Los Angeles Lakers: Has Kobe Bryant Become the Second-Best Player on the Team?

Sammy Sucu@oblivion08Senior Analyst IMarch 19, 2012

LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 20:  Andrew Bynum #17 and Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers smile as they head back to the bench leading the Portland Trail Blazers during the fourth quarter at Staples Center on February 20, 2012 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  The Lakers won 103-92. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

Has Andrew Bynum finally taken the honors of becoming the best player on the Los Angeles Lakers away from Kobe Bryant?

It’s been exactly eight years since Kobe Bryant, aka “The Black Mamba,” was considered the undisputed best player on the Los Angeles Lakers. In 2004, the Lakers decided to trade away Shaquille O’Neal and keep Kobe, thus making him the best player on the team.

Since 2004, there has been no other player on the Lakers that has outperformed Kobe. Some may have said that Pau Gasol was, but he is not consistently dominant enough to ever take that title away from Kobe.

It has never been nor will it ever be Gasol that is better than Kobe. It’s his partner in crime, Andrew Bynum.

Bynum has been on a tear this season by averaging 18.1 points on 57.8 percent shooting, 12.9 rebounds and two blocks per game. Of course, the field-goal percentage will be higher with Bynum because most of his makes come from eight to 10 feet out, but his opportunities are much fewer than Kobe’s.

The Black Mamba has also been playing well so far this season by averaging 28.7 points at 43 percent shooting, 5.7 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game. Kobe has been drinking from the fountain of youth because it seems like he has that young pep in his step.

However, while the numbers may look good, they never tell the whole story.

Kobe is scoring three points more per game this year, but it is at a worse percentage. Last year, Bryant was averaging 25.3 points on 45.1 percent shooting. This year, however, his shooting percentage has taken a hit because of his selfish play.

It seems as if he doesn't trust his teammates when the team is trying to come from behind. Many fans and critics have been calling for Kobe to defer to another teammate for a while now, but no one has been able to step up—except for Bynum. 

Bynum has been seen as the third option for the Lakers behind Gasol and Kobe, but he has been the most effective. Other teams are seemingly unable to stop Bynum in the paint, yet Kobe decides to continue to shoot the Lakers out of games.

Take Sunday's game, for example. Kobe was having a horrendous shooting night, yet he continued to keep firing away from the field. The Black Mamba needs to look to Gasol and see how he is finally feeding the beast that is Andrew Bynum instead of trying to be a hero every night. 

In fact, for the last nine games Bynum has been scoring 26 points per game. In those nine games, the Lakers have won six times. Bynum was effective in all nine of those games, but Kobe was not. In fact, Kobe had three of his worst games of the season in that stretch—and all of them were losses.

In those three games Kobe shot 20 of 77 from the field, an abysmal 26 percent.

In contrast, Bynum had made 31 of his 40 shot attempts at an incredible 77.5 percent.

Although Bynum’s field-goal percentage is naturally going to be better, the difference in these three games is unreasonable. It is also reasonable to believe Kobe will have more shot attempts than Bynum, but when the percentage is so high, it only makes sense to defer to big man.

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 07: Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers looks on during warms up prior to the start of the Lakers game against the Washington Wizards at the Verizon Center on March 7, 2012 in Washington, DC. NOTE TO USER: User expressly ackno
Rob Carr/Getty Images

The common theme in all three of those games was that Kobe kept shooting while ignoring Bynum’s presence. If Bryant had kept feeding Andrew with the ball, the Lakers might have been on an 11-game winning streak.

Bynum has become the one that opposing teams need to game plan against. He is becoming more effective as the games go on. Teams are having a hard time containing him, as his numbers prove. Even though his touches are limited, Bynum still gets the job done.

On the other hand, Kobe has been sort of a wild card for the Lake Show.

Sometimes the team wins because of him, but for the most part, the Lakers suffer because of the way he has played. Bynum usually has great games, but the team usually wins when Kobe matches his performance.

Bynum is the one that the offense should run through, similar to how it was when Shaq was dominating the league—except Bynum is effective from the free-throw line. A healthy dose of basketballs to the Lakers' big man will surely bring the team more success throughout the year.

Does this mean that Bynum has surpassed Kobe as the best player on the team?

Not necessarily, but it is closer than it has ever been.

What this does mean is that if Kobe is serious about winning another title, he must put his ego aside and let Bynum have his way with other teams. Other than the Orlando Magic, there is no other team that has an answer to Bynum.

The Lakers need to abuse this exploit in order to achieve greatness. If Bynum is not being effective for whatever reason, Kobe could take over the way he has been his whole career. For now, the right thing to do is let the most effective player on the team have the most touches. 

Bynum may not be considered the best player on the Lakers because Kobe has proven how dominant he is, but Andrew Bynum is definitely the most effective player on the team—and it’s not even close.


Follow me on Twitter for everything NFL/NBA/WWE @ThaFreakness_BR.

E-mail me for writing opportunities or interviews at sammysucu@gmail.com.