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Kobe and the #6

ESPN has done it again, just hate on Kobe in their latest NBA ranking. I’m of the opinion that the majority of NBA media (with the exception of a few like Michael Wilbon, Mark Jackson, and Reggie) despise Kobe for proving them wrong. He won without Shaq, a former media favourite, and had more championships than his former teammate who now makes stupid jokes on TNT “Inside the NBA”. 

When ESPN ranks Kobe behind: LeBron, KD, Dwight Howard, CP3, and Rose, I want to smash my computer. For the record I will say my top 5 would be this: Kobe, CP3, LeBron, Rose, D12. I can understand LeBron, D12, CP3 being placed ahead of Kobe – though I disagree.

However, though I love Kobe’s game (since ’01) it is obviously  debatable with Kobe no longer in his prime. So I will only talk about Rose and KD because of those reasons – for now. But I digress, this is the point I want to make: Yes, it’s great Kobe is considered close-to-top 10 as a player, however Kobe OF OLD (right now) is a Top 5 player

Rose. His drive is the closest to Kobe’s. unlike ESPN, I think intangibles affect “current quality” — not stats alone. Rose carries the Bulls a lot like Kobe did for the Lakers from 05-late ’07. Kobe is a better scorer and more fundamentally sound anyone in the NBA ranks current top 5. Also, his playmaking ability is underrated as Phil Jackson pointed out a month ago that Kobe was/is capable of putting up LeBron-like numbers – but chooses not to.

However, he’s a SG not a PG or point-forward. Lakers need his scoring more than his playmaking, especially this past season. You can’t get much assists with a team that shoots poorly and creates little spacing. For Rose to be a better player he’d have to return to form and become better at creating opportunities for his teammates because he’s a PG. It’s more relevant to his game than it is to Kobe’s game. If he does that than he’s not only better than Kobe “of old” — whose athleticism is declining — he’s the best player in the League. the question is: can he return to form after an ACL?

Kevin Durant. This makes me the most uncomfortable. I talk about him because, as you know my top 5 is: Kobe, CP3, LeBron, D12, Rose. I believe that a top 5 player must have superstar O and superstar D, or at least elite level D. KD is a decent iso defender and a good team defender, but as 2012 LeBron showed — he’s not an elite defender. This factor is constantly downplayed in KD’s game, but always brought up with Melo. KD is more focused, but his Defensive issues should not be ignored. Kobe easily passes KD on defense, though even Kobe has slipped somewhat – but again no wing help on D (Metta was out of shape most of this season). He could become one, but the Ranking is anticipating it will happen. The fallacy of media hype. 

Offensively, KD is the better shooter – maybe even better than “prime-time” Kobe.  However, overall offensive ability is Kobe’s area. Barkley even pointed this out: Durant does not have a diverse offensive game like Carmelo. He needs to learn post moves and be a better penetrator. However, Westbrook and Harden give him a lot more wing help than Kobe has ever gotten on the offensive wing, but on defense mainly (i.e., Rick Fox, Ariza, Artest).

That’s a big part of why KD is efficient. Even though, Westbrook makes bad decisions at times, his penetration gives the OKC its dynamic and makes KD harder to defend. Harden does this as well to a lesser, but crucial extent. Hence, KD doesn’t have to improve these things when you look at his team. KD is a willing passer, but not a great passing playmaker — there’s a difference. hes a very good scorer who will only get better.

Furthermore, KEVIN DURANT STRUGGLES WITH PHYSICAL DEFENSE — MENTALLY AND PHYSICALLY. Kobe has issues, but he does not take himself out of a game because of physicality. But, right now as I write, I can’t say he’s truly a top 5 player. More important, he’s not better than Kobe.

However, I will admit my bias: I think KD will be Reggie Miller 2.0. Great clutch performer, shooter, leader who makes an effort on D. However, I do not see him as a dominant all around offensive force

However, Kobe had to take tough shots. For example, I believe 30% of his shots, crunch time, were late in the shot clock — which can suggest a weakness in the offensive scheme — not Kobe gone ball hog. Also his four straight 40 pt games were the best display of offense in the entire season, surpassing both KD and LeBron. A feat none of ESpN’s top 5 could do – with defenses locked on him alone. He also had a 38 pt game vs HOU where he had 6 assists (deflating the ball hog argument). KObe also came 2nd in scoring — which should automatically make him top 5. The question is: how much of Kobe’s offensive struggles were a result of adjusting to his broken hand? the lack of perimeter help on O? transition from the triangle to a set-offense? ESpN voters for the NBA rank do not take this into consideration at all or if they do, they don’t think about it enough.

I know if Kobe has a similar efficiency to Durant, most pundits will run to credit D12 and Nash — which they should, but to a limited degree since Kobe has proven he can still take over a game. His precedents should allow some benefit of the doubt. However, with KD we may never know (unless Westbrook or Harden leaves) how impactful his offense truly is — one of the reasons I’m glad Shaq left. You knew watching Kobe and Shaq that Kobe’ perimeter prowess allowed Shaq’s inside game to thrive. KD does not have that prowess to be given the benefit of the doubt. WB is still a huge underrated factor in KD’s success. I’m trying to look at KD as an individual player. In other words, I’m saying Kobe is capable of impacting a game more independently – even at 34. I’m not knocking KD. This is how great Kobe is. 

As for PER stats, sometimes these stats — when it comes to Kobe — are not contextualized. For example: why is it that Kobe lead a team with mental, physical and emotional issues to a top 3 seed in the hardest conference, despite being less effiecent than a good number of players? Lebron and KD had spread floors to play with, perimeter help, and bench depth to help their individual games — none finished 1st seed. Yes they made it to the finals, but both their teams were clearly constructed better than the Lakers. However, I think Lakers would’ve beaten if Mike Brown had a better wing rotation and trusted Sessions more in the 4th. Again, OKC and MIA were better overall teams.

I honestly feel the NBA wants a new narrative KD vs LeBron – LeBron. But there’s a reason why some players and coaches today, such as  Kevin Love and Alvin Gentry, still regard him as the best player and why he kept the Lakers at an elite level – despite their numerous issues. You can’t stat certain things like leadershiop, mental fortitude, drive, and focus — hence you can’t use PER to determine everything. However, if you want PER to be a number 1 or the most determinative factor Mr. ESPN: use NBA STATS RANK.

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Written by TS

TS is a student of ancient History and a Laker fan since '99 and a Kobe fan since '01.

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