Los Angeles Lakers: Success Without Kobe Shows That Andrew Bynum Is Now Team MVP

Andre KhatchaturianCorrespondent IIIApril 12, 2012

NEW ORLEANS, LA - APRIL 09:  Andrew Bynum #17 of the Los Angeles Lakers drives the ball around Carl Landry #24 of the New Orleans Hornets at New Orleans Arena on April 9, 2012 in New Orleans, Louisiana.   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.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Move over Kobe.

Andrew Bynum has officially taken over as the focal point of the Los Angeles Lakers and is now the most important player on the team.

The Los Angeles Lakers improved to 2-1 without Kobe Bryant in their lineup this season and 8-4 in the last three years after convincingly defeating the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday night.

Andrew Bynum had one of the best performances of his career after grabbing 30 boards and nearly out-rebounding the entire San Antonio Spurs team, who collectively had 33 on the night. Bynum also added 16 points despite a poor shooting night. 

His performance exemplified the notion that Bynum has officially taken over the team as their most important player. Over the course of the season, he has turned into the focal point of the Lakers and the numbers show that the Lakers are relying on him to a greater extent on both sides of the ball to win games.

Andrew Bynum's Dominance PPG RPG FG Att. FG %
Pre All-Star 16.3 12.8 12 54%
Post All-Star 21.9 11.9 14.7 59%

As the table above shows, Bynum is shooting the ball more effectively. (He's also shooting the three-pointer more, but that's a completely different story.) The Lakers coaching staff is realizing that by pounding the ball inside and letting Bynum work in the paint against undersized centers, they have a better chance of putting points on the board. 

While Bynum's rebounds have dipped just a bit, he's still averaging double-digits in the category and his points have increased significantly along with his field-goal percentage. This shows that offensively the team is feeding him the ball more expecting him to take over the game.

What we've also seen recently, especially in the second half, are long shooting slumps by Kobe Bryant. He's not shooting the ball any more than he used to, but he's making fewer shots. As a result, his field-goal percentage has dipped a bit in the second half. Here are his pre and post All-Star Game splits.

Kobe Bryant Splits PPG RPG FG Att. FG %
Pre All-Star 28.4 5.8 23.7 43.5%
Post All-Star 27.6 4.9 22.3 42.2%


Bryant has still played exceptionally well, but he's been marred by some shooting slumps which have resulted in the slight decline of his numbers. The two most notable samples are his 3-for-21 day against the New Orleans Hornets and his 3-for-20 night against the Utah Jazz.

Here is the most glaring number, though. Despite Kobe's offensive numbers staying stagnant, the Lakers' team numbers have shot through the roof. The team was averaging 93 points per game before the All-Star break. In the second half, they're averaging 102 points per game.

This is a huge and noticeable difference. 

While the team only broke the century mark five times in the first half, they've eclipsed it 14 times in the second half and they've done it in a fewer amount of games played.

The Lakers' offensive explosion is a testament to the involvement of Andrew Bynum. He's shooting more, he's scoring more and his explosion has made the Lakers a difficult team to guard. Are they going to pound it inside, or is Pau Gasol going to take a mid-range jumper? Or perhaps Kobe is going to slash through the hole and score?

Of course, trading deadline acquisition Ramon Sessions has had a lot to do with it, too, but the fact remains that without Bynum, the Lakers will not be able to make a championship run. 

This isn't to say that the Lakers can win without Kobe either. They can't. He's extremely important and vital to the team's success.

However, there was once a time where the Lakers would be able to get by with just Kobe. After all, they did make the NBA Finals in 2008 with Bynum hurt for much of the year. Kobe won the league's MVP that year and he was undoubtedly the main reason why the Lakers got that far.

Kobe has still been dominant this season, but the numbers show that Bynum has played just as much of a factor in the Lakers' success as Kobe has.

As Andrew enters his prime and Kobe leaves his, Bryant is slowly passing the torch to the young center.

Wednesday night it seemed like Bynum got a better grip of that torch.