Would Los Angeles Lakers Be Better Off Without Kobe Bryant?

Kobe Bryant is the Los Angeles Lakers.

That's the problem.

Or, at least that's the problem for whatever percentage of Purple and Gold loyalists want a sustainable, functional operation—one with the impersonal approach necessary to keep up in an increasingly analytical NBA.

There's a whole other faction of Lakers fans for whom Bryant is most definitely not a problem. They're the ones who just want to see No. 24 keep playing and keep wowing them with his willpower and shot-making. They want the familiar ride to continue because they're afraid of the dark, uncertain future ahead.

They're drinking in Bryant's play, his practice rants and his alpha personality thirstily, even if it might be poison. They just want as much Kobe as they can get, while they can get it.

Are the Lakers better off without their icon?

That all depends on what you'd like the team to be.


Stats Don't Lie

The Lakers are worse—substantially and irrefutably—when Kobe Bryant is on the court.

It's true that Bryant's bench minutes often come when the game is already decided, which allows his replacements to face reserves who are merely going through the motions. Maybe that partially helps explain the massive discrepancy in his on/off splits.

He plays alongside Carlos Boozer for more than 21 minutes per game, per NBA.com, and C-Booze's on- and off-court splits are nearly as bad as Kobe's. Maybe this is all Boozer's fault.

It's not, of course. There are just a few logically flimsy ways for Bryant apologists to explain away the statistical ugliness.

Just watching the Lakers, it's obvious why Bryant has hurt the team's production: He eats up possessions with low-percentage shots, stops the ball on offense and doesn't set the tone on defense. He gets away with all of this because neither his coach nor hi...

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