see it.

  80. AYC Says:

    PS Citizen Kane is also overrated....

  81. dsong Says:

    I think we need to distinguish between Lakers fans and Kobe fans.

    Lakers fans know that the most important goal is to win the championship this season and the most important statistics reads Boston 17, Lakers 16. We actually care more about Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo than some guy who is no longer in the league.

    I could also rail about Walt Frazier & Willis Reed, Larry Bird, Chauncey Billups, or Paul Pierce. It's a pointless exercise. That was in the past - it's over and done with. Just hoping that this season will be a good one.

    In the meantime - Kobe, stop taking those contested 20-foot jumpers!

  82. Eric Says:

    #64

    I decided to look at team ORtg and DRtg in terms of standard deviations from the mean (defined for each year). The results of this I think suggest that raw rankings can obscure important information. Here are the totals from 2005 to 2010, in terms of whole standard deviations from the mean:

    ORtg:
    3: 1 (the 2007 Suns, ironically one of the years Steve Nash *didn't* win MVP)
    2: 13
    1: 37
    0: 72
    -1: 45
    -2: 12

    DRtg:
    3: 1 (the 2008 Celtics)
    2: 13
    1: 36
    0: 72
    -1: 45
    -2: 13

    It's really interesting to me that there are exactly as many transcendentally good, elite, average, and mediocre teams, and that there are almost exactly as many good and poor teams. This is almost certainly a coincidence, though, as the year-to-year picture varies substantially. (For instance, in 2010 no team was higher than a 1 on defense. Put another way, the 2010 Bobcats were nowhere near as outstanding a defense as the 2008 Celtics, though of course it is difficult to baldly say which was "better".)

    No team made the playoffs with a -2 on defense. The following teams made the playoffs with a -1:

    2010 Suns (2 ORtg)
    2008 Wizards (0 ORtg)
    2007 Lakers (1 ORtg)
    2007 Wizards (1 ORtg)
    2005 Sonics (2 ORtg)
    2005 Kings (1 ORtg)

    The 2008 Wizards are especially interesting because they are one of only 2 teams to have an overall negative and make the playoffs, the other being the 2007 Heat (-1 ORtg, 0 DRtg), which brings us to the 2005 Lakers: 1 ORtg, -2 DRtg, overall -1. If, as Walter suggests, we cannot apportion significant blame for defensive failings to a single player, then it would appear that it is unfair to hold the 2005 Lakers missing the playoffs against Kobe Bryant.

    That said, I wondered how other 1/-2 teams did. As it turns out, that is a relatively uncommon combination: the 2010 and 2006 Raptors are the only ones who fit the bill. The 2010 Raptors finished 40-42, 1 game out of the playoffs. The 2006 Raptors finished 27-55, 13 games out of the playoffs (and had a certain someone score 81 points on them). The 2005 Lakers finished 34-48, 11 games out of the playoffs. This is also really interesting to me because the 2010 Raptors have such parallels with the 2005 Lakers: a star player without much personal success, in his athletic prime, putting up good but not incredible stats on an otherwise poor team. (P.J. Brown got more MVP votes in 2005 than Kobe Bryant. Isn't that incredible?)

    Now, the most obvious suggestion is that had the Lakers played in the East, they would have been able to muster a more respectable finish, but that is probably not the case: in 2005 the Lakers went 13-17 against the East, a mark that prorates them from 34 to 34.6 total wins playing 52 against the East and 30 against the West (which does not take into account that one of the two "road" games against the Clippers that would become an actual road game). Even rounded up to 35, this still leaves them 7 games out.

    .

    As an aside, this can also be used as excuse ammunition for the Lakers' drubbing at the hands of the Suns in 2007 - it should certainly not be that embarrassing for the most dominant offensive team of the past 6 years to put up 108 points a game against you, especially when they were scoring 110 in the regular season.

  83. dsong Says:

    2005-2007 were dark years for the Lakers franchise. The emergence of Bynum, the trade for Gasol, and the return of Fisher helped turn things around.

    Goes to show that basketball is a team game. Lebron missed the playoffs his first couple of seasons and Jordan played for several losing teams. One player can only do so much; teammates, chemistry, coaching, and officiating all make a huge difference - especially in the playoffs.

