2010-11 NBA Predictions: 10 Reasons Kobe Bryant Will Be the Best SG in the NBA
The shooting guard position is one of the toughest roles to play in the NBA.
The best players at this position can be one of the primary ball handlers on their respective teams, possess an accurate outside shot, can dribble penetrate into opposing defenses, and guard against opposing fast breaks. Not to mention that they often lead their teams in scoring.
There are a lot of great shooting guards in the NBA today. Brandon Roy, Monta Ellis, Eric Gordon, Kevin Martin, Manu Ginobili, Ray Allen, Vince Carter, O.J. Mayo, Joe Johnson, and Dwyane Wade are among the best in the game.
While all of these players are amazing athletes in their own right, one player will once again shine above all others at the shooting guard position this season.
And his name is Kobe Bryant.
Kobe has almost always had a large list of detractors and skeptics over his career. Over this past offseason, many are quick to point out how Kobe Bryant is too old. He has too many serious injuries and recovering from his latest knee surgery will only slow him down.
After shooting 28 percent from the field during the preseason, some people suggest that this is a sign of things to come this year: more poor shooting from Mr. Bryant.
But we should know better than to doubt Kobe Bryant. He has proven us all wrong before and this year will be nothing new.
Here are 10 reasons why Kobe Bryant will continue to be the best shooting guard in the NBA this season.
1. Post Up Game
Kobe Bryant posting up Dwyane Wade
While there are many elite shooting guards in the NBA, only a select handful have the ability to effectively post up other players.
Having a potent game in the post requires a combination of size, strength, superior footwork, elite athleticism, and a vast array of offensive moves and countermoves.
One of the reasons that made Michael Jordan arguably the best player in NBA history was his ability to be a dominant presence in the post.
Like Jordan, Kobe has developed over the years the best post game of any guard in the NBA. Whether his moves lead to layups, scoop shots, up-and-unders, or fade away jumpers, the post up game allows Kobe to score easier shots closer to the basket.
At a time when Kobe has gotten older and his athleticism has eroded, this part of the game has helped Kobe remain one of the top scorers in the league.
As a testament to his hard work, Bryant has added to his post moves over the year. Last summer, for example, he studied with NBA great Hakeem Olajuwon. Throughout the season and playoffs last year, some of Olajuwon’s moves, including his signature “dream shake,” were on full display by Kobe Bryant.
It can also be argued that Kobe has a better post game than most big men in the NBA today. And with Andrew Bynum out at the beginning of the season, there will be even more room for Kobe to operate in the post.
Only a handful of guards have been able to dominate the NBA from the post. Oscar Robertson was one of the first to do so, although he never proved to be a big winner in the league.
Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan followed in Oscar’s footsteps while figuring out how to become big winners.
Add Mr. Kobe Bean Bryant to that list.
2. Clutch Ability
Kobe Bryant hitting a game winning 3-pointer against Miami last season
There are many different ways one can measure clutch shots. To take this one step further, think about what shots count as being taken in the clutch.
Do shot attempts at the end of each quarter count? At the end of a 24-second possession?
Consider the end of a game. Would you count shots in the last 24 seconds or the last 10? How about the last 5 seconds?
The point is that web sites like 82games.com find subjective ways to measure clutch shots which can show that Kobe Bryant may not be as “efficient in the clutch” as other players.
But let’s be serious here for a second. We’re talking about a player who already has more career winning shots than Michael Jordan.
Kobe Bryant is the player who led the US National Team in the Gold Medal Game of the 2008 Olympics in the clutch against Spain.
Dwyane Wade and LeBron James were among the other top scorers on the team, and are often said to be more efficient in clutch situations. Yet, it was Bryant who succeeded in those tense moments of the tournament.
And of course, there are the six game-winners from last year alone, three of which were from three-point territory.
Every year when the NBA GM Survey is given out, the overwhelming majority (some years over 90 percent) have felt that Bryant is the one player they would want taking the last shot with the game on the line.
So in being honest with ourselves, is there anyone in the NBA you would rather take besides Kobe Bryant to close out a game?
This year will prove to be no different.
The Lakers seem to have a deeper roster and may end up seeing less games close at the end of regulation. But when LA finds itself in those situations, are you really going to doubt Mr. Bryant?
Kobe Bryant defending Lebron James
Kobe Bryant is universally regarded as one of the top perimeter defenders in the NBA. Last year he picked up his 10th selection to the All-Defensive Team. Only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Tim Duncan have more selections.
Being named actually to the First Defensive Team for the eighth time, only Michael Jordan and Gary Payton have more selections at nine apiece.
The All-Defensive Team may be one of the fairest awards in the NBA as it is one of the few that is decided on by the NBA coaches rather than the media.
