Lakers vs. Mavericks – 7.9 FGA per player (L)
Lakers vs. Trail Blazers – 5.2 FGA per player (L)
Lakers vs. Clippers – 5.6 FGA per player (L)
Lakers vs. Pistons – 8.3 FGA per player (W)
Lakers vs. Jazz – 7.1 FGA per player (L)
Lakers vs. Warriors – 8.0 FGA per player (W)
Lakers vs. Kings – 8.25 FGA per player (W)
Lakers vs. Spurs – 6.9 FGA per player (L)
Lakers vs. Suns – 8.5 FGA per player (W)
Lakers vs. Rockets – 8.4 FGA per player (W)
Lakers vs. Nets – 7.25 FGA per player (W)*
Lakers vs. Kings – 5.6 FGA per player (L)
Lakers vs. Grizzlies – 7.3 FGA per player (L)
Lakers vs. Mavericks – 8.8 FGA per player (W)
Lakers vs. Pacers – 6.0 FGA per player (L)
Lakers vs. Nuggets – 10.2 FGA per player (W)
Lakers vs. Magic – 7.3 FGA per player (L)
Lakers vs. Rockets – 6.5 FGA per player (L)
Lakers vs. Hornets – 7.0 FGA per player (W)*
Lakers vs. Thunder – 7.5 FGA per player (L)
Lakers vs. Jazz – 7.6 FGA per player (L)
Lakers vs. Cavs – 5.8 FGA per player (L)
The asterisk denotes the instances where my theory is incorrect. In case you don’t feel like reading that entire list again, and I certainly wouldn’t blame you, there were two instances where the team’s supporting cast had an average of less than eight shot attempts per player and they still won the game. You’ll notice there isn’t a single instance of the team averaging over 8.0 FGA from non-Kobe players and still losing. The Lakers are 7-0 in games in which Kobe’s teammates have an average of eight shot attempts apiece.
And it’s not just their opponents, either. It would be easy to laugh off the numbers in those games in which Los Angeles won if they were all against lousy teams. But three of the seven teams the Lakers beat in those 8.0 FGA per non-Kobe player games beat the Lakers at other points during the season. And, in each loss, they managed to limit Los Angeles’ supporting staff to less than 8.0 FGA per man.
In case the long list isn’t your style, here’s a graph that showcases the same thing.
It’s not coincidence, folks.
So while you can dismiss Kobe’s 30-point performances and the poor record the team has during those games as nothing more than a meaningless statistic, when you dive deeper into what’s causing those statistics in the first place you begin to realize that it’s not so meaningless. In fact, it’s not meaningless at all.
Remember when I said the Lakers’ role players perform better on the defensive end when they’re more involved on the offensive end? I wasn’t just making things up. In the seven games where they managed to have an average of 8.0 FGA or greater for the supporting cast they held their opponents to an average of 90.3 PPG. That’s nearly nine points fewer than their usual points allowed (98.8), and a very far cry from the 102.7 PPG they allow in games where the supporting staff averages less than 8.0 FGA.
Still don’t think involvement on the offensive end translates to more energy on defense?
Ultimately, like I stated before, it’s up to Kobe to know his personnel. He has to understand what works for his teammates and what doesn’t. Some players are able to still play at the highest energy level without a lot of shot attempts (Jordan Hill), while others need to be more involved on offense to get their blood flowing and competitive spirit up on the defensive side of the ball (Pau Gasol). Neither of these ways are right or wrong, and you can argue that one is better than the other, but it comes down to Kobe.
The simple fact is that when there aren’t enough shots being distributed it’s because he’s taking them himself. It’s time for him to realize that this method isn’t working with this particular team, and that it’s time to focus on what works in reality rather than simply what works best in the mind of the guy taking all the shots.