The Blazers took a tough loss Saturday, falling 99-82 to the Lakers in the Rose Garden. It was the Blazers’ first loss at home to the Lakers in the last 10 matchups, and the Lakers didn’t even have Kobe Bryant! However, it is interesting to note that Bryant is only averaging 0.98 points per field goal attempt this season, worse than Brandon Roy (1.05), Martell Webster (1.01) and Rudy Fernandez (1.01), to name a few familiar guard/small forward types. Am I trying to say that these Blazer players are better than Bryant? No, of course not. Well, maybe Roy. But it’s no secret that Bryant has just as much potential to shoot his team out of games as he has to shoot them back into games. The Lakers orchestrated a balanced scoring attack without their perennial all-star, scoring 1.07 points per shot with six players in double figures.
One of the key reasons for the Lakers success this season has been center Pau Gasol, one of the more efficient offensive players in the league. In addition to 1.05 points per shot, Gasol pulls down 3.4 offensive rebounds each game—good for 8th in the league—giving the Lakers extra offensive opportunities. He also dishes out 3.4 assists, to just 1.8 turnovers, one of the best ratios in the NBA among centers and power forwards. The significance of an assist-to-turnover ratio is that it compares, at a simple level, how often a player does good things with the ball versus how often he does bad things. To look just at turnovers or assists individually would ignore the fact that some players have the ball in their hands more often, giving them more opportunities for racking up both of these stats. Pau’s 1.9 assist/TO ratio even outshines Bryant’s 1.5, a fact that’s particularly impressive because guards tend to have better ratios on average. Am I trying to smear Kobe? Well maybe—he’s a douche—but he also tends to be overrated for his ability to make highlight-worthy, amazing plays, when a deeper analysis of the numbers tells me he may not be as efficient an offensive player as he gets credit for.
Oh he’s clutch, you say? This article informs us that in the last five postseasons, Bryant has shot just 45% in clutch situations—situations where the score is within five, with less than five minutes remaining in the game. His career FG% on all shots is about 46%, making his playoff “clutch” performance slightly worse than his norm. In addition, teammate Gasol performed better than Kobe overall, and better than his own career averages during these playoff clutch scenarios. Later in the article, an “utlra clutch rating” finds that Kobe Bryant performed worse than 30 other NBA players in terms of true shooting percentage* in the final minute of close ballgames in the last five years. Number 10 on that list is Brandon Roy.
82games.com chimes in, showing that Bryant’s Player Efficiency Rating came in at 35th in 2003. It could have been a bad year for Kobe, but the numbers are piling up. Another article that came out on ESPN a few months ago charted all players clutch shooting percentages (final 5 minutes) in the 2008-2009 season. Bryant was 80-somethingeth on the list. A guy named Roy was well ahead of him. We all like to remember the game-winning shots and highlight reel plays, yet we forget all the misses. This is where statistics can fill in the holes of our selective memories.
In other news, the Blazers are 30-23 and find themselves in 8th place in the West. Their offense continues to scorch opposing defenses, while their defense is still one of the least efficient in the league over the last two months. Boy it would be nice to have Oden back. I had a thought that perhaps playing at such the slow pace, the Blazers were actually helping opposing offenses. But that idea doesn’t seem to make much sense. The correlation between points allowed per possession and pace of play actually supports (weakly) the exact opposite, that faster teams are less efficient defensively.
Well that’s the news from Portland…where the bench is thin, the commentators dim, and the record is above average.
*True shooting percentage takes free throw shooting into account.