Why Kobe Bryant Is the Problem in Los Angeles

Kobe had some choice words for Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak about his teammates. Is Kobe missing the fact that he might be the problem?

With the Lakers looking relatively hapless at 6-16, it was only a matter of time until the compulsively-competitive Kobe Bryant lost his mind in the media or at least within earshot of a camera or recorder. During a Lakers practice on Thursday, the straw done broke the camel's back.

Kobe's being upset playing for a 6-16 Lakers squad after spending most of his career on contenders is perfectly understandable. The tossing of his vitriol towards his teammates, however, might be a bit misdirected.

All right, admittedly Carlos Boozer and Jeremy Lin haven't proven to be championship-worthy offseason additions, but what exactly has Kobe been doing for his teammates in 2014-15?

Shooting. Lots and lots of shooting.

Kobe currently leads the entire NBA in field goal attempts (492) and usage rate (36.3%). While attempting 22.4 shots per game (his fifth-highest mark in 19 seasons), he is shooting the worst field goal percentage of his career at 39.0%. Combine that with his third-worst three-point percentage ever (and his worst since 2001-02) at 27.6%, and you've got the worst effective field goal percentage (eFG%) of his career at 42.3%.

In the history of the NBA, there have been 135 seasons in which a player has jacked up at least 22 shots per game, and that eFG% would rank him 120th on the list, ahead of only a slew of guys from the 40's, 50's, and 60's, a couple Allen Iverson seasons, and Jordan's first year with the Wizards at 38 years of age.

Not the most inefficient season ever, sure, but up there. Easily the worst in over a decade, at the very least.

The biggest problem is that he's tossing bricks from the most inefficient spots on the court. At 9.8 mid-range shots per contest, he's attempting more than the entire Houston Rockets' team, which is shooting 8.6 per game. As you can see below, that's the only place he's hitting shots at or above league average (LA), so I guess there's that, right?

Yes, his teammates suck, but that's not a reason to shoot more shots from the mid-range and threes above the break than attempts at the rim. Speaking of soft...

Given, his 25.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, 4.9 assists, and 1.3 steals per game at age 36 and coming off two major leg injuries is impressive. It's damned impressive. But Kobe apologists can't use the "terrible team" excuse to shrug off his historical levels of inefficiency and then drop his line of counting stats on the table like it means anything.

If you don't count the six games Kobe played in 2013-14 (and you shouldn't), this is simultaneously his worst year for both offensive (100) and defensive rating (115), as well as rate of win shares per 48 minutes (.020, with his rookie season of 0.079 being nearly four times better). Speaking of win shares, Kobe, are you sure your teammates "ain't doing (expletive deleted)" for you?

PlayerWin Shares
1Jordan Hill1.6
2Ed Davis1.4
3Wesley Johnson0.5
4Jeremy Lin0.5
5Carlos Boozer0.5
6Wayne Ellington0.5
7Kobe Bryant0.3
8Nick Young0.3

It seems that Jordan Hill, Ed Davis, Wesley Johnson, Jeremy Lin, Carlos Boozer, and Wayne Ellington are the ones that could use more from you, Mr. Mamba. Heck, even Nick "Swaggy P" Young - who has played 10 fewer games and at a rate of 10 fewer minutes per contest - probably needs you to put up more win shares than he has at the very least.

What's more, Kobe is currently taking up about 33.4% of the Lakers' active payroll, yet has contributed only 5.0% of his team's six wins. That calculation is obviously not perfect, nor is it to be taken as gospel, but you don't need an algorithm to tell you that that's bad.

But hey, what the heck, algorithms are kind of what we do. Our in-house metric, nERD, has Kobe at a career-worst -10.3. That's the fourth-worst mark in the entire NBA, better than only Andrew Wiggins (-13.4), Lance Stephenson (-11.3), and Josh Smith (-10.9). That's seriously it. A player's nERD is a number that estimates how many wins above or below .500 a league-average team would be with the player in question as one of its starters. In other words, Kobe is taking away wins from the Lakers at a rate far worse than those teammates he is calling out.

We project the Lakers to finish the season 30-52, and Kobe, according to his nERD, is the biggest reason why that number isn't higher.

Kobe fans, we get it. The guy is one of the greatest of all time. What he's doing at his age is fantastic. Heck, if he wants to play for a few more years and do nothing else but gun for the scoring record, we don't blame him. He's earned that much. He's even earned that ridiculously high pay check, considering he's still the reason the Lakers fill seats and sell merch. Go ahead and do you, Vino.

But please: when you have a guy who takes up a third of your team's money at age 36 and plays in a way that is costing your team games (regardless of his teammates, that's a lot of missed shots), he waives the right to talk smack about the rag-tag group of misfits Kupchak was able to string together with what scratch he had left.

At the very least, if he's going to act like this, Kobe and his minions have to start recognizing that his (expletive deleted) is just as soft and stinks just as badly as his teammates'.