Recently there’s been talk about Kobe Bryant’s 05-06 season on this site about it being overrated but I’m here to give somewhat of a counter argument to this article if you didn’t get a chance to read it. Now this is not going to be a rebuttal against every argument necessarily but more so a highlight of just how great Kobe was in this season.
The team’s entire roster through the regular season was Kobe Bryant, Lamar Odom, Smush Parker, Kwame Brown, Chris Mihm, Devean George, Luke Walton, Brian Cook, Sasha Vujacic, Laron Profit, Aaron McKie, Andrew Bynum, Jim Jackson, Ronny Turiaf, Devin Green, Von Wafer, and Stanislav Medvedenko. Lamar Odom was the only player that was an above average NBA player on this team otherwise LA featured guys who are known as some of the worst busts of all time in Kwame Brown and players the entire league saw as a joke playing 34 minutes a game in Smush Parker.
The team overall had no identity. The game plan every night was Kobe please save us and if you’re lucky we’ll play defense on the other end. Phil Jackson had just come back to a complete mess with players incapable of running the triangle and the only other option on Lamar Odom. Iverson and LeBron in their finals pushes at least had stout defenses to give them a chance Kobe’s 05-06 Lakers defense was 15th in the league. So average as average gets.
Then there are A LOT of moments like this throughout the year. This is in the first 9 seconds of the possession, you have one player trying to post up on the right block, but not totally committed to doing anything really. Then another player looks like he wants to back screen then flare out just no real movement set or anything happening here. This was not a set isolation play and Kobe could have probably afforded to not take a shot that early but this is the sort of thing that always happened with the Lakers.
Another thing people seem to use a lot is the team’s record and the fact it wasn’t a top 4 team or whatever the case may be. Our good writer Jack used the examples of the most recent great seasons of Steph Curry and Kevin Durant as the comparisons. Some things need to be realized.
Kevin Durant’s 13-14 season was incredible but even without Russell Westbrook his team was incredibly better than Kobe’s 05-06 Lakers cast. The Thunder featured elite shooters and defenders. League average in both seasons was a little over 35% from 3. Durant had 5 players of 35%> or higher. Kobe had 2. The two were Lamar Odom and Smush Parker. Greater shooting and overall spacing helps a scorer like Durant and Kobe to be more efficient and not face the full force of a defense every time down. This is not an attempt to say Durant’s season was better or worse just bringing to light the obstacles Kobe had to face. The same goes for Steph, but it doesn’t seem necessary to bring up the amount of shooting his team has and the overall powerful cast.
Kobe Bryant led a team with the face of the term bust, face of what we consider a scrub, Lamar Odom, and essentially the rest were career 15 minutes or less guys. Kobe carried this atrocious cast to the 8th best offense in the league. Kobe’s on/off court impact is insane.The team’s offensive rating with him off the floor was a pathetic 92.4. That is 8.7 points lower than the worst offensive team in the league. Just for reference to have a real grasp at how putrid that is if you were to add 8.7 points to the worst offensive team in the league they would be the 5th best offense in the league.So, the drop-off the Lakers had without Kobe was a 25 team difference from the 30th ranked offense in the league to the 5th ranked offense. When Kobe was on the floor the team had an offensive rating of 111.3 which would be ranked as the 3rd best offense in the league behind the Dallas Mavericks and Phoenix Suns. When you look at impact like that degrading a season in anyway because of the overall team record is a little insane.
Another thing that needs to be mentioned is the impact analytics has had. Analytics did not really start getting a push until about 2010. If analytics were greater emphasized at the time Kobe probably would not be taking shots like this.
Only way that shot could have been a more inefficient shot is if he took it off the dribble and if the closeout man did a better job. Now Kobe was awful this past season, but even though it could be considered a small sample size since it is one season out of a nineteen year career, but Kobe’s only season that he even played 60 games in he took 7 3-pointers a game. Now he was not efficient in them as he was clearly not in his prime anymore, but it is worth noting the impact analytics has had on both scorers mentioned in my collegues article.
Look at the attention that Kobe receives every time he has the ball on the court.
Playing against this sort of defense makes it extremely hard for a player to lead his team anywhere when his teammates can’t make the defense pay for giving Kobe so much of their attention. That is 5 heads 100% focused on Kobe not even caring to pay attention to their own guys.
It’s not like Kobe was just feasting on all bad teams either. Some games against top 5 defenses that year
- 1st ranked San Antonio Spurs 43 points 6 rebounds 3 assists 62.1%TS
- 2nd ranked Memphis Grizzlies 27 points 8 rebounds 3 assists 65.8%TS
- 3rd ranked New Jersey Nets 46 points 3 rebounds 3 assists 53.4%TS
- 4th ranked Indiana Pacers 45 points 10 rebounds 5 assists 54.6%TS
- 5th ranked Detroit Pistons 40 points 5 rebounds 4 assists 63.1%TS
Kobe Bryant carried a team that should have been going for a top 5 pick to a 3-1 lead over the greatest offensive team of the 2000s and arguably greatest offense of all time. People overlook it because the Lakers ended up losing that series, but the fact that they were even there is insane. The Suns should have swept the Lakers and the Lakers were 1 game away from beating them because of Kobe. This article is not meant to be made to say this is the greatest season of all time. Many have seem to overlook this season as if it was just a stat stuffing season with no meaning like a Demarcus Cousins or someone of that nature. After a game in San Antonio that the Lakers lost to put them at a 38-35 record which would not have gotten them into the playoffs with a winning percentage of 52%. (8th seeded Sacramento Kings had a 44-38 record with a winning percentage of 53.7%.) Kobe final 9 games of the season averaged 41.8 points, 5.4 rebounds, 3.7 assists, and on a true shooting percentage of 60.7%. Kobe Bryant’s 2005-06 season was nothing short of amazing and should always be remembered in NBA as a display of true greatness of one of the greatest 10 players of all time carrying his team into a playoff appearance.