Smush Parker, Kwame Brown and the Kobe Bryant EffectYesterday, the Clippers gained some salary cap room by renouncing their rights to Smush Parker, who has played for six NBA teams since 2002-03.
One of the best testaments to Kobe Bryant's greatness is that he led the Lakers to the playoffs twice despite having Parker as the starting point guard and Kwame Brown as the starting center. Point guard and center are arguably the two most important positions on a basketball team and while it is not necessary that the players at those positions be the two best players on the team it is usually vital that a team receives a certain amount of consistent production from those positions.
Parker started 162 of the 164 games that he played as an L.A. Laker but hardly played--let alone started--prior to or subsequent his time with the Lakers. Check out his career statistics; those middle two years should have an asterisk, followed by this designation: "performance enhanced by playing alongside Kobe Bryant."
As for Brown, the statistical story is not quite so dramatic but check out his year by year field goal percentages: they are never above .489 in his non-Laker seasons and they do not drop below .526 in his Laker seasons. Playing with Bryant had a similar positive effect on Pau Gasol's field goal percentage this season; this is because Bryant draws double-teams that lead to wide open shots for his big men, whether or not Bryant makes the final pass that is credited with the assist.
People often talk about which superstars "make their teammates better." I'd like to know which other NBA superstar could carry a team to the Western Conference playoffs twice with Brown and Parker as starters. It will be interesting to see if Brown or Parker ever become regular starters again in the NBA, let alone start alongside each other on a playoff team.
posted by David Friedman @ 2:17 PM