In his 11th season, shooting guard Kobe Bryant is having one of his finest seasons ever. Heâ€™s hitting 46% of his shots from the field and 34% of his threes. From the foul line, Bryant is putting in his best season ever, hitting 87%.
At 31.3 PPG, 5.7 RPG and 5.4 APG, Bryant is a true force. Heâ€™ll play in close to 80 games for the second season in a row. Thatâ€™s after having two tough seasons where he played 66 and 65 games. But Bryantâ€™s play does not a victory make. In a loss to the Clippers, he scored 50 points and in a loss to the Suns he scored only 17.
Despite his greatness, Bryant is not enough to take the Lakers through the typical tough playoff scenario. In fact, Los Angeles may still not make it into the post season. At 40 and 40, the .500 Lakers are 20.5 games behind the Pacific Division-leading Phoenix Suns.
The irony here is that the Lakers would probably, in the long run, be better off without Bryant. Why? Bryant makes them just good enough to sneak into the playoffs but not good enough to get past the first or second round.
This is the dilemma of the NBA. Great players are essential to making a competitive team but one great player does not a great team make– especially a great shooting guard. These days the best player to have is a tough banging forward or, even better and more rare, a pure center.
Is Lakersâ€™ forward Lamar Odom the answer? Heâ€™s got 15.9 PPG and 9.8 RPG. But Odom is playing with a rehabbed shoulder injuryâ€”a torn labrum. This is a shoulder that he had surgery on two years ago and one that heâ€™ll probably have surgery on again at the end of the season.
Once into the playoffs, it will be very tough Odom to sustain his play, especially banging against some of the more healthy clubs. At center, young Andrew Bynum has been a force, scoring 7.8 PPG and gabbing 6 RPG. But heâ€™s a backup.
Veteran Kwame Brown (8.3 PPG, 6.1 RPG) at forward/center is essential to the clubs and heâ€™s also been injured during the season.
Soâ€”Bryant can be brilliant but Brown and Odom may be liabilities due to their health issues. Kobe is not enough to take the Lakers deep. But heâ€™ll create some good highlights and put up solid