In the eyes of many, Kobe Bryant has been a dominant defensive player in his 15-year career, and his ability to lock down opponents has been awarded—Bryant has been a part of nine All-Defensive first teams and two All-Defensive second teams.
However, despite being perceived as the best defender at his position, Bryant hasn’t necessarily been an elite defender in reality.
This season, shooting guards such as Dwyane Wade and Tony Allen, for example, were clearly better man-to-man defenders than Bryant was.
In fact, due to his age and physical deterioration, Bryant seemed to struggle defensively against younger, athletic players, and the same could be said for perimeter players like Derek Fisher and Steve Blake, both of whom also struggled defensively.
Bryant, who is known around the league as the Lakers’ smartest defender, wasn’t able to use his impressive mental capacity to anchor his team’s perimeter defense consistently because of the variety of physical mismatches that the team faced.
The team had trouble guarding younger and more physically dominant players such as Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant and Derrick Rose.
As younger players continue to dominate the NBA, the old Lakers will only have more trouble defensively.
Bryant will have trouble controlling the teams’ defense because of the Lakers’ lack of athleticism and youth as a whole—the physical and athletic dominance of younger teams outweighs the Lakers’ sole mental determination.
It is still possible for Bryant to successfully anchor the Lakers’ perimeter defense, however.
Like many of the Lakers’ other problems, youth seems to be the remedy of this one too.
The Lakers have quite a few younger players, such as Devin Ebanks, Shannon Brown and 2011 NBA second round draftee Darius Morris.
If Bryant mentors these players and becomes their defensive captain, the youthful energy of the Lakers can match that of other teams, and the Lakers’ perimeter defense can reach a high level of dominance with Bryant as the anchor.