Lakers Kobe Bryant Pros and Cons at Small Forward
Coach Byron Scott said that he envisions Kobe Bryant spending more time at the SF position than playing his natural SG position the following season. While that might be beneficial for both the Lakers and Kobe Bryant, the move caries some risks, but also rewards. Here some of the Pros and Cons of the Los Angeles Lakers playing Bryant at the 3.
Pros of playing Lakers Kobe Bryant at SF
Playing Bryant at SF allows the Lakers to have multiple ball handlers in their lineup. Additionally, they will have a quality player on each position in the starting lineup. If Bryant starts at the 2, the Lakers are left with Ryan Kelly or Nick Young starting at 3. Playing Bryant at SF will also allow the Lakers to start both D’Angelo Russell and Jordan Clarkson. Both can create and initiate offense, and Bryant will be relieved from those duties, something he had to do in the past two seasons.
Playing Bryant at the SF position also allows Bryant to preserve energy on the defensive end, where he won’t have to chase shooting guards through countless of screens. Playing SF also puts Bryant closer to the post, where he is most effective, playing at the elbows and using his footwork and post-game to punish opponents.
The Lakers have tried playing Bryant at the SF previously, in the 2000-2001 season, and in 2012-2013. In both cases, the Lakers had an abundance of players playing at guard positions.
Cons of playing Lakers Kobe Bryant at SF
If Bryant is moved to the small forward position, he becomes the de facto best wing defender the Lakers have. In previous seasons, the Lakers have used a small forward as a designated wing defender to preserve Bryant’s energy for the offensive end. That was the case with Ron Artest (Metta World Peace) and Trevor Ariza. If Bryant plays at the 3, he will have to defend Cleveland Cavaliers Lebron James, OKC Thunder Kevin Durant, New York Knicks Carmelo Anthony, Kawhy Leonard and others. In reality, some of them will spend time at the 4 in small ball lineups, and there are not as many quality small forwards nowadays.
Another downside of playing Lakers Kobe Bryant at SF is that it reduces the Lakers depth. While they will get to have their five best players on the floor at the beginning of the game, they have only Lou Williams and Nick Young to serve as backups to positions 1-3. Not that the Lakers have some better options at the SF position.
Another downside of playing LA Lakers Kobe Bryant at the Small Forward position is that it carries risks for his health. Bryant is not exactly the model for health in recent years, and banging inside with bigger and stronger opponents does carry certain risks.
If the Lakers elect to play Bryant at the 3 more, and give reins of the offense to the young back court, they risk the turnover-prone offense territory. Clarkson and Russell are great young players, but they do not have the experience to run an offense. Russell averaged almost 6 turnovers per game during Summer League, but that is to be expected.
But most importantly, the change could and probably will put Lakers Kobe Bryant in a secondary position. Kobe has served as the de facto unquestioned face of the franchise for so many years, and allowing Clarkson and Russell to run the show might not fare well with his ego.
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