Coaches see close up which players are most effective at defending their top scorers and playmakers on a daily basis. Unlike the media, they are probably less likely to turn their votes into a popularity contest.
And if you think that Kobe Bryant has slipped in defensive abilities, think again. The NBA GMs still feel that he is the best perimeter defender in the NBA.
They know about Kobe’s injuries and age, and yet they still voted this way. They saw the way he inspired Team USA to play tough defense in the 2008 Olympics. They also remember how he helped shutdown Russell Westbrook and Rajon Rondo in this year’s playoffs.
Despite the fact that younger players like Dwyane Wade may be quicker and can leap higher than Kobe at this point of his career, none of them have the experience he has or his defensive footwork ability.
The tricks he has learned in his 14 years in the NBA have given him an advantage each year in the playoffs. This season will be no different.
4. The Competition
On many lists ranking the top shooting guards, two other names usually surface near the top: Brandon Roy and Dwyane Wade.
Brandon Roy is an amazing talent, and always seems to kill the Lakers when he plays. Last year he shot a decent percentage (47% FG) and has a well-rounded game averaging in the neighborhood of 20 plus points, 4-5 rebounds, and 4-5 assists per game.
But there are many facets of the game that Kobe Bryant outshines Roy. These include the post up game, the tenacity and ability to handle big pressure moments, and defense.
But there is one more thing that Roy lacks compared to Bryant: the intimidation factor.
Michael Jordan had it when he would walk onto the court. Just looking at him would make opposing players nervous.
In today’s NBA, Kobe Bryant is one of the few players that carries this same presence with him when he steps foot onto the hardwood.
Another player that carries the same intimidation factor is Dwyane Wade.
Many argue that today Wade is a better player than Kobe Bryant. And quite the compelling case can be made to back this statement.
Regarding Dwyane Wade, he is a player who is highly efficient, great at getting to the free throw line, an excellent help defender, one of the best playmakers, and is fearless in the clutch.
However, in breaking down his game, one can see where Kobe outshines Wade.
For instance, where Kobe lacks in athletic ability he makes up for in superior defensive footwork and veteran tricks. Additionally, Wade’s post game and one-on-one defense has yet to catch up to Bryant’s abilities in these areas.
And while Wade is one of the best in the clutch, remember that this is the same player that deferred to Kobe in the US Olympics.
Brandon Roy and Dwayne Wade are tremendous players and are worthy choices as franchise players. But among all-stars like these, Kobe Bryant still finds a way to stand out as a superstar.
5. The Success of the Los Angeles Lakers
One of the signs of great players it that they can help lead talented teams to success.
While analyzing the Los Angeles Lakers’ roster this season, it is easy to speculate that the team will do well.
Last year the team had a weak bench and would often give up substantial leads built by the starting five players.
During the offseason, the Lakers essentially replaced Jordan Farmar, Adam Morrison, Josh Powell, and D.J. Mbenga with Steve Blake, Devin Ebanks, Matt Barnes, and Theo Ratliff.
Given these changes, it is likely that the second unit will be much improved from last year and less likely to surrender big leads. This may especially be true when Andrew Bynum returns to the team and Lamar Odom can help lead the second unit.
But leading the way will be the stars of the team—Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant.
If the Lakers can get the number one seed in the Western Conference for the fourth year in a row, this will only help Kobe Bryant in being seen as the top shooting guard in the league.
Kobe Bryant and Sasha Vujacic
There are a lot of great leaders in the NBA. Steve Nash and Jason Kidd are two of the best that come to mind.
Once again referring to the 2010-2011 NBA GM Survey, Kobe Bryant came in third place as the best leader. Just as important, Kobe Bryant was the only shooting guard in the league that received a significant amount of votes.
I believe that Kobe Bryant got this recognition because the GMs acknowledge what he does on a daily basis to serve as an example to his teammates (and to other players in the league).
For instance, Kobe Bryant often arrives early or stays late after practice to work with teammates one-on-one in order to help improve their game.
Over the summer, he has taken new players like Steve Blake, Derrick Caracter, and Devin Ebanks under his wing, trying to adjust to the triangle offense. Regarding Ebanks and Caracter, Kobe has gone a step further in trying to help them feel comfortable as newcomers to the NBA.
The knowledge that he shares with others in his mentoring role is invaluable and is one reason why Kobe makes such a high salary.
While there may be other shooting guards in the NBA who are great leaders, it is doubtful that any of those players are better than Kobe Bryant when it comes to leadership.
7. Ability to Recover From Injuries
Ethan Miller/Getty Images
In the aftermath of Kobe Bryant’s knee surgery this summer, many have pointed to his struggles during the preseason as signs of future recovery issues.
Despite this negative attention, I am going to give Kobe Bryant the benefit of doubt about his ability to heal completely. Once again he should be a dominant force in the NBA.
