We knew that with a guard rotation of Jordan Clarkson, D’Angelo Russell and Lou Williams, the Lakers were going to slide Kobe Bryant over to the three for stretches this season. And when Lakers’ trainer Gary Vitti discussed it with him, Kobe’s reaction was “I can do that.” Which is probably Kobe’s reaction to every question he is ever asked — “Hey Kobe, could you land a 747?” — but in this case he certainly can do it if healthy.
But how about Kobe at as a small four?
Not sure how Kobe feels about it, but Lakers’ coach Byron Scott is thinking about it, he told David Aldridge of NBA.com (hat tip to NBA Reddit).
“The one thing that we wanted to do and accomplish through this draft and through free agency was to try and be a little more versatile, have some versatility. So I think (Clarkson, Russell, Williams) can definitely do that. Kobe can play one, two and three. There’s no doubt in my mind. And there’s some games. against some teams, where he’ll probably play four. With his tenaciousness, the way he guards people and when his mind is set, if I say ‘Kobe, you’ve got him,’ he takes that as a challenge. You know how he is. He’ll compete.”
This is a decent idea, one worth exploring, if it is situational (the Lakers tried it very, very briefly last season).
If the Lakers are playing the Toronto Raptors and they’ve gone small with DeMarre Carroll at the four, the Lakers can match that with Kobe. Same with the Wizards if they go small and slide Jared Dudley to the four. Orlando if they go small with Tobias Harris at the four. There are matchups where this could work for the Lakers — not for long stretches, playing against bigger guys would take a toll on Kobe’s body, but for 5-10 minutes it could work.
However, notice all the teams noted above are in the East. The problem is that in the West most of the teams have fours Kobe would simply not be able to match defensively — Anthony Davis, Blake Griffin, Serge Ibaka (or the Thunder go small with Kevin Durant), LaMarcus Aldridge, Zach Randolph, Dirk Nowitzki, Draymond Green, and the list goes on. The West is simply a different animal with the forward spots.
That’s why most of the Lakers’ minutes at the four will be split between Julius Randle and Brandon Bass. Still, I could see a short stretch with three shooters to space the floor, Kobe at the four and Bass at the five. It’s worth taking a look at in preseason and early in the season. Scott is right, versatility matters more and more in the NBA. We’ll see if he puts that plan into action.