Kobe Bryant’s Career using Marginal Win Score

This is the fifth in a series of installments evaluating the careers of some of the NBAs more prominent players, past and present, using the derivation of the basketball metric Win Score that I refer to as “Marginal Win Score”.  Today’s post looks at the career of the “Black Momba” Kobe Bean Bryant.

Kobe Bryant’s Career Win Resume

  WS oppWS MWS W% W__L W>0.5%
1996-97 4.69 5.27 -0.29 0.453 2.0__2.5 -0.2
1997-98 6.23 5.06 0.58 0.602 5.1__3.4 0.8
1998-99 7.44 5.06 1.19 0.704 5.6__2.3 1.6
1999-00 9.94 4.14 2.91 0.995 10.3__0.1 5.1
2000-01 9.01 5.35 1.82 0.812 9.3__2.2 3.5
2001-02 9.18 5.12 2.03 0.847 10.7__2.0 4.3
2002-03 11.31 5.78 2.76 0.993 14.0__0.1 6.9
2003-04 9.88 4.11 2.88 0.991 10.1__0.1 5.1
2004-05 9.08 4.88 2.11 0.857 9.6__1.6 3.9
2005-06 9.53 5.25 2.14 0.867 11.8__1.8 5.1
2006-07 10.79 5.67 2.56 0.931 12.1__0.9 5.6
2007-08 12.03 4.27 3.88 1.149 15.3__(-2.0) 8.6
2008-09 10.84 4.78 3.03 1.016 12.5__(-0.2) 6.3
2009-10 8.48 4.46 2.01 0.847 9.9__1.8 4.1
2010-11 10.24 4.01 3.12 1.032 7.5__(-0.2) 3.8
Average 9.24 4.88 2.18 0.873 Total: 64.5

How to read the chart

For a primer on Marginal Win Score, click here.  What I am attempting to do with the chart above is estimate how many team wins and losses can be attributed to Kobe in each season based upon his production, the production of the opponent players who line up across from him, and the minutes he plays.   Professor Dave Berri’s metric “Win Score” is the metric used to measure production. 

The six columns listed in the chart below are (1) Kobe’s Win Score; (2) his opponent average Win Score; (3) the resulting “Marginal Win Score”; (4) the resulting “Player Winning Percentage”, meaning the number of team wins I estimate Bryant producing every 240 minutes, based on his Marginal Win Score; (5) this column lists the number of wins and losses I attribute to Kobe based on W% and the number of minutes he played; (6) this column lists the number of wins above 0.500% that can be attributed to Kobe.  Essentially this number is the same as “Wins Above Average” but I don’t want to call it that because the average NBA player is a below 0.500% win producer.  It can be interpreted like this:  in 2007-08 Kobe produced +8.6 wins above .500%.  That means if the rest of the Lakers produced like a 41-41 team, Kobe’s production alone would have made them a 50-32 team.

Kobe’s Career

A lot of fans will probably take slight exception to the results listed above.  They tend to show that Kobe Bryant is a well above average win producer, but not an all-time win producer like Michael Jordan or Magic Johnson.  Essentially, the numbers put Kobe in a second tier behind those type players.  I think they would group him with Julius Erving and John Havlicek, those type players.  But I don’t put him in the upper echelon with the Jordans and the Birds and the Magics.  He simply was not as efficiently productive as those players.

But in one respect Kobe appears to stand by himself.  He is a marvelous defensive player.  His 4.8 opponent Win Score average means that opponents average production is reduced by 29% when matched against Bryant.  That is the best reduction I’ve calculated so far. 

The opponent numbers for seasons prior to 2002-03 are based on statistical distribution estimates.  The ones thereafter are based on actual data compiled by 82games.com.  Once again you will notice little difference in the two sets of numbers.  For years prior to ’03, Kobe’s estimated defensive average is 5.01.  For years thereafter it is 4.81.  That’s pretty close.

One final note on Kobe.  He is having an excellent season.  He is playing well on both ends of the court.  You will notice that he’s played his best basketball in the last couple of seasons, with the exception of last season went he slumped a bit.  You don’t usually see that.


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