The 2015-16 NBA season is more than likely going to be Kobe Bryant’s last one. He’s had a long and remarkable career, although it’s become very clear that his glory days are behind him. Still, the Los Angeles Lakers have been one of the best teams in the NBA year after year, and Bryant’s been a big part of that. At 37 years old now, he has accepted the fact that he is not the same player that he used to be. He’s still talented, but expecting 30 points out of him every night is not realistic. He’s averaging 16.2 points per game right now, but that’s hardly enough to give him a high daily fantasy basketball worth.
But, Bryant has something that other shooting guards do not have: a higher IQ of the game. Yes, players like James Harden and Victor Oladipo might be putting up more points than he is, but they are expensive when it comes to fantasy price and have a higher volatility on a bad night. When Bryant is in the game, he can be expected to be a contributor. It might not be by putting up 43 points like Harden did recently, but Bryant has the ability to pass the ball, put up assists, and even secure a rebound or two on a nightly basis. He’s averaging 3.8 rebounds per night and 2.6 assists. These have a higher fantasy value than points do. He’s lost his edge, but he was so good that even with a lessened ability on the court, he’s still a valuable contributor to the team, and has a limited spot on many fantasy basketball rosters.
Right now, the Lakers are not projected to be in the top 75 percent of all NBA teams. One Vegas sports book has the Lakers as the second least likely team to win the NBA Finals, with only the Philadelphia 76ers ranked below them. This makes sense, but might not be entirely accurate. The Lakers are just 1-4 as of the time of writing, with their one win coming against the Brooklyn Nets, who are currently 0-6.
Of course, the key is for Bryant to stay healthy this year. He’s struggled with injuries throughout his 20 year career with Los Angeles. He’s hurt his Achilles’ tendon. He fractured his knee. He’s even torn his shoulder. But because of his ability to bounce back in true athletic fashion, these things do not seem to have negatively impacted him. Yes, he’s slower, yes he’s not quite as edgy as he used to be, but he’s learned from these injuries and is a smarter player because of them. They’ve been setbacks, but only temporary ones. They’ve helped him to leapfrog into the latter part of his career as a better ballplayer, one tempered by his injuries and a stronger technical player because of them. The truth is, though, as age takes its toll on an athlete, injuries become more and more a possibility. No matter how intelligent of a basketball player he might be, a slight accident on the court could end his final season early. For this reason, he has far more value as a daily fantasy sports athlete than he does in a season long league. That’s just the way it is with a player like Bryant, unfortunately.
Regardless of what happens this season, Kobe Bryant’s spot as a legend is cemented. Right now, he’s number three on the all-time list as far as points go, behind only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Karl Malone. He’s at least a notch above Michael Jordan, perhaps the most phenomenal basketball player ever. He has a shot of taking the number two spot with a great season. Even if he’s lost his edge, this season will be a historic one.