Kobe Bryant has been very valuable for the Lakers and he’s not a guy Los Angeles wants to lose. (Photo: Flickr.com)
When you think of Kobe Bryant, you think of a clutch player who wins championships and may be the greatest player of all time. Even though the star shooting guard is 34 years old, he is still dominant and is a player the Los Angeles Lakers would hate to lose.
And if they lost him to injury, it could mark the downfall of the Lakers.
According to ESPN and multiple other sources, Bryant hurt his ankle on Wednesday, March 13, and it led to me think of how the Lakers would fare with Kobe out for an extended period of time. According to the article, X-rays were negative, but if they had been positive, it would likely mean a lost season for the Lakers.
This season still hasn’t worked out all that well for the Lakers, who are currently treading water at 34-32. While we all expect to see the Lakers make the playoffs, it’s unlikely that they go anywhere because they would likely have to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder or San Antonio Spurs on the road in the first round. Those teams have given the Lakers trouble and it’s unlikely that the Lakers beat them.
And without Kobe, it would be almost impossible.
Bryant’s player efficiency rating (PER) is 23.4, which is 11th in the league and well above the league average of 15. While you may be surprised at the fact that there are 10 players with better PERs than Kobe, he is third in the league in estimated wins added (EWA) with 16.2, meaning the Lakers have won an estimated 16 more games because of Bryant.
He has taken over the team and played spectacular basketball this year and at one point, he scored 30 or more points in 10 consecutive games. In addition, he scored 27 points or more in every game in December and the first three in January. Bryant has taken over and put the ball in the hoop consistently, but he’s also distributed it to his teammates, which is something he doesn’t get enough credit for doing.
Bryant is second among shooting guards and 21st in the NBA with 5.8 assists per game and the only shooting guard with more assists than him is James Harden, who averages 5.9. Kobe has 384 assists on the season and he’s finally getting credit for getting the ball to his teammates. Steve Nash hasn’t been the same as he was with Phoenix, when he averaged more than 10.9 assists per game (APG) over eight years.
And this year? He’s tied for 16th in the league with an average of 6.7 APG.
Because Nash hasn’t been as effective as we thought he would be, Bryant’s passing has been huge for the Lakers. The fact that he’s also scoring at a high rate (27.5 PPG, better than his career average of 25.5 PPG) is amazing, especially because of his age. While Bryant says he will retire in two years (via CBS Sports), he could probably play for a while and have success.
Why? Because if he can carry the Lakers now, it’s likely that he can still play well in two years.
Dwight Howard‘s PER is somehow 15th among just centers and while he leads the league with 12.4 rebounds per game (RPG), he hasn’t been as valuable and efficient as Los Angeles would have liked him to be. Some of Los Angeles’ core players just haven’t performed up to par with expectations and that has led to the downfall of arguably the league’s most prominent franchise. However, Bryant hasn’t been one of those players.
Without the cold-blooded Black Mamba to step up late and make plays, the Lakers wouldn’t be anywhere. If Bryant’s injury turns out to be serious, or if he suffers another injury, the Lakers will be in trouble. Bryant is 34 and one would think that the wear and tear of the NBA would force him into retirement soon. For Lakers fans, that is an extremely unpleasant thought.
The heart and soul of the team was threatened by injury, and that’s something that would derail the Lakers. Bryant has been incredible and is still making his shots and scoring points in an effective way while carrying a Laker team that hasn’t lived up to expectations. If Kobe went down and it forced him to miss a long period of time, it would crush the Lakers and bring them down.
So what does that mean for the Lakers? If they don’t plan for Bryant’s retirement, it will put them into a period of mediocrity.