June 28, 2009

Is Lamar Odom Better than Kobe Bryant?

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 6:50 pm

Most followers of the NBA think LeBron James and Kobe Bryant are the two best players in the NBA. Well, there is pretty convincing evidence that Kobe Bryant may not be the best player on his own team? If you look at how the Lakers play with various combinations of Odom and Bryant in and out of the game during the 2009 playoffs it becomes clear that if Odom is not as good as Bryant, he certainly is an outstanding player. Look at the following numbers:

  • With Bryant and Gasol in and Odom out the Lakers were outscored by3 points in 320 minutes. After adjusting for the strength of opponents faced, the Lakers played 4 points better than an average team (per 48 minutes) during these 320 minutes.
  • With Bryant out and Gasol and Odom in during the playoffs the Lakers outscored their opponents by 21 points in 86 minutes! After adjusting for the strength of opponents faced the Lakers played 13 points better than an average team (per 48 minutes) during these 86 minutes.
  • As expected, with Kobe, Gasol and Odom in during 535 minutes the Lakers outscored their playoff opponents by 165 points, playing 23 points (per 48 minutes) better than an average team.

So it looks like the fantastic Kobe Bryant could not make the Lakers outscore playoff opponents with Gasol in unless he had Odom in. On the other hand Odom and Gasol easily dominated their opponents without Kobe. Makes you question the  “conventional wisdom”!


  1. Hi all

    I like Your site. It is very interesting. Do You have RSS so I can add to my favorites.
    Let me know when it will be ready. Kee it UP.
    See You O Szczecin Hotele

    Comment by rollerfebaybe — July 17, 2009 @ 12:23 am

  2. Are you through with your report?
    signature: zithromax gr99r8gggr999ikgm

    Comment by chedaClerohor — August 3, 2009 @ 3:17 pm

  3. Interesting analysis, but on its own, my feeling is this is a little oversimplified. In other words, this could be true, but I think there’s a number of other factors that should be considered before coming to this conclusion.

    First, I’m not sure how statistically significant these results are, since they’re based on a very small sample of data — only a limited number of different opponents, and a limited number of minutes played.

    Second, I imagine you’d also have to look at all the other players in the game, not just these three. How well did the players that subbed for Kobe and Odom play?
    Perhaps Odom’s sub is much more detrimental to the team than Kobe’s, and the net effect is that the team plays better when Odom is in than when Kobe is in.

    You’d also have to look at the opposing team: which five players were generally on the floor in each of these situations. As a basic example, Odom usually plays a lot more on the second unit, whereas Kobe almost always plays with the starters. If the Lakers bench is much better than the opposing team’s bench (and outscores them), this would also benefit Odom.

    One other hypothesis: maybe Odom and Gasol just benefit each other better than Odom and Kobe do?

    Comment by polishpat — October 2, 2009 @ 3:44 pm

  4. we do all the things that you said to do. I just had to simplify it for the blog.

    Comment by wwinston — October 2, 2009 @ 3:52 pm

  5. wwinston:

    indeed it should make one “question the “conventional wisdom”.” however, it appears you are not advocating that Odom is actually better than Bryant, but very subtly implying that statistical measurements are not all they stacked up to be!

    the irony of your writing and conclusions drawn from your numbers analysis is that numbers do not capture the whole picture!

    Comment by kb2000 — October 2, 2009 @ 4:17 pm

  6. we adjust for who they play against.

    Comment by wwinston — October 2, 2009 @ 8:32 pm

  7. Well, if you think about it, when Odom’s not in the game, Gasol is the PF and Bynum the Center.
    When Kobe leaves the game, it’s Vujacic, who had a horrible year last year (39 FG %), that replaces him. So the disparity between Odom’s sub and Kobe’s sub could make a difference in the plus/minus stats that you have above.

    Comment by peter — October 3, 2009 @ 2:25 am

  8. If your numbers really support that Odom is better than Bryant then
    you seriously need to rethink the methodology or find a way to adjust
    the numbers.. There is no way Odom is a better player than Bryant.
    He is sneakily good yes and probably more important to the Lakers
    than people think, but not the best player on that team by any means.
    There is a reason why us Europeans (AND D’Antoni who you like) don’t
    give so much importance to numbers and it’s results like this :-)

    Comment by Vasilis — October 3, 2009 @ 1:19 pm

  9. take a step back and think, there is no way odom is better than kobe. You could infer from your data that the lakers play better with odom on and kobe off?? kobe is mostly off during trash time anyway so its very hard to measure his impact accurately

    Comment by Jin — October 4, 2009 @ 6:55 am

  10. Winston,

    I am new to reading ur site but I have become a fan. I really appreciate the math behind the illusion much like yourself..

    What I would be curious to see analyzed is how Kobe helped his team in 06′ when he was mr. ‘Do-it-all 81 pts’ compared to 09′ where he has become accustomed to deferring to his teammates..

    My eyes tell me Kobe has been able to do more by doing less in the last season or so. If your #’s can prove the lakers are better with him off the court, then I think that could be the reason why. Because he is actually deferring for the greater good on a larger scale then min/min. When I watched finals, I know Kobe does not win without ariza 1, odom 2 and fisher 3.

    I think what makes kobe great is seen when you change the analysis from a time scale with events in series for building a trend(a game of data) to the nature of a probabability for any given moment with the roll of a dice. What I want to say is in the game of bball it is much like the game of craps and for any given roll of the dice (or in bball, any decision to shoot) brings on it’s own fresh set of probabilities in that Cingular moment. Those Cingular moments, or roll of the die if you will, is where the Kobe probability is highest.

    And I come back to what I learned from u winston. ‘If u only track the ball, u only track half the game.’.. But I also think if u only track the game trends, u will miss the beauty of the cingularity within the game. To solve this I think you could give weight to possessions as the game reaches it’s creshendo.

    Good luck this tear with your work!
    Go mavs!

    Comment by The_real_Cstein — October 4, 2009 @ 1:37 pm

  11. When Kobe sits typically the opposing team’s best player sits as well – either this or their best defender. Secondarily, Odom and Gasol are usually in against the other team’s bench despite the fact these players are starters.

    There’s nothing mysterious about the results. The Laker’s B team is genuinely better than the most other B teams.

    The statistics really aren’t telling us that Odom is better than Kobe Bryant for the Lakers. They tell us plainly the Lakers are a deeper team than most.

    It’s pretty evident watching tape of last season’s games.

    Comment by justcurious — October 4, 2009 @ 10:59 pm

  12. Geez, it’s really not that hard. When Odom’s out, Bynum’s in and the Lakers end up trying to force him the ball to get him involved. This fails, they sub Odom in and find success (often with Kobe and Gasol accomplishing more). They wasted a good portion of the playoffs trying to kickstart Bynum.

    Comment by Will — October 5, 2009 @ 4:49 pm

  13. There is not a ‘basketball’ person who would entertain the ridiculous notion that Odom is even close to Kobe Bryant. Not even Lamar Odom himself, as evidenced by his own statements while with the Lakers. Since statistics themselves are emotionless and unbiased, the wrong conclusions must come in the interpretation of the numbers, and that falls squarely on the shoulders of Mr. Winston. I’m guessing Mr. Winston also came up with the stats Mark blogged about last All-Star Game – hillarious! In THAT one Bryant is ahead of Odom. It is no wonder Cuban keeps making silly personnel decisions when his stat-man comes up with conclusions like this.

    Comment by 1+1=apple — October 6, 2009 @ 1:16 pm

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