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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Sports Illustrated's Ian Thomsen Weighs in on the Best Player Debate

While the issue of who should win the MVP makes for interesting water cooler discussion, those who watch the NBA closely and analytically know that there is no doubt who the league's best player is: Kobe Bryant. Sports Illustrated's Ian Thomsen writes:

"We ask that question all the time," says an NBA advance scout. "When a bunch of us (scouts) are together, we say, 'Who is the best player in the league?' The answer is always Kobe. 'If you needed one basket, who would you want to have shoot it?' Kobe.

'If you needed to make one defensive stop, who would you want?' Kobe.

'If I was starting a team, he's the guy I would build around. He's the best player in the league, there's no question.'"

When I interview players, ex-players, coaches, scouts and other people who truly understand the game, they say much the same thing. The question of the day/year is not whether Bryant is the best player in the NBA but whether the MVP should go to the best player or if it should go to the best player on the best team. Thomsen adds that Bryant's skills do not make him a slam dunk to win the MVP because that award generally goes to a player from one of the league's best teams. Thomsen also makes a point that I have repeatedly stressed here: "This Lakers team has a 19-year old center in Andrew Bynum and an undrafted D-League point guard in Smush Parker. Also, injuries have sidelined Lamar Odom, Luke Walton, Kwame Brown, Vladimir Radmanovic and Chris Mihm for a combined 170 games. Yet they've beaten all of the best in the West. Give Bynum another two years of experience and add a couple of veterans while keeping everyone else healthy, and Bryant will be more than capable of leading the Lakers to a championship."

posted by David Friedman @ 3:59 PM



At Thursday, March 29, 2007 12:21:00 AM, Blogger illest said...

What about the Laker lost to the Grizzlies when Bryant went 7-25. Why didnt you talk about that?

At Thursday, March 29, 2007 4:31:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

I wrote about the Cavs-Pacers game instead because I saw that one in person.

One interesting thing that I heard about the Lakers game, though, is that Memphis used a box and one defense against Kobe, which means that they basically dared a team full of NBA players to beat them while they shadowed Bryant with two players. The highlights that I saw showed Kobe taking shots that he normally takes and missing them (one was blocked by Gasol, a seven footer, as time ran out). If he in fact got off 26 good shots (good being judged by the type of shot, not the end result) against a box and one, that is pretty remarkable--and if the other Lakers could not score 4 on 3 then that is sad, but not terribly surprising.

I'm not doing a game by game recap of Kobe's season (or anybody else's). I gave more attention to Kobe this past week than to other players for the simple reason that he put together a historically significant streak. At the same time, some guy who thinks that he knows a lot more about basketball than he actually does wrote that Nash is a "better" player than Kobe. Not "more valuable," which can be debated, but just "better." You might say who cares about some awful analysis--but it did get picked up at True Hoop, for some strange reason, so a lot of people may have seen it. Hopefully, whoever read the wrongheaded posts also had a chance to see the correct information that I posted here regarding how rare Kobe's feats are and why scouts and other people in the know recognize that he is the game's best player.

I just read Sam Amico's recent newsletter and he quoted an Eastern Conference scout who said that LeBron not only lacks Kobe's killer instinct but that LeBron is simply not as talented as Kobe. Amico believes that LeBron can develop Kobe's killer instinct but I'm not so sure. Read what Byron Scott, Brian Shaw and others who knew Kobe from the start have said about him. Kobe was a killer from the start. He was good and he knew it and he wanted to take the last shot. If he missed it the first time, he took the next one without hesitation. I asked Kobe about that and you can read his response in my post earlier this year about the Lakers-Pacers game. That kind of confidence is not something that "develops." You either have it or you don't. MJ, Magic, Bird, Kobe--those guys had it right from the start. I saw it to some degree in LeBron during last year's playoffs but he does not seem to have it at quite the same level that Kobe and the others do.

At Thursday, March 29, 2007 8:16:00 AM, Blogger illest said...

Please if he had a great game you woule take about it. Oh well. I definitely dont agree that you can get killer instinct. Lebrons problem right now is shot selection, a problem scores have, and free throw shooting. I think he has peaked. I know he is 22 or 21 but last year he average 30. He doesnt play the same way as last year when he went to the basket. Now he shoots those stupid fadeaway 15 footers and threes. That free throw problem is in his head. Shooting 68 percent is terrible for any player especially the superstar he is supposed to be.

At Thursday, March 29, 2007 5:01:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Well, if he had a great game it would be newsworthy. What is newsworthy about 7-26? Anyway, the most interesting part of that game is not Kobe's shooting--anybody can have an off night--but that the Grizzlies played a box and one zone. I did mention that in a post once I heard about it. Even if Kobe had played a great game there wouldn't have been much I could say about it until I found out more, because I didn't see the game and didn't get a chance to learn details about it until later.

I don't know if LeBron has peaked. If you look at the careers of great players, there can be fluctuations in their year to year statistics. He's still one of the best players in the league. It's just that putting him up there with Magic and MJ--or Kobe--is premature. It was premature last year and it is still premature this year.


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