Kobe Bryant: What If He Were Traded for LeBron James?

Shel HillContributor IIIFebruary 23, 2012

Which All-Star would you take TODAY? Kobe or LeBron?
Which All-Star would you take TODAY? Kobe or LeBron?Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

This is a series that offers a look at the world of "what if". What if a current 2012 All-Star was traded for another 2012 All-Star? What would be the outcome for each team? Which team would get better and which would lose something? Would that All-Star have the same productivity? Lets take a look and find out.

The debate is never ending. It has polarized fans. It has polarized families. LeBron James is in his prime. Kobe Bryant is in his last few years.

One has two NBA MVP awards. The other has won one award. The multi-MVP winner has been to the finals twice and lost both times. The other has been to the NBA Finals seven times and won five.

Who is the better player?

If the Los Angeles Lakers had James and the Miami Heat had Bryant, what would be the result?


LeBron in Los Angeles

The Good: Honestly, the expectations would be exactly the same. The Lakers would be expected to win the championship, as would the Heat with Bryant. But if LeBron James was a Laker, there might be less drama in Los Angeles. LeBron is naturally more of a facilitator than Kobe, so the lack of a penetrating point guard would not be so glaring.

He would shoulder a lot of that responsibility. He is more athletic than Kobe and a whole lot faster. If LeBron were pushing the ball up the court, as he does at times in Miami, it would make the offense a little more fluid. Players who are at the end of their careers and are better spot-up shooters, like Derek Fisher, would greatly benefit.

If LeBron was a Laker, he'd be trouble for opposing shooting guards.
If LeBron was a Laker, he'd be trouble for opposing shooting guards.Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Kobe no longer draws as many double teams as he used to, and LeBron does. That means that players like Fisher, Matt Barnes, Jason Kapono and Pau Gasol would greatly benefit as they are more than adequate shooters when given space and time.

LeBron has never had the luxury of playing with a mobile 7'0" center, let alone two capable seven-footers. With Gasol and Bynum backing him up, he'd be free to terrorize the other teams best outside player and would not be required to rebound as much.

Could you imagine perimeter defenders Meta World Peace and LeBron James guarding the opposing team's small forward and shooting guard?

If LeBron didn't have to shoulder a lot of the rebounding load, he'd be on the break and outlet a lot. That puts tremendous pressure on the defense because as long and as fast as he is, if he caught an outlet where a point guard usually does, a highlight might be produced four dribbles later.

Lastly, if LeBron was a Laker, they may not have made such a push for Chris Paul this past summer. LeBron has been successful without an All-Star point guard beside him. They may have gone after a B-level point guard or even another shooting guard. Also, they would have probably kept Lamar Odom and Shannon Brown.

Brown was looking for more minutes after sitting behind Kobe for a few years. With LeBron James on the Lakers, he'd have that chance and might have stayed and not signed with the Phoenix Suns.

The Bad: The one flaw in LeBron's game is still a strong point in Kobe Bryant's game. LeBron has yet to come up big on the biggest stage, in the finals. Kobe thrives when the game is on the line.

If Kobe has to guard small forwards on a nightly basis, it might wear on him.
If Kobe has to guard small forwards on a nightly basis, it might wear on him.Harry How/Getty Images

He has many buzzer beaters and has played some of his best basketball in the finals. He has twice been named NBA Finals MVP, while LeBron took much of the blame for the Heat losing in last year's finals to the Dallas Mavericks.


Kobe in Miami

The Good: For the first time in his career, besides the Olympics, Kobe would have an All-Star in the backcourt with him. Even though Dwyane Wade plays the same position, Wade is very capable of playing the point guard spot as well.

They would team up to be the best offensive and best defensive back court duo in the past 20 years, maybe all time. They would definitely be compared to the Hall of Fame backcourts like Isiah Thomas and Joe Dumars or Clyde Drexler and Terry Porter.

If Kobe was on the Heat, it would be tremendously hard for teams to focus on who to watch when a last second shot is needed. Both Kobe and Wade have had a lot of success in the clutch and both relish the moment.

Kobe would be required to rebound more. If he swaps places with LeBron, he'd have to fill the void. It would be a challenge as he is older and is only 6'6".

Kobe's scoring average might even be higher. The Heat don't have as many big men who can score, so he wouldn't be forced to get the ball down low to two people. Chris Bosh has similar skills to Pau Gasol, so they'd fit together nicely.

The Heat's starting center, Joel Anthony, isn't an offensive threat, so Kobe would willingly take more shots to carry the scoring burden.

The Bad: Kobe Bryant can't guard larger small forwards and smaller power forwards like LeBron can without losing energy.

Since Kobe and Dwyane Wade would both be in the backcourt, it would create a void at the small forward spot. The Heat acquired Shane Battier, so he could fill that spot with no trouble, but that would remove him from the bench, thus making the bench weaker.

The Heat currently have one of the strongest benches in the league, so that would become a weakness.

Conclusion: Which team would be better?

Without a doubt, the Lakers would be the better team. Not only would they get bigger by adding LeBron, but they would become more athletic and faster instantly. They would own the boards with the two big men and LeBron.

LeBron's assist average could be higher, as the people he'd pass a lot to, Bynum and Gasol, would be closer to the basket and have high-percentage shots.

Kobe might have the higher scoring average, but, by him going to the Heat, it gives them a deadly closer, but takes away from the team's size and rebounding.