ESPN.com’s #NBArank project is counting down the NBA’s top players for this upcoming season. Over 100 NBA experts from across ESPN (including analysts, writers, researchers and editors) participated in this season’s #NBArank project with the goal of ranking players in terms of both quantity and quality of each player’s contributions to his team’s ability to win games in the upcoming season.
The countdown continued on Wednesday with Nos. 100-91, with Kobe Bryant coming in at No. 93. Bryant was ranked No. 6 in the 2012-13 countdown, then dropped to No. 25 the following season and was No. 40 last year.
At No. 93, Bryant is still the highest-ranked player on the Los Angeles Lakers. Every other team in the NBA has at least one player ranked higher than him, making him the lowest-ranked "best player" on any team.
Bryant is slated to make $25 million this season, more than any other player in the NBA, and his $54 million over the past two seasons is by far the most of any player. We take a look at why Bryant has fallen so far:
In the 41 games Bryant’s played over the last two seasons, he has averaged 21.1 points per game and shot under 38 percent from the field. That’s the worst field goal percentage over any two-year stretch in the shot-clock era in which a player averaged at least 20 points per game.
There were 18 games last season in which Bryant took at least 20 shots. He did not make half of them in any of those 18 games.
So why has his shooting percentage dropped?
Bryant is not getting as many close looks as in the past. Last season, 25 percent of his points came in the paint, the lowest mark of his career; entering last season, 34 percent of his career points came in the paint.
He is also not getting as many open looks. Last season, Bryant took 15 shots per game in which a defender was within 4 feet -- the highest average of any player in the NBA.
All this adds up to Bryant ranking 175th in half-court points per play out of the 185 players with at least 500 plays in the half court last season.
ESPN’s real plus-minus measures a player’s impact on team performance per 100 possessions. In general, it passes the smell test. The top five from a year ago? Stephen Curry, Kawhi Leonard, James Harden, LeBron James and Anthony Davis. There is also an offensive and defensive component.
Bryant ranked 245th in RPM last season. His rating on the defensive end ranked among the 20 worst in the NBA.
Though Bryant has been less efficient, the on-the-surface numbers are still there for him. Last season, he was one of five players to average 20 points, five rebounds and five assists. The others? James, Harden, Russell Westbrook and Blake Griffin.
What to expect
The 2015-16 season will be Bryant’s 20th in the NBA; he will break a tie with John Stockton for the most seasons played for one team in NBA history. Bryant will also become the first guard in NBA history to play a 20th season.
Can he stay healthy? There’s not much to go on historically to project health. Only five other players -- Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Kevin Garnett, Moses Malone, Robert Parish and Kevin Willis -- stuck around long enough to play a 20th season. Only Abdul-Jabbar and Parish managed to play in 60 games that season.
This will be Bryant's age-37 season. Out of the 72 NBA seasons by guards age 37 or older, two averaged 20 points per game (both of Michael Jordan’s Wizards seasons), 18 averaged double figures in points per game, and 23 played in at least 70 games.