Lakers a Better Defensive Team Without Kobe Bryant

If you're looking for a silver lining to Kobe Bryant's late-season injury, then here's a small one: The Los Angeles Lakers are a better defensive team without him.

That may be small comfort to a team that desperately misses Kobe's offense, but it's the best it can get after losing its best player. The Lakers offense has gone down the tubes, but at least the defense has stepped up.

Kobe has long been considered a lockdown wing defender and, in spurts, he still was this season. But those spurts were pretty rare, and he hurt the Los Angeles defense on more nights than not. With Kobe on the court this season, opponents were scoring over 108 points per 100 possessions, putting the Lakers defense at about 23rd in the league (per Basketball-Reference).

With Kobe off the court, opponents scored under 104 points per 100 possessions, putting the Lakers defense on just about even footing with that of the Miami Heat's (ninth overall). That four point swing is the largest of any Laker getting serious minutes.

In the three games the Lakers have played without Kobe—two against the San Antonio Spurs and one against the Houston Rockets—they've shown their best and most consistent defense of the year.

The Lakers have posted three straight defensive ratings of under 100, the first time they've done that all season (per Basketball-Reference). It's admittedly a small sample size, and the Spurs and Rockets haven't been at their best lately. But it's enough of a jump to suggest real improvement.

Kobe was a solid defender when he was locked in, but he spent a lot of the season saving his legs for offense. It was an understandable decision, but it hurt the Lakers defensively. He also made a lot of frustrating—and sometimes head-scratching—mistakes that cost his team, most of which were from ball watching or gambling for steals.

Here are a few examples.

Article Source: Bleacher Report - Los Angeles Lakers