  84. Walter Says:

    #82

    Good stuff Eric. I think you helped to validate my point to some extent and that the Lakers defensive short comings were the real driver of them not making the playoffs as they were certainly playoff worthy offensively. Your +1/-2 split supports this and the fact that no -2 team on defense made the playoffs shows that the Lakers weren't alone. The only two teams with an overall negative that made it were teh Wizards and Heat who both significantly outplayed their pathagorean W/L (meaning they were likely a bit on the lucky side to acheive the win total they did) and their pathagorean W/L record would have had them missing the playoffs if they were in the West. I think it is pretty safe to say that the Lakers deserved to miss the playoffs due to their defense.

    Interestingly, that season the Lakers were a respectable .500 team in March. They were 33-29 scoring 98.7 pts per game and giving up 99.4. They were essentially average. Then the big injury happened... Odom went down for the year and the Lakers finished the year going 2-19!! During the final 21 games they saw no drop off in offense without Odom (scoring 98.9 pts per game) but their defense gave up 108.2 pts per game!!! When Odom went down it meant Jumaine Jones and Slava Medvedenko became the Lakers best options at the PF spot. These guys simply couldn't defend anyone and the Lakers proceeded to lose.

    It should be completely obvious now that it really was the defense that did the Lakers in and defense requires teamwork where as offense can be more individual.

    With regards to your opponents PER on 82games.com, while they don't divulge how they determined the exact opposition I wouldn't discard the numbers they provide. You comment on them showing Kobe at the PG and SF positions as a evidence of that the statistics are misleading. What you failed to notice was they they only show him in those match-ups for 1% of the time. Certainly Kobe could have been cross-matched for a few plays during the season.

    #65

    Neil, you mention that the defense was better when Odom was on the floor than when Kobe was. I think my previous points address much of why that stastic shows that result. Kobe played a quarter of the season with Jones and Medvendenko manning the PF position and neither of them could defend. The Lakers gave up over roughly 9 more points per game during this stretch which impact Kobe's season statistics.

    I do agree with you that Odom is often a very underrated defender and many metrics don't seem to give him his full value as a player with length and quickness. He tends to play smart by using his length without fouling, often times holding his arms straight up rather than trying to block a shot. These situations don't show up in any box scores and thus don't show his true value.

  85. Anon Says:

    With regards to your opponents PER on 82games.com, while they don't divulge how they determined the exact opposition I wouldn't discard the numbers they provide. You comment on them showing Kobe at the PG and SF positions as a evidence of that the statistics are misleading. What you failed to notice was they they only show him in those match-ups for 1% of the time. Certainly Kobe could have been cross-matched for a few plays during the season.

    I don't discount the numbers either, and what you provided was certainly helpful. I think the main issue with opponent PER is that it makes the assumption that defense is restricted to one-on-one matchups, which is definitely not the case - defense in basketball is alot more team dependent and help defense is a staple of the sport. Hard to think that a perimeter player was playing above-average defense on one of the worst defensive teams in the league, especially when they're even more dependent on help D than bigs and interior defenders are.

    I think the DRtg and DSPM numbers are probably more indicative of how Kobe played on D that season. He played steady defense last season especially in the playoffs, but 06 Kobe wasn't exactly committed to defense especially when he had to shoulder much of the offensive load.

  86. Gil Meriken Says:

    Lamar Odom is an excellent help defender. Observers can learn a lot by "spotlighting" (watching only him) when the Lakers are on defense, and will gain an appreciation of what he does for the team defensively.

  87. Anon Says:

    By the way, #79 AYC - that was a great post. Well said.

    See, we can agree on something after all.

  88. Eric Says:

    #84

    Thanks! I wanted to clarify one thing:

    "You comment on them showing Kobe at the PG and SF positions as a evidence of that the statistics are misleading. What you failed to notice was they they only show him in those match-ups for 1% of the time. Certainly Kobe could have been cross-matched for a few plays during the season."

    My point was not so much that Kobe being at PG/SF is questionable - I have no doubt that Kobe spent significantly more than 1% of the time defending the opposing PG or SF depending on who they were. My point was that I'm not sure that's what the 82games statistics even mean. How do they decide when Kobe is playing SF on offense OR defense? What if both teams are playing a three guard lineup? What if they're playing the 2005 Celtics and Kobe is involved in doubling Paul Pierce? There's too much I just don't know about what 82games is doing in this particular area to reasonably evaluate their methodology.

