The Los Angeles Lakers have relied on Kobe Bryant to win games for almost a decade and a half. When they trail in the fourth quarter, the Lakers are known to employ a strategy called “Givita Kobe” where they give the ball to Bryant and ask him to take over the game.
He’s done it numerous times. He’s dominated a quarter and led his team to victory. Those are the times we remember because they’re so sensational. However, the truth is that the the “Givita Kobe” strategy has probably caused the Lakers to lose more than win.
We all know that the Lakers defense has been atrocious since the Mike D’Antoni hiring and that they rank 19th in defensive efficiency. That being said, they can change some things offensively in order to win more games while running the same type of system. In other words, the Lakers can continue to concede points defensively in Mika D’Antoni’s system. Kobe Bryant just needs to alter and tweak his game a little bit.
In Laker wins this season, Kobe has 245 assists. On the contrary, he only has 155 assists in losses. Kobe tends to shoot the ball more when the Lakers are trailing, whereas when the team is winning, he gets his teammates involved.
Kobe being a ball hog isn’t news to anyone. We’ve all seen the humorous memes on Facebook and Twitter that deal with Kobe’s tendency to shoot rather than pass. However, this stat shouldn’t be a laughing matter for the Lakers coaching staff. Kobe must pass more and get his teammates involved EVEN when the Lakers are losing. Here are more convincing stats:
In 35 wins this season, Kobe has shot the ball 18.1 times per game (4.4 of them from three-point land) and has a FG% of 48.1 percent. In 34 losses this season, Kobe has shot the ball 23 times per game (6.1 of them from three-point land) and has a FG% of 45.5 percent.
The field goal percentage disparity in wins and losses probably has to do with the quality of shots Bryant takes when the team is trailing. As mentioned above, he takes more threes when they lose so that itself is evidence for the previous notion.
From these numbers, it’s obvious that the Lakers perform better when the team doesn’t employ the “Givita Kobe” strategy. When Kobe distributes the ball and incorporates his teammates, they win. When he doesn’t, they lose. It’s pretty simple.
In Laker wins, Kobe has a knack of pounding the ball inside and incorporating big man Dwight Howard in the offense. Dwight has 391 shot attempts and makes 59 percent of them when the team wins. In losses, he only takes 292 shots and makes an abysmal 53 percent. Additionally, 73 percent of Dwight’s field goals made in wins are assisted. That number goes down to 63 percent when they lose. In other words, Howard gets help from his teammates when they’re winning and that’s also probably why his field goal percentage is so much higher in these games. He gets higher quality shots from the paint and as a result, he makes more of them.
This isn’t to say that Kobe shouldn’t shoot. He’s the reason why the Lakers are even in the playoff hunt right now. However, it’s pretty apparent when Kobe is trying to do too much. In these games, someone has to tell him to settle down and incorporate the rest of the team, especially Dwight. This is probably where the Lakers miss Phil Jackson and Derek Fisher the most. During the championship years when Kobe would try to take over the game and fail to do so, they were the only ones who had the juevos to stand up to Kobe.
Considering the fact that the Lakers average margin of defeat is 9.3 points and 24 of their 35 losses have come by ten points or less, one can really see the impact Kobe can make if he just defers when the team is trailing in order to create quality shots for his teammates.
All of this said, let’s not blame Kobe for everything. Obviously the Lakers’ bigger problem is defense and their inability to match up with other quicker and more physical teams. But it’s also important to understand that by taking higher quality shots, the team will make more of them and this will result in fewer fastbreaks. Long shots result in long rebounds and this leads to fast breaks for the other team. The Lakers can’t run and gun with other teams. They’re just too old and slow. The Lakers have two big men that can make life uncomfortable for any opponent in Howard and Pau Gasol. However, they’re 13th in the league in shots from the restricted area. On the contrary, this slow team is 3rd in the NBA in three point attempts. A team that can’t keep up with the rest of the league in terms of speed shouldn’t be taking that many threes.
Moral of the story: Kobe must facilitate. The Lakers have to shoot fewer threes. And Dwight needs to be more involved. By doing this, the Lakers defense will in turn improve because of fewer fast break opportunities resulting from long rebounds on missed field goals.