Kobe Bryant has been locked and loaded all season long.
Kobe Bryant is the most valuable player in the NBA after the 2012 portion of the season. His scoring, leadership and relative importance to his team make him the leading candidate to take home the league's most coveted individual award.
Think LeBron James, Kevin Durant or Carmelo deserve it more? Prepare to be proven wrong.
KB is scoring at a very high clip in his 17th season as an NBA starter. Granted, the dude is jacking up shots like he knows his career is ending soon. However you want to look at it, Kobe is putting
the rock through the net more than any athlete in the NBA and has the league lead in points to show for it.
Bryant is averaging 30.3 points per game through the season's first 31 contests and shooting at a composite 47.9 percent. That's 2.5 percent higher than his career average of 45.4 percent.
KB has gotten to the line 8.7 times per game and converted at 84.4 percent. That ranks him second on the squad and fourth in the NBA in attempts. Any way you look at it, his numbers are pretty prolific for a 34-year-old vet with the wear and tear of nearly 20 years of NBA competition under his belt.
To get a further understanding of the Black Mamba's scoring efforts for the Lakers this year, lets look at a breakdown of some important aspects of his offensive efficiency compared to others around the NBA.
Even though it feels like Bryant is trying to shoot his team out of the Dark Ages at times, there has not be a more complete offensive player in the game since Michael Jordan.
KB24 boasts the strongest combination of post moves, ball handling and pure shooting—all of this has allowed him to continually adapt his game as the NBA experiences style and tempo changes.
Lastly, his offensive versatility allows Kobe to quickly learn and then teach new offensive systems to his teammates. This skill is extremely unique and especially useful in a season that has already featured a head coaching change and multiple on-court personnel changes.
That brings me to my next point.
When you start the conversation about the league's most valuable player, it is important not to forget intangibles.
Sure, Kobe is not the only player in the league capable of dropping 30 points every game. In fact, if other players—I'm talking about KD and LBJ here—hoisted as many looks as Kobe they might score closer to 40 per night.
But both of the aforementioned NBA beasts are playing on teams with established game plans, surrounded by teammates they have grown comfortable with and competed with for at least two years.
This season has been the opposite of routine for the Lakers organization. After losing all 10 preseason games and limping out to a disturbingly slow start in Mike Brown's "Princeton Offense", the front office made a quick switch and hired Mike D'Antoni. It was a bit of a curious hire because former Lakers head coach Phil Jackson was reportedly a candidate as well, and he could have immediately reintroduced stability.
Instead, GM Mitch Kupchak entrusted the reins of the Purple and Gold to D'Antoni, implying another transition in strategy for a team already in early season shambles.
During the initial period of growth under Coach D'Antoni—which was slowed mightily by the absence of floor general and point guard Steve Nash—Kobe was the glue that held the squad together.
Bryant has successfully guided a wounded team back into contention in the super competitive Western Conference. Dwight Howard is not fully healthy. Pau Gasol—despite marked improvement as of late—has had an inconsistent season and is battling sore knees. Steve Nash has missed more time than any Lakers fan could feel comfortable with.
Through it all, Kobe has been the shining light for L.A.'s more traditionally successful basketball organization. He scores, rebounds, passes well, motivates and prepares as well as any individual around the league.
He has done an outstanding job of handling media pressure—almost like a coach—consistently reminding reporters and teammates to keep regular season failures in perspective. Without Bryant, the Lakers would be a complete mess both on the court and behind closed doors.
He's the most valuable asset that any team in the NBA has.