Ranking Kobe Bryant and the Top 7 LA Lakers Shooting Guards of All Time

Sim Risso@@SimRissoFeatured ColumnistNovember 18, 2012

Ranking Kobe Bryant and the Top 7 LA Lakers Shooting Guards of All Time

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    A franchise with as many distinguished players as the L.A. Lakers makes it difficult to rank some of the team's all-time greats.

    That's especially true of the shooting-guard position, which features names like Kobe Bryant, Jerry West, Byron Scott and Eddie Jones, just to name a few.

    Before we get to the rankings, let's go over a bit of the criteria for compiling this list. First, only time spent with the Lakers was considered, so if a player had great years with other teams, it wasn't part of the equation.

    Second, awards and recognitions like MVPs and All-NBA teams were taken into account.

    Third, the number of NBA championships won was included.

    Fourth, offensive and defensive prowess were a factor.

    When all else failed and those four categories failed to provide a clear answer, win shares were taken into account. They hold water, regardless of the stylistic changes the NBA was going through in any particular era.

    So now that you know how the rankings were compiled, let's get to it.

    Here are the top seven Lakers shooting guards of all time.

7. Eddie Jones

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    If Eddie Jones had played on the Lakers longer, he would surely be higher on this list.

    So even though he had a better overall career than some players ahead of him, it doesn't carry as much weight, because this is based on a player's contributions to the Lakers.

    Jones only played his first three-and-a-half seasons with the Lakers before he was traded to the Hornets at the deadline in 1998-99, but he was spectacular while there.

    He was named to two All-Star teams and twice voted to the NBA All-Defensive Second Team (although in one of those years—1998-99—he spent half the season with the Hornets).

6. Jamaal Wilkes

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    It should be noted that Jamaal Wilkes wasn't solely a shooting guard for the Lakers.

    He spent time at other positions. He's probably best characterized as a wing player, but for the purposes of this slideshow, he's included as a shooting guard.

    Like Jones, Wilkes spent part of his career with other teams. Of his 12 years in the NBA, Wilkes was a member of the Lakers for eight of them. He was inducted into the Pro Basketball Hall of Fame in 2012, largely due to his play in Los Angeles.

    While a member of the Lakers, Wilkes contributed to two NBA titles (1981 and 1983). He was also named to two All-Star teams.

    During his prime, Wilkes was an extremely consistent and durable player. From 1978-79 through 1983-84, Wilkes played in an average of 80.33 games per season (out of 82 possible) and averaged 19.9 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.6 assists, all while shooting an efficient 52.3 percent from the field.

5. Michael Cooper

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    Michael Cooper may not have had the same peak years with the Lakers as Eddie Jones and Jamaal Wilkes, but he spent his entire 12-year career in Los Angeles and over that time was able to contribute more than Jones and Wilkes could in shorter stints.

    Deciding between Wilkes and Cooper wasn't easy. But here's the rationale behind putting Cooper ahead: he contributed more overall in win shares to the Lakers (52.5 for Cooper; 50.6 for Wilkes), and he contributed to more Lakers championships than Wilkes (five for Cooper; two for Wilkes).

    You could make the argument that it's not fair to judge them based on championships, because Cooper wasn't a focal point of the team during those runs, but you can't underestimate the contributions he made on the defensive end for those Lakers squads.

    Cooper was an absolute lockdown defender. He was the NBA's Defensive Player of the Year in 1986-87, which is difficult to accomplish as a perimeter defender.

    Cooper was also on the NBA's All-Defensive First Team on five different occasions and the Second Team on three occasions.

4. Byron Scott

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    Byron Scott played 11 of his 14 seasons with the Lakers. Because of his longevity with the team (like Cooper), he contributed more than peak performers like Jones and Wilkes.

    While with the Lakers, Scott posted 65.5 win shares. That's 13 more than Cooper, which is one of the main reasons why he's ahead of him on the list.

    But even though he didn't get the accolades that Cooper got in terms of NBA All-Defensive Teams, he was a better all-around player at his peak.

    While Cooper was clearly a better defender, the difference between the two on offense was more than enough to give Scott the edge. Cooper, for example, had a PER (player efficiency rating) of 12.8, where 15 is considered league average. Scott, on the other hand, had a PER of 15.5 and topped out at 19.2 in 1987-88.

    Scott also contributed 10.7 win shares in that 1987-88 season. Cooper's best season in win shares was 6.5 in 1983-84.

    Not to say that Scott was the superior defender of the two, but he also posted 23.8 defensive win shares with the Lakers, compared to Cooper's 24.7.

3. Gail Goodrich

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    Gail Goodrich, like Jamaal Wilkes, played positions other than shooting guard. But, like Wilkes, he also spent enough time at the 2 to warrant inclusion on this list.

    Goodrich spent nine of his 14 NBA seasons as a member of the Lakers. They were also his best years, and the main reason why he was inducted into the Hall of Fame.

    He was a four-time All-Star as a member of the Lakers. He was also named All-NBA First Team in 1973-74 and was a focal member of the Lakers' 1972 team that won the NBA championship.

    Judging solely by win shares, there's not much separation between Byron Scott and Gail Goodrich. Both posted similar win shares with the Lakers (66.7 for Goodrich; 65.5 for Scott).

    They also had similar totals for their careers (76.3 for Goodrich; 75.2 for Scott), but Goodrich's peak value was higher.

    His best season (1971-72) saw him boast a PER of 20.1 and 12.3 win shares.

2. Jerry West

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    In a world where everything current is automatically better than what came before, we've been led to believe that Kobe Bryant is far-and-away the best shooting guard in Lakers history.

    Don't get me wrong, Kobe is the best, but there's not much separating him from Jerry West at this point.

    The biggest difference between the two right now is the fact that West was only able to win one NBA title during his playing career. Outside of that, there's not much of a difference when judging their overall careers (not including what Bryant will do going forward).

    West is a legend—we're reminded of that every time we look at the NBA logo. He is a member of the Hall of Fame, a 14-time All-Star and a 10-time member of the All-NBA First Team.

    He never won an MVP award during his career, but finished in the top three on five different occasions. He also boasts a higher career-scoring average than Bryant (27.0 points per game for West; 25.4 points per game for Bryant), and Kobe doesn't have a realistic shot of catching him in that category at this stage of his career.

    Along those lines, it's also fair to note that the three-point shot wasn't implemented until after West was done playing. That makes his scoring even more remarkable.

1. Kobe Bryant

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    At this point in his career, Bryant is the best shooting guard in Lakers history.

    It is a serious debate, however, between Bryant and West.

    When Kobe eventually retires, he will have likely widened the gap, but we don't know when that will be or how Kobe's career will finish, so all we can go on is what we've seen so far.

    The main reason Bryant gets the edge is because of his five NBA titles. That's a big difference from West's one championship. Kobe also has one MVP award under his belt and five top-three finishes in the voting during his career.

    That also separates the two because, West never won the award.

    Another area of separation is defense. Kobe's been on the NBA's All-Defensive First Team nine different times. West only reached that distinction four times.

    In fairness to West, the award wasn't created until the 1968-69 season—from that point forward, West was named to the first team every single year until he retired. Because of that, we'll go to defensive win shares, which give Kobe a 47.3-to-37.9 advantage.

    Separating the two is like splitting hairs. They both have been named to 14 All-Star teams, both have finished in the top three of MVP voting on five different occasions, and they're separated by only a few career-win shares (162.6 for West; 164.4 for Kobe).

    But since the purpose of this slideshow is to rank these players, Bryant gets the nod by the slimmest of margins.