Reasonable Expectations for Kobe Bryant in 2014-15

Kobe Bryant is into defiance.

He has scoffed at aging trends, signed contracts many believed to be undeserved and fought through injuries that typically shelve NBA players for good.

Heading into his 19th season, Bryant would love nothing more than to defy everyone—doubters in particular—again.

Can he put up a statistical season that will shock everyone? Or have we finally reached the point at which Bryant becomes mortal? The 2014-15 season will answer that question definitively, but let's take a crack at guessing how things will shake out in advance.


What History Says

Though we're now well over a year removed from Bryant's Achilles injury, it remains one of the most significant factors in projecting his future performance. The reason is simple: Nobody in Bryant's circumstances has ever suffered such an injury and then regained anything close to his previous form.

Dominique Wilkins is the most oft-cited parallel, but when 'Nique blew out his Achilles in 1992, he was only 32 years old and had played about half of the career minutes Bryant had logged when he ruptured his.

The six games Bryant played in 2013-14 were hardly enough to prove he had recovered.

In terms of explosiveness and athleticism, the smart money is probably on a major reduction in both. Bryant will be 36 before the season starts, and nobody retains all of his bounce at that age. Plus, there were already signs of decline before the Achilles injury.

There's no denying that Bryant's conventional numbers in his last healthy season were eye-popping. Nobody in league history had ever averaged at least 27 points, five rebounds and six assists per game in his 17th NBA season, per Basketball-Reference. In fact, only Bryant, LeBron James and John Havlicek reached those numbers after their 10th campaigns.

But Bryant quit playing defense, cle...

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