L.A. Lakers: Why Kobe Bryant Must Play Small Forward Next Season

Over the course of his 16-year NBA career, Kobe Bryant has established himself as one of the greatest players in the history of the league, and the only shooting guard who can even be considered to approach the level of Michael Jordan.

The 6’6” Bryant has spent the duration of his career as a shooting guard, and he's enjoyed quite a lot of success at the position. 

It’s hard to imagine him at any other slot, as apart from rare spot minutes at point guard and small forward, Bryant has served almost exclusively as a shooting guard throughout his career.

But if the Lakers are to be the best they can be next season, Bryant may need to slide to the small forward position. A position currently occupied by Metta World Peace.

While Metta World Peace has had a productive NBA career, his production has tailed off significantly in his last three seasons with the Lakers. World Peace shot under 40 percent from the field and 30 percent from three-point range last season, and his trademark defense is not what it once was. 

The good news: The Lakers brought in a talented young alternative in Jodie Meeks.

The bad news: He's only 6'4", and therefore incapable of defending opposing small forwards.

However, Meeks may not be as much of a defensive liability as most think.  

Meeks is not known as a great defensive player, but he ranked No. 1 among shooting guards in opponent PER last season, holding opposing 2-guards to a mere 8.5 PER, according to 82games.com. Granted, opponent PER is not a flawless statistic, and it can be impacted by team defense (Philadelphia was the third-best defensive team in the NBA last season), but at the very least, it’s clear that Meeks is an above-average on-ball defender, and at best he's an outstanding one, on the level of players like Dwyane Wade and Ronnie Brewer.

Although clearly highly effective again...

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