Monday, January 30, 2012
Kobe and Lakers assists go hand in hand, one way or another
By Andy Kamenetzky
All season, admiration and concern has been expressed by fans and media about the burden on Kobe Bryant's shoulders for Lakers' offense functioning to the degree that it has. For some (like me), his exceptionally high usage rate raises concerns about sustainability, burnout, and the viability of a deep playoff run for a team this theoretically dependent on 24. For others (me again!), it's been entertaining as all get out seeing Kobe succeed so well with 10 gallon-sized "scoring" and "facilitating" hats firmly attached to his head. The pragmatic issues for the Lakers are real, but The Mamba's season is nonetheless off to a pretty amazing start.
But whichever side of the fence you sit, what cannot be debated is the dude's doing work, and the job requires him to walk a tight rope at full speed. Need even more proof than what your eyes see while watching games? Well, Ian Levy of Hickory High has you covered.
If Kobe's graph seems remarkably even, that's only because it is. As Levy notes, "Of the 27 players who average at least 5 assists per game, the most even ratio belongs to Kobe Bryant who hands out 5.6 assists per game, and makes 5.2 assisted field goals per game."
Bryant as the clubhouse leader in assists won't surprise anybody, but the assisted bucket numbers might, since he's by far the Laker most capable of creating his own shot. However, it makes a lot of sense. There's been a very conscientious effort by Mike Brown and Bryant to find ways to get him off-ball opportunities, whether on a cut, catch-and-shoot, or where minimal dribbles are required. These buckets require teamwork, and Bryant's made efficient use of that synergy.
The reasons for this heavy lifting -- the Lamar Odom trade, Steve Blake's injury, the lack of perimeter creators, Bryant sometimes shooting too often, Pau Gasol's periodic indecisiveness -- have been dissected to death on this space, and thus don't need to be rehashed in depth. (I gotta pace myself with 45 games remaining.) But the graphic provides a striking snapshot of how the Laker offense operates right now.