HANG TIME NEW JERSEY BUREAU — News flash: Kobe Bryant takes a lot of shots.
Through the first 13 days of the season, Bryant leads the league in both field goal attempts per game (23.1) and per minute (0.65), despite playing with a torn ligament in his right wrist that he numbs with an injection before every game, and despite having some pretty talented teammates.
ESPN’s Rick Reilly is clearly fascinated with the rate at which Bryant shoots…
He’s always been an unrepentant gunner, but he’s practically melting the barrel this season. He’s taken 71 more shots than his next shootingest teammate, Pau Gasol. He’s averaging almost 30 shots a game this month. Bryant believes in shot selection. He selects them all.
Unfortunately, he’s making fewer of them. He went 6-for-28 the other night. For the season, he’s hit only 41.7 percent. Entering Thursday, that tied him for 214th in the league.
And he doesn’t care.
Through Friday, Bryant leads the league with a usage rate (percentage of his team’s possessions that he uses when he’s on the floor) of 36.1 percent. And though Bryant is now 33 years old, his usage rate has climbed in each of the last four seasons. Last season, he led the league at 33.0 percent.
But that doesn’t mean that Bryant’s a total ball hog. Assists count toward usage rate, and Bryant is averaging almost six assists per game, the third-highest mark of his 16 seasons. Among the top 10 players in usage rate, four have a lower assist rate than Bryant, who has recorded assists on 15.8 percent of his possessions. Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony are among the four.
Highest usage rate through Friday
eFG% = (FGM + (0.5 * 3PM)) / FGA
TS% = Points / (2*(FGA + (0.44 * FTA)))
ASTRatio = Assists per 100 possessions used
The problem is that, as Bryant’s usage rate has risen over the last five seasons, his scoring efficiency has dropped. He ranks fifth in true shooting percentage among the group above, but just 77th among the 151 players who have attempted at least 50 shots this season. Among the 76 guys ahead of him are teammates Pau Gasol (61.0 percent) and Andrew Bynum (57.4 percent).
And this season, Bryant’s effective field goal percentage and true shooting percentage are the lowest of his career.
Kobe Bryant’s last five seasons
A look at the shots Bryant is taking reveals that he’s getting to the rim less and less as the years go by. His free throw rate has remained pretty constant (about 35 free throw attempts for every 100 shots from the field) and he’s getting into the paint, but just not all the way to the basket.
Kobe Bryant’s shooting, last five seasons
|Restricted area||In The Paint (Non-RA)||Mid-Range||3-point range|
%FGA = percent of total field goal attempts from this range
- StatsCube: Kobe Bryant’s shooting
With Bryant’s decreased efficiency, it’s valid to wonder if the Lakers should be running their new offense more through their big men. But Bryant is still the franchise player in L.A. and he isn’t changing his stripes.
“I’ll try to make the good play, the good pass, kick it out when my teammates are open, but I’m a scorer first,” he told Reilly.
Bryant certainly gets tunnel vision at times, and we often see his teammates standing around as he looks for his shot. But there are also times when Bryant can be a brilliant passer, as evidenced by this pretty feed out of the post to a cutting Gasol on Friday…
or this slick drive-and-dish to Bynum…
Last season, the Lakers were 33-9 and scored 108.9 points per 100 possessions in games when Bryant had an assist ratio of 15.0 or better. They were 24-16 and scored 106.8 points per 100 possessions in games when his assist ratio was below 15. Either way, L.A. was a much better offensive team when Bryant was on the floor (110.5) than when he was on the bench (101.7).
This season, the difference is still big, but the numbers are lower (103.5 with Bryant on the floor and 94.7 with him on the bench).
Offensive efficiency is down across the league, but the Lakers currently rank 13th at 101.4 points per 100 possessions. If they were to remain there, it would be their lowest offensive ranking since 1994.
They’re only nine games into their 66 game-season, of course. And the numbers will certainly change over the next 3 1/2 months. But it would only help if the tunnel vision became a thing of the past and Bryant brought more balance to the Lakers’ offense.