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L.A. Lakers: Should Kobe Bryant Still Be the 1st Option on Offense?

Hadarii JonesSenior Writer IJune 11, 2011

DALLAS, TX - MAY 06:  Guard Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers reacts during a 98-92 loss against the Dallas Mavericks in Game Three of the Western Conference Semifinals during the 2011 NBA Playoffs on May 6, 2011 at American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

I'm not sure what offensive approach new Los Angeles Lakers head coach Mike Brown will take, but if his time with the Cleveland Cavaliers is any indication, then it will likely feature guard Kobe Bryant as the primary scoring option.

But is that still the best direction for the Lakers to take?

I'm confident that Bryant is capable of guiding the Lakers offense as he has for most of the past decade, but it may be time to shift the attention and focus of the Lakers attack to the paint.

The Lakers were swept out of the 2011 postseason by the Dallas Mavericks, but the loss doesn't change the fact that the interior of Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom will still be among the NBA's strongest post units next season.

And unless Brown decides to continue running the triangle offense, it would be wise to play to the strengths of his team in his first season as coach, and without question the Lakers biggest advantage is their size and talent in the paint.

Bynum displayed that he could be a steady, reliable scoring option if given enough touches and when healthy, and if Gasol can work himself out of a mental funk, he has proved that the offense can be efficiently run through him.

Bryant's 25 points per game last season don't suggest that he has hit the career decline that everyone has predicted, but Bryant has had to work harder to score those points.

The lift in Bryant's legs has diminished during his 15-season professional career, and he doesn't have the same burst of quickness in his first step, and has been forced to rely on his wit and ball-handling ability to beat opponents off the dribble.

Although Bryant's minutes played were the lowest of his career this season, he still seemed tired and spent during the playoffs, and the issues with fatigue will only increase in the future.

But a shift in offensive strategy for the Lakers could actually make the game easier for Bryant, and feeding the ball into the post with the intention of attacking the basket would force the opposition to sag away from Bryant on the perimeter.

In the past, when Bryant threw the ball in the paint, his defender understood that Bryant would likely get the ball right back, which made it an easy decision to stick with Bryant rather than doubling in the post.

But if the main intention is to score off the first entry pass, then the perimeter defender is forced to help in the paint or risk being exploited by the Lakers' superior size.

This dynamic would allow more room for Bryant to operate on the perimeter, he would get far more open looks and it would make it much more difficult for opponents to double-team him far away from the basket.

Of course, the wild cards in this scenario are Bynum's health, Gasol's mental state and Bryant's willingness to accept a reduced, but still vital, role.

Bynum once again appears ready to take another major step in his development as a player, but the specter of another leg injury is always around the corner.

The positive thing in Bynum's case is he hasn't allowed the threat of injury to affect how he plays the game, and his aggressive post play in spite of his numerous setbacks speaks volumes about his heart.

Hopefully Gasol can conquer whatever demons plagued him in the postseason because his problems clearly were more mental than physical.

Gasol looked confused, uninterested and totally detached from what the Lakers were during in the playoffs, which is nothing like the multi-talented version of Gasol that fans were used to.

Whatever ailed Gasol seems to be correctable and a healthy Bynum gives the Lakers hope amid the uncertainty that comes with breaking in a new coach. But only if Bryant realizes that relinquishing the offensive reins could be in the best interest of the team.

Bryant will likely still lead the Lakers in scoring whether he is the primary offensive option or not, but the Lakers will be a stronger team if they focus their attention on the paint.

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