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Thursday, February 3, 2011
Kobe Bryant: Not merely a tale of volume

By Henry Abbott

Scott Sereday of 48 Minutes of Hell dug into the idea that Kobe Bryant shooting a lot is a problem for the Lakers.

He found a suggestion that it's wrong to assume lots of Bryant shooting is the problem. Sometimes that works out fantastically for the Lakers. It's most likely shooting tough shots that leads to the inefficiency I wrote about, not shooting a lot per se:
I’ve seen others mention the Lakers poor record in games when Kobe shoots more than 30 attempts as proof of this theory. 39 wins and 55 losses sounds like a pretty convincing argument at first, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. Sure Jordan (72-57) and LeBron (14-12) have managed winning records in this situation, but it’s plausible that Kobe is more likely to increase his shot attempts when a comeback is more unlikely. This would only serve to help his heroic perception (and provide occasional backlash).

The quickest and best way I thought of testing if opponents REALLY want Kobe to take more shots going into a game was to utilizing only the first quarter, before a change in game plan really needed to be made. Using data from 2005-06 to last season, I took Kobe’s 30 games with the most field goal attempts (averaging 15.8 per quarter). In contrast to the misleading suggestions of the above figures, the Lakers outscored opponents by an average score of 28.4-24.5 and won 22 of these quarters. This translates to 113.5-98.

Clearly it would be tough for him to manage that high usage rate, and although all measurements have errors, the answer should be more obvious: You DO NOT want Kobe shooting more.

Based on the clutch statistics quoted by Henry Abbott, (and other data and games I’ve seen), I do suspect that Kobe takes tougher shots (which are easier to get off) once the game gets tight or out of hand. As mentioned in my Lakers scouting report, Bryant does seem able to be enticed to take the shot you offer him, even if they are low percentage attempts. Just beware, his shot selection has improved this year and especially recently (fewer long twos and more shots inside 10 feet).

Another thought: Maybe Bryant is more likely to have one of those high-volume nights games on nights when he starts out hitting everything? In other words, maybe an efficient first quarter inspires a high-volume night?