Kobe Makes Pau Gasol Unhappy

Posted on March 14, 2010 by


According to Adrian Wojnarowski (of Yahoo! Sports), Pau Gasol isn’t happy.  Gasol seems to think the Kobe Bryant is taking too many shots.  Or more specifically, Gasol is not taking enough.

The Focus on Scoring Leads to Frustration

When we look at the data, we see that Gasol has a point.  His per-game scoring average is at an all-time low. Kobe Bryant is also taking nearly 10 more field goal attempts per game than Gasol.  And since scoring is the primary focus in the NBA, Gasol is now bemoaning his lack of touches.

Of course, one wonders if NBA players shouldn’t be able to focus on more than scoring.  After all, a player’s impact on wins is about more than his points scored per game.  As Table One reveals, when we look at everything in the box score, Gasol should be very happy.  His WP48 [Wins Produced per 48 minutes] currently stands at 0.287.  In contrast, Kobe’s mark is only 0.185. So when we look beyond scoring, Gasol is doing more.  Yet, Gasol is unhappy.

Table One: The LA Lakers after 66 games in 2009-10

This story highlights a problem with player evaluation in the NBA.  Because so much attention is paid to scoring (and we see this when we look at the pay of free agents, voting for the All-Rookie team, allocation of minutes, and the NBA draft) players tend to obsess on their own shot attempts.  And when those shots don’t happen with the frequency the players prefer, unhappiness and resentment is the result.

The obvious solution to this problem is to teach players like Gasol that their impact goes beyond scoring.  Coaches often try to teach this lesson.  Much of what the players hear — and how players are rewarded — contradicts this story.  Consequently, Kobe is considered one of the greatest players to ever play the game. And Gasol keeps expressing his frustration.

The Greatness of Kobe

Recently a few of the comments in this forum have once again focused on the issue of Kobe’s greatness.  Many people who comment here (and this is not a surprise), question the notion that Kobe is equal – or even close – to Michael Jordan.  Some have also wondered where Kobe ranks in NBA history.

In an effort to address that issue, let’s consider Table Two.

Table Two: The Best Performance by a Shooting Guard from 1977-78 to 2008-09

Table Two reports the 50 best performances – in terms of Wins Produced — by a shooting guard in the since the 1977-78 season.  As one can see, the top seven slots in the list are held by Michael Jordan.  And Kobe’s very best season doesn’t appear until the 27th slot.   In all, Kobe appears three times on the list while MJ shows up 10 times.  So Jordan was much better than Kobe.  And really, the difference is very large (a point made back in 2007).

Kobe is also not number two on the list.  Clyde Drexler appears four times before Kobe shows up the first time.  Overall, eight of Drexler’s seasons rank in the top 50 overall. 

When we look at career Wins Produced, we see – as the following list indicates — that Kobe currently ranks 4th among shooting guards who started their career after 1977. 

  • Michael Jordan: 283.6
  • Clyde Drexler: 222.8
  • Reggie Miller: 162.9
  • Kobe Bryant: 149.0

Again, the difference between Kobe and MJ is huge (and Kobe is never going to close the difference).  It does seem likely, though, that Kobe will surpass Reggie Miller.  But he needs to produce more than 60 additional wins to catch Drexler.  And Kobe is already 31 years old.  Yes, MJ did produce more than 70 wins after the age of 31.  But as has already been noted, Kobe is no MJ; and it doesn’t look like Kobe is Clyde the Glide either.

– DJ

The WoW Journal Comments Policy

Our research on the NBA was summarized HERE.

The Technical Notes at wagesofwins.com provides substantially more information on the published research behind Wins Produced and Win Score

Wins Produced, Win Score, and PAWSmin are also discussed in the following posts:

Simple Models of Player Performance

Wins Produced vs. Win Score

What Wins Produced Says and What It Does Not Say

Introducing PAWSmin — and a Defense of Box Score Statistics

Finally, A Guide to Evaluating Models contains useful hints on how to interpret and evaluate statistical models.