We’ve all become familiar with the turmoil surrounding the Lakers’ Big Three – Kobe Bryant, Andrew Bynum, and Pau Gasol. Amidst the constant swirl of trade rumors involving Gasol, Andrew Bynum’s recent string of strong performances make it appear that Gasol is even more expendable in search of upgrades at the Point Guard position. Going through the stats, however, paints such a shockingly different picture.
We decided to look at the Lakers Wins/Losses splits to see if we could spot a trend in terms of what is and isn’t working. The Lakers’ consistency has been remarkable, indicating they are well prepared and well coached. Mike Brown’s defensive schemes have proved valuable, vaulting them to the 7th best defense in the NBA, according to Synergy Sports. However, it’s their offense that undergoes some shifts in key categories:
In the losses, it is natural to expect many categories to go down, but where it gets problematic for the Lakers is the large difference in some very key categories. Based on their erratic offensive play all year, it is clear that the Lakers go astray when their field goal percentage drops – primarily from the volume of bad shots taken. We can see by the decline in assists that they get less good shots in the flow of their offense.
Focusing on the Big Three, let’s look at Kobe Bryant’s splits to see what kind of affect he is having on his team’s fortunes:
For the most part Kobe’s numbers are the same in wins and losses outside of his shooting percentage. Unfortunately, given the sheer volume of shots, the large drops in field-goal percentage (5.7%) and three-point percentage (6.6%) substantially contribute to the Lakers’ overall decline in shooting, as well as decrease their chances of winning the game.
Looking at center Andrew Bynum, his numbers remain relatively consistent, in line with the position he plays:
Outside of a 5.6% drop in field-goal shooting, Bynum’s performance remains the same in both wins and losses. Since his numbers swing much less, his affect on the bottom line is less profound.
It’s time to get to the shocking part – Pau Gasol’s numbers in wins vs. losses. Look at them carefully, because you don’t want to miss the truth of the situation:
Outside of a slight drop in field-goal percentage, Gasol plays better in losses as points, rebounds, and free-throws improve. Of the big three, only Gasol commits significantly fewer turnovers in losses. This remarkable, since one would expect all of the Big Three’s numbers to drop.
The biggest factor in Lakers’ losses is a decline in shooting mainly attributable to Bryant. A variety of factors can explain the team’s decline in shooting in losses- new system, age, poor perimeter shooters, offense stalling at end of shot clock, etc. Whatever you choose, it is clear that Pau Gasol is doing everything in his power to help the team win and in spite of his better play, he is brought down by the poor play of Kobe Bryant and to a lesser degree Andrew Bynum. While trading Kobe is not on the table, one wonders how the Lakers fortunes would change without such a high volume/low percentage shooter on their team.