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Kobe Bryant’s new found efficiency

November 7, 2012; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard Kobe Bryant (24) during the second half against the Utah Jazz at EnergySolutions Arena. The Jazz defeated the Lakers 95-86. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-US PRESSWIRE

File this topic under “Things that have gone relatively unnoticed so far in the NBA season.” Since the Los Angeles Lakers losing ways (now 1-4) have not only taken, but dominated center stage in the basketball media world, Kobe Bryant’s tranformation of sorts, has been slightly overlooked. This transformation being his new found scoring efficiency.

Now, don’t confuse this as an opinion piece, though Kobe Bryant is always the source of unlimited debates, but more so an informative reminder that even though it’s only 5 games into the new season, this efficient scoring trend has developed.

What does it even mean on a team level? Clearly not wins, though there are much deeper issues point to the reason they’ve started out losing 4 of 5 games.

On an individual level, it could mean nothing more than Kobe deciding to create a new challenge for himself, even in the midst of minor team panic. At an X’s and O’s level, to keep it very simple, Kobe is taking better shots, which really means that he’s driving to the basket more frequently, rather than settling for jumpshots. Which is a strange behavior, considering he now has the league’s best rebounder under the basket to clean up those errant, beat-the-shot-clock launches.

Kobe’s stat line for the season is impressive: 37.0 mins, 27.2 points, 5.0 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.4 steals.

Even more impressive is Kobe’s raw shooting percentages for the season: 56.0% (FG), 42.9% (3PT) and 91.7% (FT).

Compare those percentages to Kobe’s career high season avereages of 46.9% (FG) in 2001-02, 38.3% (3PT) in 2002-03 and 86.8% (FT) in 2006-07, and yes, we have a distinct rise in efficiency this season.

His games of 22 points (11-14 FG) on opening night and 40 points (14-23 FG, 10-10 FT) against the Clippers were particularly impressive from an efficiency perspective.

Will Kobe sustain this? The answer is no. Again, consider the minute sample size of games in which he’s done this. But that doesn’t mean he can’t finish with career highs in each percentage category. It’s just interesting to look at the numbers he’s produced so far this season with certain team dynamics in a state of change (Princeton offense, Dwight/Nash, limited bench).

Rather than a personal challenge, maybe Kobe has just learned (accepted) to play within the system, allowing Howard (and Gasol) to do their thing. He’s been picking his spots better and taking “better” shots.

Or, maybe he’s trying to prove a point, that’s always an option with Black Mamba. Regardless, his numbers have laid out a pattern of efficient scoring and something to at least take note of… even haters. Overall, the bigger question may be: Does it even matter? While his personal box scores suggest it should be making a positive team impact, that “4″ in the loss column suggest otherwise. But that’s for another post.

mhallihan