There is an assumption out there on the planet, and I hope it is correct: Kobe Bryant will benefit from playing with Dwight Howard and Steve Nash. I would love to see this come true, just because the Lakers will be more entertaining if their pieces fit together like so many Schwinn parts.
The thinking goes that Kobe will be more efficient with a smaller workload. Also, with Dwight Howard and Steve Nash drawing attention, the 14-time All Star should get more open looks.
While this argument makes a certain kind of intuitive sense, I believe that Bryant is just as likely to get less efficient next season. Stars are not necessarily a boon to each other, even if a collection of stars is what's best for a team. The Lakers will probably get better with Dwight Howard and Steve Nash entering the picture, because the duo will deliver their standard, impressive production. But this does not mean that the addition of Nash and Howard equals ease for Bryant.
I look back to the 2010 Miami Heat and the bounty of open shots we predicted for Chris Bosh. With LeBron James and Dwyane Wade tractor-beaming defensive attention, Bosh was projected to thrive as a spot-up shooter.
It didn't exactly go that way. Though Bosh was certainly a key piece for Miami, CB4 went from shooting .518 from the field in Toronto to .496 with the 2010-11 Heat. Last season, he managed to shoot just .487 from the field.
Obviously, players can impact one another's statistics. This certainly seemed to happen to Bosh, who found his Toronto rebounds vultured by board-able wings in Miami. It's just that superstars tend to fend for themselves and don't always find comfort in relying on others. Bryant predicates his game on taking (and often making) ludicrously difficult shots. It may be tough to adjust to a more complementary role after a career of doing this:
There is also the matter of how Kobe will mesh with Nash. Lost in the Lakers' lengthy quest for a point guard is that Bryant was ostensibly the team's playmaker last season and has been for some time. While there are ways to get Kobe involved off of Nash's pick-and-roll dance with bigs, both players are better suited to having the ball in their hands.
For Bryant to improve in efficiency, he must become a better spot-up shooter. Kobe has one of the sweetest-looking jumpers in basketball, but he's only leveraged that toward a .337 three-point shooting percentage over the course of his career. It remains to be seen as to whether Bryant can thrive in a role where he's often imitating Ray Allen. The Lakers have a formidable collection of talent and potential, but it's a mistake to believe that this assures easier baskets for everyone involved.