Kobe was the story of the summer. First he demands a trade. Then he comes back to the Lakers. Then Jerry Buss tells us that he’s willing to trade Kobe.
Through it all, Kobe didn’t go anywhere. Despite telling people that his teammates weren’t good enough, Kobe really didn’t get any new teammates. Well, the Lakers did go get him Derek Fisher, although such a move was probably not what Kobe had in mind. The last time Fisher was above average was in 1997-98. For his entire career Fisher has only produced 20.7 wins (and last year his Wins Produced was -0.7). Obviously no one is going to confuse Fisher with the major star Kobe demanded the Lakers acquire to help win the championship Kobe believes he deserves.
It’s not that the Lakers didn’t have their chances. Rumors swirled that the Nets were offering Jason Kidd or that the Pacers offered Jermaine O’Neal. But each trade included a demand for one specific player, Andrew Bynum. And each time the Lakers said no.
From media reports, Kobe was somewhat surprised that the Lakers would be so reluctant to part with Bynum. In fact, as Henry Abbott and TrueHoop reported last June (taken from Howard Beck and the New York Times), Kobe was caught on video saying the following:
“Are you kidding me?” Bryant says in the video. He goes on to say, with a number of profanities mixed in, that the Lakers should “ship out” Bynum.
“We’re talking about Jason Kidd,” Bryant says. He also speaks in a derisive tone about General Manager Mitch Kupchak before the video abruptly ends.
When we look at Wins Produced we can understand Kobe’s reaction. Entering this season, Bynum had only produced 4.3 wins in his career, with a WP48 [Wins Produced per 48 minutes] of 0.097. So Bynum had thus far been about average (average WP48 is 0.100). Certainly it’s hard to understand why the Lakers wouldn’t part with such a player to acquire an established star.
The Best Center in LA
Well, it’s hard to understand if all you look at is Wins Produced. But we need to do more than just look at numbers. We also have to think a bit.
Bynum was selected out of high school by the Lakers in the 2005 lottery. He’s currently still a year away from his first legal drink. In sum, Bynum is young and blessed with “potential.” Although this potential was not always evident his first two seasons, this year it looks like the Lakers faith in Bynum had been rewarded.
Before I get to the numbers, though, I want to return to a story posted a few weeks ago. The other center in LA, Chris Kaman, got off to an amazing start. And like Bynum, this start is somewhat surprising. Entering this season Kaman had only produced 12.9 wins and posted a 0.075 WP48.
So far in 2007-08, after only 15 games, Kaman has posted a 0.282 WP48. Given that Kaman is playing 38 minutes per game, he’s on pace to produce 18.3 wins this year. Among centers in 2006-07 – as Table One reveals — only five centers offered a higher WP48. And only Dwight Howard produced more wins than 18.3. So Kaman is playing very well.
Although Kaman has started well, surprisingly – as Table Two reveals – Bynum is staking claim to the title “Best Center in LA”.
Thus far this season, Bynum has posted a 0.376 WP48. This mark eclipses the WP48 posted by every center last year. In essence, Bynum is becoming the star player Kobe demanded. In other words, the kid Kobe wanted to “ship out”, is now showing Kobe how wrong he was this summer.
When we look at the individual stats, we see where Bynum is excelling. Relative to the average NBA center, Bynum is above with respect to shooting efficiency, scoring, rebounds, blocked shots, and assists. Plus he tends not to turn the ball over.
Now it’s very important to remember, it’s still early (which I keep saying over and over again). As the season progresses, both Bynum and Kaman might move closer to what we have seen in the past. But at this point, both players are playing quite well.
Who Should Demand a Trade?
In fact, returning to the subject of Kobe’s summer demands, if Bynum’s play continues we might start seeing him make simmilar demands. Kobe has only posted a WP48 of 0.268 this season. Yes, this is quite good (only Manu Ginobili and Dwyane Wade did better with respect to WP48 last season at shooting guard). Still, Bynum could argue he has done more on a per-minute basis.
So perhaps Bynum should start wondering if he could win an NBA title if only he had a better star on his team (a point I made a few weeks ago). Perhaps Bynum should demand the Lakers trade Kobe to the Nets for Jason Kidd.
Of course, the Lakers might say no. Then we would might hear Bynum say something like…”Are you kidding me? We’re talking about Jason Kidd.”
Our research on the NBA was summarized HERE.
Wins Produced, Win Score, and PAWSmin are also discussed in the following posts:
Finally, A Guide to Evaluating Models contains useful hints on how to interpret and evaluate statistical models.