    I love 82games for on/off court stuff specifically because it is so clear what they are measuring, and because it is so clear what additional information has to be taken account to get a good evaluation from those numbers. By-position PER just doesn't have the same crispness.

  89. Seif-Eldeine Says:

    Wow, what a great comment Eric! I have yet to read the article and hope to get to it soon (especially after reading your comment) but I think your comment lends itself as evidence to another way the modern game has really changed basketball: move and replace offensive sets have really blurred the line about how we determine players' positions. For instance, this season Rondo usually brings the ball up and runs the offensive set, but there are a good number of times where when the primary option is not there Pierce or Garnett gets the ball at the top of the key (although this happens much less often than it did in the past.) What do you consider Pierce and Garnett in these circumstances? They are being defended by forwards, but technically they are playing the point as they are at the top of the key. I would love for you, Eric, to expand on your thoughts a little more and hopefully I will be able to get a better reference point when I am able to read the article in its entirety.

  90. robinred Says:

    What the AYCs of the world will never get is that they are the flipside of the guys on the Laker blogs. Just as mouthy and just as irrational--and just as obsessed. Sort of like Bill Simmons without the big paycheck.

    I am a Laker fan--have been since age 6.

    Jordan was better.

  91. AYC Says:

    Thanks Anon, but where's the fun in agreeing?

    Robinred, if you can point to comment I made that's "irrational", please do. Am I "obsessed" with Kobe? Nah, we are ALL talking about Kobe because he's the flavor of the moment right now; that's what happens when your team makes the finals 3 years in a row. 6-7 years ago, Shaq was the flavor of the moment. Back then LA fans and the hype machine were declaring Shaq an all-time top 5 player, and maybe the greatest big-man ever (with alot more statistical justification, I might add). Now, supposedly knowledgable fans are claiming Shaq isn't even top-ten. That's a function of him playing so long past his prime.... It takes some time to develop a proper perspective; my prediction is that 30 years from now, Lebron, Shaq and Timmy will all be more highly regarded

  92. Eric Says:

    #89

    Thanks! What really got me thinking about these kind of issues was a player mentioned in #91: Tim Duncan. Tim Duncan is described as a power forward, a center, or even a PF/C. People often cite his playing next to David Robinson as evidence of being a power forward, but this only shuffles the issue: how can we say David Robinson is definitely a center if we can't say Tim Duncan is definitely a power forward?

    The issue is muddiest between PF and C, but it's a pretty prevalent ptroblem. There are some statistical trends that hint at an objective way to define positions, some that we would expect like more blocks/rebounds/fouls and less assists/steals going from 1-5, and some that are a little more interesting like percentage of rebounds that are offensive, but all of these lead to the somewhat uncomfortable reality of having two "centers" on the court at once, or three "shooting guards".

    There's also the question of what strategy, if any, the coach is running: a point guard in the triangle offense is not the same as a point guard in D'Antoni's Phoenix offense, or Sloan's offense, or what passed for Mike Brown's offense - of course, how could they be? As a coach, the job is to get the most out of the talent you have. If Steve Nash has a significantly different skill set than Derek Fisher, it only makes sense that his role in the offense would be significantly different. As such, if you are the fellow assigned to guard Nash one night and Fisher the next, I don't think it is reasonable to simply average the two as "point guards" if they are not doing similar things.

    .

    All of this makes me uncertain that any defensive measurement from box scores or conventional play by play is doomed from the start to approximation and guesswork. If I don't see who Kobe is guarding, it's a good guess to pick who is nominally the shooting guard on the other team (as opposed to the center, for instance), but it's only a guess, and if the other team appears to have two or three shooting guards on the court at once, I'm completely flummoxed.

    On top of all this, what if Kobe (or any perimeter defender) was told he would have interior help, and the help was absent? Put the other way, say Kobe is playing with Hakeem or Dikembe, or some all-time shotblocking great. Should Kobe get credit if whoever he is guarding eschews driving? Should we go the DRtg route and average team defense over 5 people? Questions I do not have satisfying answers to.

  93. Seif-Eldeine Says:

    Wow, Eric, another great comment! Would you be at all interested in writing about this topic as a guest writer on my blog? I am sure my readers would love to hear your opinion. You can e-mail me at seifeldeine@gmail.com.