Kobe Bryant and the Triple Post Offense

» November 17, 2009 4:36 PM | By Brandon Hoffman

I love it when someone writes something that I have been thinking, as Craig Kwasniewski does about Kobe Bryant’s increased touches in the post:

With Kobe starting down low and clapping for the ball the whole 24 seconds there’s nobody left to stretch the defense. The upside to the Radmanovic trade last spring was unearthing the hidden gem in Shannon Brown but they lost their best perimeter shooter in the deal. Before this season, when Kobe attacked from the wing, the help side defense rotated over to the freethrow line extended creating weakside space for players like Odom to slash or post up.  But with Kobe down low, defenses are packing it in (Houston did this all Sunday night) and the Lakers are left with non-perimeter shooters like Artest and especially Odom standing around with their hands up and defenses daring them to shoot.

Let’s take it one step further, when Jordan moved his game to the low post in the late 90’s the Bulls’ roster was loaded with quality mid-range shooters to stretch the defense.  Guys like Luc Longley, Jud Buechler and Steve Kerr were dropping 8 to 12 points a night simply because they found the right areas to spot up in the Triangle Offense.

Kwasniewski hit the nail right on the head. Bryant spent much of the offseason working on his post game, and it’s clearly paying dividends. After struggling to maintain position early in his career, Bryant has become quite adept at holding his ground, then turning and uncorking a fadeaway jumper before help can arrive. Bryant is shooting 46.2 percent in the immediate basket area and has taken 22 percent of his attempts from that distance this season — compared to only 17 percent last season. He enters tonight’s contest against the Pistons averaging a league-best 30.1 points per game on 47.2 percent shooting. Solid marks for the 13th year pro and former league MVP, although it’s become increasingly obvious that the Lakers aren’t built for him to operate primarily on the low block.

We’ve been making comparisons between Bryant and Jordan for a decade now, and the parallels are striking. But here’s the interesting dynamic: Bryant has to be Jordan — and Pippen — for the Lakers to win another championship. L.A. needs Bryant to orchestrate their offense, plus stretch the floor with his outside shooting for the triangle to operate at peak efficiency. Their personnel dictates that Bryant play a dual role as scorer and facilitator. I’m sure the Laker offense, which has fallen to 18th in points scored per 100 possessions, will pick up when Pau Gasol returns, but I’m not convinced Gasol’s presence in the starting lineup will lead to more ball movement, or improved spacing as long as Bryant has a green light to dominate the post.


3 Responses to “Kobe Bryant and the Triple Post Offense”

  1. Tsunami Says:

    I watched a fair share of Lakers games last year and I formed my own opinions on their offense. I felt that the Lakers were absolutely unstoppable when they fed Pau Gasol in the post (low or high) and let him go to work. Some games it felt like they lost patience with him or maybe he became passive, and they turned into a jump shooting team and were vulnerable if their scrappy, if undisciplined defense didn’t force a lot of turnovers.

    There isn’t much data to back this up, other than the fact that Gasol averaged half a shot less per game in losses than in wins and more that 1 full assist less per game in losses than wins. (not terribly convincing data)

    But it seems to go along with your analysis. As much as Kobe has been in the post (is 46% in the immediate basket area really that good?) do you think he’d be better served on the perimeter once Gasol gets back since he adds outside shooting and Gasol is probably the best post player in the NBA? Also, I know Vlad Rad is a good spot up outside shooter, but what about Shannon Brown, Sasha Vujijic, and Ron Artest?

    It feels like the Lakers have a lot of people that can put the ball in the hoop, but not a lot of great passers. Artest is just a poor decision maker period, and even though Kobe has the talent to be a good passer, he seems pretty reluctant, especially this year.

    I doubt Bryant will continue to play in the post when Gasol comes back.

    At any rate, the Lakers, Nuggets, Celtics, Magic, and Cavs will be much improved and very good by season’s end – this should have been obvious from day one. I’m interested to see if Atlanta and Portland can keep up the excellent play.

  2. Brandon Hoffman Says:

    Tsunami:

    Yes, I think the Lakers would be wise to position Bryant on the perimeter once Pau Gasol returns — however, I don’t think that’s a foregone conclusion. Asked whether Bynum and Gasol would push him out of the post when the Lakers are at full strength, Bryant said: “They know I eat first and they get the seconds.”

    Bryant added he’s planning to be there “80 percent of the time.”

    The triangle is built for whoever gets down court first to assume post position, and Bryant is beating Bynum down the floor and calling for the ball on virtually every possession. I don’t think that will change when Pau Gasol returns to the fold.

    Bryant obviously worked very hard over the summer, and appears eager to display his improved post game. And I don’t blame him. It’s hard to find fault with a guy averaging 30 points on 47 percent shooting. He’s developed the same kind of low-post footwork that enabled MJ to respond to the variety of defenses aimed his way.

    But I’m still of the belief that the Lakers need Bryant to operate on the perimeter for their offense to fire on all cylinders. Contrary to popular opinion, Bryant is a very good passer. He led the Lakers in assists in each of the past three seasons, yet he’s averaging just 2.7 assists a game this season — down from 4.9 the year prior. That’s not going to cut it. Not for this team.

    Ron Artest (4.3 APG) and Lamar Odom (5 APG) can pick up some of the slack, of course, but they can’t create off the dribble, or stretch opposing teams like Bryant.

  3. john amaechi Says:

    KOBE!! is better than pippen and jordan combined.

    i mean jordan probably never even approached 47% from the floor even once. and i doubt he ever came close to 3 assists per game.

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