NBA Los Angeles Lakers

Kobe Bryant Isn’t a Top 25 Player Anymore

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

If you are upset about Kobe Bryant’s NBA rank being too low, you must simply believe defense doesn’t matter.

Although, you are not alone. Many have gotten furious at the ESPN experts who ranked Kobe as the 25th best player going into the 2013 season. Truth be told, he probably shouldn’t even be that high and definitely not higher than that, yet many fans have still gone to twitter to complain.

Look, Kobe has killed it and likely will kill it on offense. His mid-range shots are so good that he maintains a high efficiency even while he creates almost all of his shots himself. He draws a ton of fouls and is great at the free throw line. For all the jokes about his passing he is a great passer for his position, averaging about five assists last year. He is certainly a top 25 offensive player, but this only half of the equation.

Anyone who closely watched the Los Angeles Lakers last year knows Kobe simply did not play defense. I don’t mean he didn’t play defense well, I mean he didn’t play. Kobe constantly let his man get open threes and gambled for steals that were not going to happen. He got beat backdoor at least once a game and for the first time in his career really had trouble staying in front of a lot of opponents. The players he guarded had PERs of almost 20, well above average. Kobe was bad on defense, and there’s really no good argument against that.

At times Kobe did turn it on defensively. Against certain opponents he would really lock things down, but those games were far and few between. Many have argued he did this to stay fresh and to help more on offense. Even if we assume that is true, that means he only really has value on one side of the floor and is below average on the other. That isn’t good enough to be a top 25 player. Top stars can play both ways. Sure, some are better on one side, but they can at least give adequate production on each side. If you watched Kobe last year you know he failed to do that.

I haven’t even brought up the fact that Kobe has a torn Achilles. Sure, he’s Kobe so there’s some chance he comes back as good as ever, but there is also a chance he is not the same player at all. He is human after all.

Look, I love Kobe as much as the next guy. He’s one of the great players of all-time and has been a top defender as well as an offensive threat for most of his career. However, by his 17th season he has deteriorated as a defensive player and could be even worse next year after this injury. Kobe may be a top 10 great all-time, but he’s unlikely to be a top 25 player in 2013.

Jay Cullen is an NBA writer for Follow him on Twitter or add him on Google.