The reason I feel this way is that we only need to look back at 2006 when Kobe Bryant had a similar surgery during the offseason. The same critics made the similar assumptions about Bryant, especially when he started that season slowly.
After the first few weeks, Kobe quickly silenced his critics. That year would be the second consecutive season where he led the league in scoring at 31.6 ppg while adding 5.7 rpg and 5.4 apg.
I personally have doubted his capabilities of playing with injuries before. I have learned to not make that mistake again.
Kobe Bryant says he should be fully recovered within the next few weeks, which will help him once again be the top shooting guard in the NBA.
Is there any reason not to believe him after all of the times he has proven us wrong?
Shaq after signing with the Boston Celtics
This season has the potential to enhance some legacies for the Los Angeles Lakers greatly.
Phil Jackson, for instance, will be going for his fourth three-peat as he attempts to earn a sixth championship with the Lakers as he did with the Chicago Bulls.
While the motivation will be there for Jackson to coach one of his finest seasons, Kobe Bryant has some of his own legacy at risk.
In normal years, Kobe Bryant does not need any extra motivation. But this year is different. He has the chance to tie Michael Jordan with six rings.
In case that wasn’t enough motivation, one more championship for the Lakers would tie the franchise with Boston at 17 titles for most all-time in the NBA.
While Magic Johnson helped make the Lakers one of the most popular franchises in professional sports, Kobe Bryant has the potential to turn the Lakers into the greatest franchise in NBA history. If there’s any way to topple Magic’s legacy, this is surely one way to do so.
But wait! There’s more! (I know that sounds like an infomercial but I couldn’t resist).
If Kobe and the Lakers make it to the Finals this year, they are likely to face either the re-vamped Boston Celtics or the Miami Heat with its new superstar trio of Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, and Lebron James.
If the Lakers beat Boston once again, this will be significant for a number of reasons. Besides tying the Celtics in championships, Kobe will have beaten Boston two times matching Magic Johnson’s Showtime teams. In addition, he will have beaten Boston in two consecutive years—something no Lakers player has ever done before.
Throw in the fact that a championship would further one-up former teammate Shaquille O’Neal in rings and this would be icing on the cake.
Regarding Miami, beating the Heat would also add to Kobe Bryant’s legendary career. The NBA has seen its share of great trios, but perhaps never before has the league seen arguably three of the top ten players in their prime team together.
In all of his greatness, Michael Jordan never had to defeat a team like this in order to win an NBA championship.
Beating any of these teams would make a strong case for many people to consider Kobe Bryant as perhaps the second best player of all time after Jordan.
Although he doesn’t usually need extra motivation, the factors at play this season should only help Bryant perform at his best.
9. Work Ethic
Kobe Bryant in practice
One of the reasons that Kobe Bryant comes back year after year dominating the league is that he is nearly universally regarded as one of the hardest working individuals in the NBA.
While other players go on vacation during the offseason, Kobe Bryant gets up early to work out every day at the gym at 7 a.m.
Before most games, Kobe is one of the first players in the arena as he tries to practice his array of shots. After most practices, Kobe is also one of the last players to leave the gym.
He just never seems to be satisfied with where his game is, always having a thirst to improve and perform better.
His conditioning routine is legendary and follows in the footsteps of players like Jordan and Karl Malone, who were able to play effectively until their late 30s.
Kobe Bryant is sure to come across some bumps in the road this year. But the fact that Kobe turns each failure into a learning opportunity and becomes determined to get back up stronger will help keep his game at the highest level.
10. Understanding of the Game
A player’s ability to truly understand the game is one of the intangibles that is more difficult to measure. Yet, this talent can help make the difference between a team winning and losing.
To see how the team’s offensive sets are unfolding and how the defense is reacting takes years of practice. Usually the players best able to do this are point guards, as they are seen as extensions of the coaching staff on the court.
In regards to Kobe Bryant, once again the NBA GMs got it right in recognizing his basketball IQ. In the most recent survey, Kobe came in second after Steve Nash in this category.
Not only did the GMs rightfully select Nash as the best in regards to basketball IQ (he is indeed one of the best decision-makers in NBA history) but they justifiably selected Bryant as the top shooting guard in this area.
In the past 30 years, only three other players seem to have fully grasped the game the way Kobe Bryant does: Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, and Michael Jordan.
This is a key difference-maker in the abilities of Kobe Bryant compared to the rest of the shooting guards in the NBA, and it is just one of the many reasons that have made Kobe one of the top five players of all-time.
But legacy aside, all of the facets of the game discussed in this article indicate that whatever doubts we have about Kobe Bryant this season, we are best served to cast those aside.
Lakers fans can rest assured that Kobe Bryant will be back this season once again as the greatest shooting guard in the NBA.