Mike D'Antoni's Shoot-First Offense Will Be a Dream Come True for Kobe Bryant
Like lead the NBA in scoring and never look back flourish.
There's a common misconception that D'Antoni's run-and-gun, shoot-first offense isn't a good fit for the Black Mamba when he isn't playing at the Olympics.
And to that I beg the question, why?
Why isn't this offense a good fit for Kobe? Why is he not built to succeed next to D'Antoni? Why can't he excel in a system that preaches constant ball movement and instantaneous shot attempts?
Understandably, it's worth acknowledging Bryant has built a career off iso-oriented basketball. He's never played next to a top-tier point guard—over-the-hill Gary Payton included—and has been forced to create for himself for over 15 years.
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Just like Carmelo Anthony.
Under D'Antoni, Melo struggled with the New York Knicks. He had been an isolation scorer for nearly a decade and suddenly he was being asked to not only move the ball, but jack up jumpers instead of attack the basket.
Bryant is the same player in a different uniform, right?
Actually, no—not anymore. But he used to be.
Unlike most players, Kobe has continued to log heavy minutes into his later years. The last time he averaged less than 35 minutes per game, the Spice Girls were still popular, meaning he has had to adjust his game over time.
The Lakers constantly need him on the floor, so he isn't free to attack the rim with reckless abandon. We would be looking at an elder version of Dwyane Wade if he did, actually. Instead, he has become a habitual jumpshooter.
Last season alone, nearly 55 percent of his shot attempts came from outside of 16 feet and more than 71 percent came outside of 10.
Thus, I ask you: Why is it that a rim-attacker turned jumpshooter cannot thrive under Mike D'Antoni?
Though less than half of Bryant's field-goal conversions between three and 23 feet have come off assists over the last six years, 65 percent of his three-pointers have. He's currently on pace to have 69 percent of threes come off assists this season as well.
What does this mean?
It means that Bryant has proven he can succeed as a spot-up shooter, as someone who doesn't necessarily have to dribble before he shoots. And that's what he will be expected to do with D'Antoni.
Sure, he will have freedom to attack the basket when he sees fit, but D'Antoni's system calls for a bevy of shooters to spread the floor. The Lakers don't have that. Rather, they have Kobe and Steve Nash.
D'Antoni is going to rely on them to stretch defenses wafer thin by increasing their shot attempts from deep and in general.
How is that a bad thing? Bryant hasn't attempted less than 20 shots per contest since the 1999-2000 campaign, so why wouldn't he welcome the opportunity to increase his surprisingly low 16.7 field-goal attempts per night right now?
Furthermore, why wouldn't a player who is currently shooting a career best 43.3 percent from downtown, with those conversions being assisted at a 70 percent rate, welcome the opportunity to play off the ball more?
D'Antoni's system isn't built for Bryant to fail. It's structured in a way that provides 2-guards with an unconditional green light.
In D'Antoni's final season with the Phoenix Suns, his two most utilized shooting guards—Leandro Barbosa and Raja Bell—attempted a combined 11 threes per game and totaled 22.5 shots attempts overall.
Those numbers came as the third or fourth offensive options on the floor at any given time. Just imagine what Kobe can do—and how many shots he can get off—as the first.
So, this isn't such bad pairing after all. Rather, D'Antoni's offense is merely an extension of the evolution Bryant continues to make as an athlete.
This system is going to provide him with more shots. It's going to play to the strength that his three-point shooting has become. It's going to allow him to continue to log heavy minutes without the wear and tear that comes with self-sufficient scoring.
It's going to be a statistical dream come true for Kobe and the rest of the Lakers.
And a nightmare for anyone who is tasked with defending him.
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