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December 12, 2011

Kobe-CP3 Would Have Made for an Intriguing Experiment

Filed under: Uncategorized — Neil Paine @ 12:53 pm

Despite attempts to rework the trade this weekend, the Kobe Bryant-Chris Paul pairing is not to be. That’s sad news if you like basketball experiments, because it would have been interesting to watch the dynamic unfold between the two great guards.

As Sebastian Pruiti wrote at Grantland, Derek Fisher was essentially the Lakers’ point guard in name only over the past few seasons, as Kobe handled the ball more and played the role of offensive initiator that most teams demand from their PG. In fact, because of the triangle offense, Bryant has never really played with a ball-dominating PG. Take a look at his career as a starter, using Bob Chaikin’s “touches” metric (“%Touch” = the player’s percentage of his team touches — aka opportunities in an attacking position on the floor — while in the game, where 20% is average):

Year	Kobe %Touch	Kobe ORtg	Primary PG	%Touch	ORtg	Prv%T	PrvOrtg
1999	23.6%		106		Fisher		26.9%	103	26.7%	109
2000	26.6%		110		Harper		21.6%	98	23.0%	93
2001	28.7%		112		Shaw		21.6%	102	24.2%	97
2002	30.5%		112		Fisher		18.2%	114	21.0%	113
2003	31.5%		111		Fisher		18.2%	110	18.2%	114
2004	28.6%		112		Payton		26.7%	109	36.7%	108
2005	34.1%		111		Atkins		23.4%	112	26.0%	103
2006	32.2%		114		Parker		20.7%	108	22.1%	83
2007	31.5%		115		Parker		19.1%	101	20.7%	108
2008	29.6%		115		Fisher		19.8%	114	21.3%	108
2009	30.2%		115		Fisher		18.5%	117	19.8%	114
2010	31.2%		109		Fisher		17.3%	105	18.5%	117
2011	33.2%		111		Fisher		17.2%	105	17.3%	105
2012	---		---		Paul		---	---	43.7%	122

In recent seasons, Kobe has had about 30-34% of L.A.’s touches while on the court, while the Lakers’ primary PGs have been under 20% (they haven’t had a PG hit 20% since Smush Parker in 2006). Of the new PGs they’ve brought in, only Gary Payton (36.7% in 2003) had a particularly high %Touch the year before coming to the Lakers, and all of them saw their %Touch decrease when joining L.A.’s starting lineup. In other words, L.A. usually targeted low-touch point guards and asked them to touch the ball even less when paired with Bryant.

Chris Paul is a different sort of point guard. Here are his career %Touch numbers:

Year	Age	Team	G	MP	%Touch	ORtg
2006	20	NOK	78	2808	39.6%	114
2007	21	NOK	64	2353	42.8%	116
2008	22	NOH	80	3006	48.5%	125
2009	23	NOH	78	3002	50.1%	124
2010	24	NOH	45	1712	43.0%	122
2011	25	NOH	80	2880	43.7%	122

CP3 has been in the 43% range for two years running, and was at or near 50% before his knee injury, making him entirely different from the type of PG Bryant has played with his entire career. Although the Lakers will run a new offense this season following Phil Jackson’s departure, it would have been fun to watch Bryant and Paul learn for the first time to coexist and play with a high-touch guard partner.

Email Neil at np@sports-reference.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Neil_Paine.

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