Kobe Bryant of the L.A. Lakers
It goes without saying that the contributions of every teammate will be crucial, but we will focus exclusively on the guys at the bottom of the totem pole. Hence, Pau Gasol and Steve Nash will be omitted from this list.
The tandem is talented enough to carry him through some rough stretches while he regains his physical form. The players with lesser talent will not necessarily put Bryant on their backs, but they can definitely make his life easier going forward.
Thus, we will look at what the interchangeable parts on the team can do on their end to maximize their time alongside Bryant and assist him in seamlessly blending in with the Purple and Gold.
Steve Blake of the L.A. Lakers
Steve Blake’s ball-handling and shooting ability are a necessity for Kobe Bryant given that he will reduce the superstar’s responsibilities. Bryant has always favored running the offense and carrying the load, but that might be too much to ask of him considering his likely diminished state.
Hence, Blake will help his 2-guard by removing some of his playmaking duties and consequently, that will allow Bryant to focus on what he does best: scoring.
Jordan Farmar drives past the Detroit Pistons
Jordan Farmar is exceptional in the open court because he pushes the ball up the floor and looks for early offense. Kobe Bryant will need the former New Jersey Net to continue doing this because it will be one of the ways his teammates can help him get back into the flow of games.
Bryant is a natural scorer with tremendous confidence, however it may be difficult for him to develop a rhythm when he first joins his teammates on the hardwood in 2013-14.
He will need some fairly easy looks that he can convert and from there, the rest of his game will come together. Also, it’s worth noting that Farmar’s quick transition attacks will reduce the need for Bryant’s scoring given that his teammates benefit from easy fast-break opportunities as well.
Nick Young has a knack for putting the ball on the floor.
Kobe Bryant has turned himself into one of the most lethal mid-range shooters in league history and as a result, one must assume he will continue to hunt down those shots.
That task gains some difficulty when defenses shrink the court by stationing players into driving lanes and send extra defenders towards Bryant’s sweet spots. Nick Young’s long-range shooting ability can mitigate this tactic.
The former Philadelphia 76er must camp out at the three-point line and make open shots whenever the ball swings his way. This will stretch out defenses and thus, it will allow Bryant to get some one-on-one opportunities in the mid-range area.
It’s worth noting that Young also has some one-on-one skills of his own and as a result, he can help Bryant by forcing other players to rotate off him, which will in turn result in the future Hall of Fame player getting open.
Xavier Henry explodes to the basket.
Kobe Bryant had become an uninterested defender prior to his Achilles injury and really, it’s fair to assume his motivation on that end will remain just as consistent. Keep in mind, his physical state might also prevent him from locking down players when he actually wants to.
He has always had an “on” switch on this side of the floor, but it might no longer be functional. Xavier Henry can help him out on this front by guarding the best perimeter player on the other team.
This will allow Bryant to roam around and disrupt plays. Furthermore, it gives him a chance to rest up a little on defense and conserve his energy.
Jodie Meeks attacks the basket.
With Jodie Meeks on the floor, Kobe Bryant will get some room to operate for both drives and post-ups because of his three-point proficiency. Much like Nick Young, Meeks helps out by spacing the floor and giving the superstar areas to work for his shots against single coverage.
This helps out Bryant because no one defender has ever been able to limit his production and really, it’s possible that will still be the case when he returns from his Achilles tear.
However, against a swarm of defenders, Bryant is not as effective (think of the 2008 NBA Finals versus the Boston Celtics) because he cannot get to his spots.
Jordan Hill certainly takes up some space in the paint.
As evidenced by the 2012-13 campaign, Kobe Bryant needs some help on the defensive side of the ball. Jordan Hill can protect his teammate by covering up for him when he gets beat off the dribble.
Hill has some shot-blocking value and also, he does a good job of rebounding his area. The ability to both contest shots and clean up the boards will certainly make Bryant look better because it will give him chances to score, all the while preventing him from surrendering an equal amount of points.
Shawne Williams stretches the floor with his jumper.
Shawne Williams is a cleanup man of sorts, and that serves to Kobe Bryant’s benefit. The best way he can help out the two-time Finals MVP is by maintaining his role as a small-ball power forward where he stretches the court with his range.
Williams is not a great shooter, but he is decent enough from downtown that opposing big forwards must account for him defensively. Also, his presence occasionally forces teams to downsize, which is a plus for Bryant.
Indeed, Williams will help his teammate by forcing teams to match up with the Lakers. That results in a lack of rim protectors and as a result, Bryant will get more driving opportunities.
Chris Kaman of the L.A. Lakers
It’s important for Kobe Bryant to have players around him who can catch and finish at the rim. Kaman has good hands and also, he converts shots around the basket with both hands.
This is a great option for Bryant when opponents trap him, especially in the pick-and-roll. Kaman must make himself available by cutting to the basket and getting his hands on passes thrown his way.
That gives Bryant a pressure-release point against pressure defense and prevents him from coughing up the ball.
Wesley Johnson (right) flies in for the swat.
Wesley Johnson can help Kobe Bryant by volunteering to defend the best perimeter player on the other team when he plays alongside the five-time world champion.
That will give Bryant an opportunity to rest on defense and keep his energy for the offensive end. In addition, Johnson has demonstrated in 2013-14 that he can hit the long ball.
He can give Bryant some relief by remaining aggressive and making open shots.
Robert Sacre of the L.A. Lakers
Robert Sacre is an energizer bunny and really, that is his best gift in terms of assisting Kobe Bryant.
The big man encourages teammates and crashes the boards when inserted into the lineup. He will help Bryant by creating second-chance opportunities for the superstar.
Furthermore, Sacre is a big body and consequently, his screens often hold up defenders. He can free up the Lakers’ all-time leading scorer both on and off the ball with his picks.
Ryan Kelly (left) supports his teammate.
The book on Ryan Kelly is fairly small given that he lacks experience and has not really played in 2013-14. Nonetheless, he could be an asset for Kobe Bryant especially in the screen-and-pop game.
Kelly has three-point range and as a result, teams will find it difficult to corral both him and Bryant when they run the two-man game. Kelly will help Bryant get free off the bounce against slower second-unit forwards, especially if they favor switching on screens defensively.
Given that it’s a losing proposition, they will probably trap Bryant and allow Kelly to beat them from deep. That will loosen up the defense and allow the former league MVP to shake free.