Kobe Bryant has long been criticized for taking too many shots, too many bad shots in particular. As time has gone on and analytics in the sport of basketball have improved, the value of Kobe playing the way he does has started to go down.
But yesterday a new way of looking at Kobe’s shooting was brought up in a feature on Grantland by Kirk Goldsberry. He found a new statistic out there called the Kobe Assist.
A Kobe Assist is a missed shot that becomes an offensive rebound and put-back. Kobe Bryant has been one of the best players in the NBA at generating these shots and results.
The notion that all missed shots are created equal is being challenged here. Even the idea that shooting while being double-teamed looks like it could be something that is more valuable in certain situations.
There are a few things to take away regarding Kobe and the Kobe Assist. His teammates know he is going to shoot so they are more prone to being ready to crash the offensive glass when he has the ball. The Lakers offensive system has been in a good one over the years and that includes the idea that offensive rebound opportunities are more likely for them. Kobe is a good shooter and even when he misses if he gets up a good shot there is a good chance a high probability for an offensive rebound will occur.
So how does this affect the Oklahoma City Thunder?
The first guy that you want to think about with the Kobe Assist for the Thunder is their very own volume-shooter Russell Westbrook. If we can say that Westbrook’s misses are also a good thing for the Thunder like Kobe’s misses are for the Lakers then we can finally shut the Westbrook haters up.
Westbrook is similar to Kobe in that his teammates know he will shoot a lot so that means they are also more prepared to crash the glass when he has the ball. The longer a team plays together and gets to know each other, the better they get at reading each other. The Thunder have played together for awhile now and players like Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka are ready to crash the glass when they see Westbrook ready to fire.
But Perkins and Ibaka aren’t necessarily Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum/Dwight Howard. That means a miss is less likely to turn into two points via a put-back because the Thunder bigs aren’t as talented as the Lakers’ are. So right off the bat you have to say a Westbrook miss is a little less valuable than a Kobe miss in that respect.
Now let’s look at Kevin Durant. Durant is one of the purest shooters in the league. His form is flawless and the way the ball comes off his hands is true. Kobe is the same way. Great form and being a great shooter results in better offensive rebound opportunities. This makes sense that when you aren’t bricking the ball off the backboard and rim simultaneously, it becomes easier to read and predict rebounds.
Durant isn’t the volume shooter that Westbrook is although many would like him to become that. Durant’s misses may be easier to read coming off the rim but also factor in that when he shoots, no one really expects him to miss, at least not like when Westbrook shoots so eagerness to crash the glass may be a little less.
Now let’s look at Ibaka’s potential for Kobe Assists. Goldsberry looked at big men like Kevin Love generating Kobe Assists and basically found that they get them less often. The biggest reason for that is that now there is one less big man in position to get an offensive rebound. This is very much the case with Ibaka who is the Thunder’s best offensive rebound but has developed a deadly midrange jump shot too. We don’t know the numbers for this but it’s safe to say that the Thunder don’t get offensive rebounds very often when Ibaka misses an 18-foot jumper. And when the Thunder are going small with Durant at the four and Ibaka at the five, this is enhanced even more.
Goldsberry brought up a very important point with his feature for Grantland. All misses aren’t created equally and it’s something very important to consider all the time.
The Thunder will take on the Lakers tonight for the first time this season. Don’t think people won’t be tracking how many Kobe Assists occur in the game.