Why calling Kobe an MVP candidate is insane

Michael Penn recently asked us to do a post on Kobe’s out of control shooting. After almost losing to a terrible Golden State Warriors team, the timing seemed appropriate. The simple fact is that Kobe is having a terrible season. Let’s take a quick look at how the Lakers have been doing:

WP48 calculates the Wins per 48 minutes a player earns. 0.100 is average. PoP/G calculates the number of Points over Par a player generates for their team in a game. 0.0 is average.

Player Pos G MP WP48 WP PoP/48 PoP/G
Andrew Bynum 5.0 46 1644.2 0.232 7.94 4.1 3.1
Pau Gasol 4.2 50 1859.3 0.186 7.22 2.7 2.1
Matt Barnes 3.0 48 1042.2 0.226 4.91 4.0 1.8
Kobe Bryant 2.0 50 1927.6 0.059 2.37 -1.2 -1.0
Derek Fisher 1.0 43 1100.9 0.064 1.46 -1.1 -0.6
Metta World Peace 3.1 49 1242.8 0.048 1.23 -1.6 -0.8
Josh McRoberts 4.1 35 438.9 0.133 1.22 1.1 0.3
Ramon Sessions 1.1 7 201.1 0.273 1.14 5.4 3.2
Troy Murphy 4.5 47 797.5 0.061 1.02 -1.2 -0.4
Steve Blake 1.0 37 882.4 0.045 0.83 -1.7 -0.8
Luke Walton 3.2 12 64.6 0.188 0.25 2.8 0.3
Devin Ebanks 2.6 19 154.8 0.075 0.24 -0.8 -0.1
Darius Morris 1.1 16 136.1 0.014 0.04 -2.6 -0.5
Jordan Hill 4.5 3 3.2 0.429 0.03 10.3 0.2
Jason Kapono 2.5 28 269.1 -0.000 -0.00 -3.1 -0.6
Andrew Goudelock 1.6 39 385.3 -0.095 -0.76 -6.0 -1.2
TOTAL 50 12150 0.115 29.16 2.5 2.5

We see the Lakers are similar to the Clippers and Suns. They have three very good players and not much else. The trade for Ramon Sessions is paying off very well. However, I can’t imagine he’ll keep playing at his current levels.

The Lakers have a very potent front court and very little in the backcourt. Recently, I discussed how any team going after Derek Fisher was crazy. The Lakers finally giving up on his leadership to get a real point guard was a smart move. The thing is, this season Kobe was playing about as poorly as Derek Fisher. The Lakers have been winning in spite of their backcourt of Fisher and Kobe. The leadership Fisher provided while he was here and the “winning attitude” Kobe provides don’t really make up for the fact that neither player is that good.

Kobe used to be good

Kobe Bryant Wins Produced for the last five seasons.
Season Rank Pos MP WP48 WP
2007 22 2.0 3140 0.170 11.1
2008 14 2.2 3192 0.194 12.9
2009 14 2.0 2960 0.182 11.2
2010 50 2.3 2835 0.124 7.3
2011 59 2.1 2779 0.128 7.4

Unlike Derek Fisher, Kobe used to be a very good player. In fact, looking back right before the Lakers became relevent again right through last season’s playoff fizzle we can see Kobe was a good player. However, he went from being a top player in the league to being slightly above average. This is because older players age like milk.

The real oddity in all of this is the fact that people still think Kobe is relevent. He’s still on several MVP rankings. The impact of his clutchness is still being discussed. Lost in all of this is that Kobe is playing terribly this season and that’s even using Kobe’s own stats as a barometer. We can use the NBA Geek comparison engine to quickly explain why Kobe is bad: His shooting is average and his turnovers are really high. Let’s look at Kobe’s numbers in relation to his career to help complete the story:

  • Kobe is shooting a 52.6% true shooting percentage. This is the worst of his career behind 2001-2002 (54.3%)
  • Kobe is taking 25.1 true shots per 36 minutes. This is the 2nd most in his career behind 2005-2006 (27.9)
  • Kobe is getting 3.6 turnovers per 36 minutes. This is the 2nd worst of his career behind 1996-1997 (3.7)
  • Kobe is getting 1.2 steals per 36 minutes. This is a career low for him tied with with 2004-2005.
  • Kobe’s 4.4 assists per 36 minutes are the lowest he’s had since 2005-2006.

Kobe is shooting the worst he ever has but is still taking a lot of shots. It turns out Kobe also used to do more than score. However, we can see his steals, turnovers and assists have all been getting worse. This of course leads us to the final most important fact:

  • Kobe is getting 28.3 points per game. This is the fifth highest of his career.

Kobe’s numbers and efficiency have dropped! By keeping his shots up he is keeping his points per game up. It seems this very simple trick has worked. It’s also important that Kobe is also on a winning team. As we’ve pointed out, players that score lots of points but don’t win can be discovered. As long as Bynum, Gasol, Barnes and Sessions keep playing well then Kobe can keep taking lots of shots. And by keeping his scoring totals high people will think he is still a good player, even though he has clearly lost a step. Of course, readers of this blog are different and we’ll simply laugh loudly at anyone that is insane enough to say they’d take Kobe over Dwyane Wade.


p.s. As you may have noticed, we’re having a contest to guess which player will have the best game in the remaining games this season. As a fun tidit. Kobe played the single worst game this season on the 1st of January.


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