Friday, March 16, 2012

Kobe Bryant or Andrew Bynum: Who Should Be the Lakers 1st Offensive Option?

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BOSTON - JUNE 13:  (L-R) Kobe Bryant #24 and Andrew Bynum #17 of the Los Angeles Lakers look on against the Boston Celtics during Game Five of the 2010 NBA Finals on June 13, 2010 at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)  
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Before Game 3 of the Los Angeles Lakers first-round playoff series against the New Orleans Hornets, coach Phil Jackson said he appreciated the fact that guard Kobe Bryant was willing to sacrifice his offense for defense, but he would rather Bryant look for his shot.
Jackson admitted that Bryant's defense on Hornets point guard Chris Paul in Game 2 was a major reason that the Lakers were able to even the series, but he thought Kobe's focus on defense disrupted the flow of the Lakers' offense.
Bryant apparently got the message and he approached Game 3 in offensive attack mode, but his job was made much easier by a concerted effort to feed center Andrew Bynum the ball in the post.
The Lakers gave the ball to Bynum early and often in the post and it was apparent early that the smaller Hornets had no way of defending him. When they tried to collapse with multiple defenders, Bynum simply passed the ball out to the perimeter.
This led to numerous open looks for the Lakers' perimeter shooters and Bryant was often the main beneficiary as he went 4-7 from the three-point line and 10-20 overall from the field on his way to his 80th career 30-point postseason game.
Which leads me to this question. Why not give the ball to Bynum in the paint on every single possession that he is in the game?
When the Lakers usually run into trouble it's because they go away from their obvious size advantage in the paint and start lofting ill-advised jumpers from the perimeter.
Bynum gives the team they type of power option that the Lakers have not had since Shaquille O'Neal, and those Lakers didn't have the luxury of players like Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom playing beside him.
When the Lakers initiated their offense through Bynum it gave Gasol the ability to roam the paint freely, and he was also able to establish good weak side rebounding position in case of a miss.
In fact, Bynum's strong post play generated so much interest from the Hornets defenders that numerous Lakers took turns scoring on back-door cuts to the basket after their defender had left to help on Bynum.
Bynum finished the first half with nearly a double-double of 12 points and nine rebounds and the Lakers had a nine-point lead that would never fall below five points on the way to a 100-86 Game 3 win.
Along the way, Gasol rediscovered some of his passion and his game as he delivered his strongest postseason performance yet with 17 points and 10 rebounds.
Gasol can also at least partially credit Bynum with his resurgence because he was able to receive the ball in very favorable scoring positions, and he faced little to no double teams.
The double teams were mostly reserved for Bynum and the fact that he was able to make great decisions with the ball in the post makes me wonder why the Lakers do not focus more on getting him the ball.
Bryant will always be the team's primary offensive option, but that doesn't mean he has to be the Lakers' first option.
Bryant was able to thrive on the perimeter when the ball entered the post initially, and he didn't have to spend the majority of each possession trying to free himself with his dribble.
If Jackson was paying attention, the emergence of Bynum in the middle may be the Lakers' best chance at reaching the NBA Finals for a fourth consecutive year.
Bryant is still the player I would prefer taking the last shot of a close contest, but if the ball is given to Bynum early and often in the paint, the Lakers may not find themselves in those situations as frequently.

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