The 2012-13 Mike Brown Era
Brown's Lakers were 1-4. The team struggled with a new offense and a new identity. Many roles were ill-defined, rotations were off kilter, and it was pretty painful to watch. I propose to look at a few stats to get inside the team's struggles (and its limited success).
Kobe Bryant shot between 10 and 23 times in these five games. He was over 20 only once. His FG% was off the charts. Yet the Lakers were quite bad. This stretch of games seems to pose a massive problem to those of the "Kobe shoots too much" ilk.
Stat#1: Field Goal Percentage
Game#/Kobe's FG%/Teammate FG%
1 79% / 43% L
2 50% / 50% L
3 61% / 44% L
4 50% / 52% W
5 41% / 32% L
In the only game the Lakers won, Kobe's teammates shot a higher FG% than he did. In one game he was equal to his teammates; that was a loss. In the other games, Kobe shot better (by far) than his teammates. They lost all three.
Stat #2: Field Goal Rate
A look at Kobe's FGA per 36 minutes, compared to that of his teammates. I have moved it to "per 36" because players play different minutes, and Kobe often logs heavy minutes.
Game#/Kobe per 36 / Teammates per 36
1 14.5 / 47.3
2 18.7 / 39
3 19.3 / 33.8
4 11.4 / 57.8
5 16.4 / 42.8
In the one game in which Kobe's teammates shot more than four times as much as he did, the Lakers won. It is worth combining the lesson from stat #1 here. Not only did they shoot more that game, they shot very well.
There are at least two ways to read this data. First, when Kobe "allows" his teammates to shoot more, they shoot better. Second, when Kobe sees his teammates shooting well, he makes sure they have more scoring opportunities. Which is correct? Difficult to say; the data involved in making that read is extensive. (NB: I'll try this analysis.)
Stat #3: Synergy
SYNERGY is a measure of the total points created by possessions consumed by a player divided by the total number of possessions consumed. A SYNERGY of 1.00 means that the player creates one point each time he consumes a possession.
Game# / Kobe SYNERGY / Teammate SYNERGY
1 1.38 / 1.07 (+31)
2 1.09 / 1.19 (-.10)
3 1.22 / 1.10 (+.12)
4 1.70 / 1.23 (+.47)
5 1.07 / 0.81 (+.26)
In only one game was Kobe's SYNERGY lower than that of his teammates. That was a loss. In three games, his SYNERGY was tremendously higher than his teammates'. The Lakers went 1-2 in those games.
I think SYNERGY is the telling stat here. Looking at FG% is one thing. Looking at usage rate is another. Looking at what players do when they consume a possession is instructive.
In Game 1, Kobe's teammates were roughly average (1.07 points per possession). Kobe was off the charts (in low FGA, btw). And LA lost. LA lost seemingly despite Kobe's efforts.
In Game 2, Kobe's teammates were pretty good. Kobe was pretty average. He shot well, but he commanded the ball a good deal. And LA lost. I think it is fair to say that Kobe should have trusted his teammates more. It is worth noting that this is the game Nash left.
In Game 3, Kobe's teammates were not bad, but Kobe was excellent. He took more shots, hit at a much higher rate than his teammates, and produced significantly more points per possession. And LA lost.
In Game 4, Kobe's teammates were excellent. Kobe was transcendent. They shot well, which helped his assists. He shared the ball, but he was also an efficient scorer. And LA won. This is probably the ideal sort of game for LA: Kobe is amazing, and his teammates are also very, very good. Everyone plays to their strengths.
In Game 5, Kobe's teammates were horrendous. Kobe was pretty average. He didn't shoot well, and his teammates were awful. This is one of those games where his teammates really seem to have let him down. Again.
So, in five games, everything went right once. Kobe seems to have been the problem once. Kobe's teammates seem to have been the problem three times.
* I don't know that there's ever a final analysis...until Kobe retires.
** I should add that this in only offensive analysis. There is, of course, defense to be considered. It has been said that Kobe plays the passing lanes too much, roves too much, and takes possessions off. That is probably true. Defensive analysis is arguably the most difficult thing to render objective in basketball. This is in large part because of the lack of counterpart stats that are accurate.