Los Angeles Lakers Stat Monkey Brief: Lakers/Nuggets (11/30/12)
Superman With No Superfriends
Dwight Howard should consider giving away his Superman cape to Kobe Bryant as an early Christmas present. Because heading into his showdown Friday night against the Denver Nuggets, Lakers guard Kobe Bryant has been extraordinary. He leads the NBA in scoring at 27.7 points per/game, but also ranks second in win shares/game, and fourth in player efficiency rating. Kobe’s been lighting up the stat sheet, doing it efficiently, and it’s theoretically leading to more wins. So why, 15 games into the season, do the Lakers remain under .500?
They’re likely a myriad of reasons to explain the Lakers’ mediocre record, but for starters, Kobe needs help. If the Lakers wish to beat the upset-minded Nuggets Friday night in Staples, Kobe’s supporting cast needs to contribute (paging… Pau Gasol) and take the pressure off the 34-year old Bryant from needing to be a Superhero each and every game.
Where’s the help at?
In an era in which it takes 2-3 superstars on a given team to win an NBA championship, the Lakers look pretty compelling on paper. They already possessed former all-stars Pau Gasol and Metta World Peace to pair with Kobe. And heading into this season, the Lakers bring in two-time MVP Steve Nash, six-time all-star Dwight Howard, as well as, offensive guru Mike D’Antoni to steer the ship. Despite these additions, advanced metrics show that Kobe is still commanding the ball and not getting the contribution from a few key guys. Kobe ranks second in the league in usage percentage at 31.4, which doesn’t measure minutes played, but rather the percentage of possessions a player uses while he’s on the court. And because of the injury to Nash, Kobe’s had to handle the ball more, resulting in 62 turnovers on the year (second most to only Philly’s Jrue Holliday).
The Lakers need Kobe for the long haul, and thus, need the other guys to step up during the regular season. Take Pau Gasol for example. In the last three Laker losses, Pau has averaged eight points/game. Not to mention Pau’s 13 points/game, .119 win shares/game, and 19.4% usage percentage are all career lows. Regardless if it’s the tendinitis in his knee or the new up-tempo offense that’s causing the decline, the Lakers need some semblance of Pau’s former self if they’re going to make any run in the playoffs.