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Just The Sports: Kobe and Shaq vs. Kobe and Pau

Just The Sports

Monday, August 02, 2010

Kobe and Shaq vs. Kobe and Pau

Everyone is already no doubt aware of what a largely unstoppable duo Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal were during their eight seasons together, three of which ended in championships. Their partnership is one of the historically dominant ones in NBA history, but now that Kobe Bryant has another low-post running partner in Pau Gasol, it is worth finding out if Kobe and Pau can match the heights Kobe and Shaq reached. After all, Kobe and Pau have won two championships playing together for only two and a half seasons.

Unfortunately for the Kobe and Pau duo, they really only defeat Kobe and Shaq significantly in one respect and even that comes with qualifications. In 231 games together, Kobe and Pau have a combined 58.3 true shooting percentage (TS%), which is statistically significantly better than Kobe and Shaq's 56.1 TS% in 579 contests. The advantage is thanks in large part to free throw percentage; Kobe and Pau have a free throw percentage of 80.8% while Kobe and Shaq only possess a 64.5 FT%.

It is such a decided advantage that even though Kobe and Shaq took 4.4 more free throw attempts per game (17.6 FTA to 13.2 FTA), they only made .5 free throw attempts per game more (11.3 FTM to 10.8 FTA). Of course, it should go without saying that Shaq is to blame for the free throw percentage difference. He is a historically poor free throw shooter while Pau Gasol is a very good free throw shooter considering his height.

However, as I alluded to, this victory for Kobe and Pau over Kobe and Shaq does come with qualifications. Kobe and Pau simply have not been asked to carry the offensive load that Kobe and Shaq had to carry so it stands to reason they would be able to shoot at a more efficient clip. Kobe and Pau have attempted 2.1 fewer field goals (35.8 FGA to 33.7 FGA) than Kobe and Shaq and that number is only that close because Kobe did not become a full-time starter until his third season in the NBA.

Once Kobe's first two seasons are eliminated, we really get a true sense of how much Kobe and Shaq dominated the ball together. Their field goal attempts together jump up to 38.1 per game.

Additionally, I looked at what percentage of the teams' field goals were made by each duo. Once again taking out Kobe's first two seasons, the results are that Kobe and Shaq accounted for 51.4% of their teams' field goal makes; Kobe and Pau have only accounted for 43.1% of their teams' field goal makes.

A lot of the reason why Kobe and Pau have not taken on a bigger offensive load rests on the shoulders of Pau Gasol. For all his offensive ability and efficiency, he simply does not take as many shots as he should to help the Lakers. A player of his caliber should be shooting a lot more than just 13.5 field goal attempts per game for his career.

Kobe and Shaq were also much better rebounders than Kobe and Pau. The first partnership had a rebound rate of 13.0 in all their seasons and 12.8 in the seasons they played together from Kobe's third season onward. Kobe and Pau's rebound rate was a lesser 11.6.

In terms of ball handling, the two duos are basically a wash. From Kobe's third season onward, Kobe and Shaq had an assist percentage of 19.5 and a turnover percentage of 11.1; Kobe and Pau had an assist percentage of 19.3 and a turnover percentage of 10.9.

For those wondering why I did not exclude Kobe's first two season for their shooting percentages, it is because when I did, it did not make a difference. The Kobe and Shaq partnership had a 56.0 TS% once I did, which is basically identical to their overall one.

Taking all of these statistics into consideration, it is pretty obvious that Kobe and Shaq are really in no danger of being overcome by Kobe and Pau. For how much responsibility for the Lakers' offense that Kobe and Shaq were asked to bear, what they did was simply astounding. The Kobe and Pau duo has only been great, not extraordinary like Kobe and Shaq.



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