Kobe Bryant’s Early Return Would Make Lakers Dangerous in West

With the countdown to the return of Kobe Bryant reaching its final stages, now comes the time to ask how dangerous the "Black Mamba" makes the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference.

In a word: very.

According to ESPNLosAngeles.com's Dave McMenamin, Bryant is eyeing a return to the court as early as Sunday against the Toronto Raptors. 

The Lakers have performed admirably without their star, splitting 18 games so far this season for a 9-9 record, although they are tied with two other teams for just 10th place in the loaded Western Conference.

Even though Bryant will likely be added back into full-time play gradually when he makes his return, the simple fact that he will be back on the court is a major boost to the Lakers.

The last we saw of Bryant he was on a rampage, averaging 29.8 points, 7.3 rebounds, 8.4 assists and 2.1 steals while playing 44.5 minutes per game in the seven games prior to his injury—six of which were Lakers wins.

Even if it takes him the rest of the season to get back to near that level, he is on a team that has something he hasn't had in a while—a ton of depth.

Last season, the Lakers had one of the worst benches in the league and Kobe suffered because of it. Antawn Jamison, the Lakers' most productive bench scorer last year, averaged just 9.4 points per game for a unit that was averaging 25.8 per game for the season—third worst in the league according to Hoopstats. 

This forced Bryant to play more minutes and he was relied on more heavily to make up for the lack of bench production.

This year is much different.

When Kobe does make his fateful return to the court this season, he won't need to decide how much he needs to carry the scoring load. The only decision he needs to make is which scorer he wants to pass to.

The Lakers bench is ...

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