Triple Threat Weekly: The Wild Wild West

Weekly NBA Content by Back of the Jersey

Welcome to the latest addition to Back of the Jersey – NBA Triple Threat Weekly.

Each week, we will pose three questions which will be answered by us here at Back of the Jersey. This week our focus is on the Western Conference.

1. Through 17 games, Kobe Bryant is shooting a career worst 39.0%, including 28.4% from the 3-point line (4th worst mark of career) and a career worst 78.7% from the free throw line. Will Kobe become more efficient as he settles in with a bevy of new teammates or will he continue hoisting 30+ shots a game?

Jim Armstrong

Kobe is one of the least efficient players in the game because he has to be. With 33-year old Carlos Boozer and 29-year old Nick Young as the Lakers next best scoring options outside of Kobe, we can expect more 30-35 shot nights from Kobe. Kobe can still bring it (see him lead Lakers to win on 11/30 against the Eastern Conference leading Raptors…with a triple double no less) and despite the lack of scoring options around him, I see him getting stronger and more importantly, more comfortable in his surgically repaired achilles and knee. Outside of his first two seasons (when he was a teenager) and last season’s injury-shortened campaign, Kobe has never shot less than 43% from the field. I don’t expect him to shoot worse than 43% when the season’s 82 games are up.

Tyler Michels

I agree, Jim, Kobe is one of the least efficient players in the game. My guess is as long as he stays healthy, his numbers will get better as the season goes along. Where I disagree is that he has to be inefficient. This is precisely the element that makes Kobe different from all-time greats such as Jordan and LeBron. Kobe in his prime would certainly be a bit more engaged, but he just doesn’t involve his teammates the way that is necessary to win in today’s NBA with as little talent as L.A. currently has. We are seeing a prime example of that in New York right now with Carmelo Anthony. Kobe is a great basketball player, and actually a very good passer, but he just does not seem to be able to pull the absolute best out of his teammates. Let’s not forget, part of the reason this team is so bad is because of Kobe’s decision to take such a crippling contract for the franchise. In addition, Dwight Howard bolted from L.A., in my opinion, in large part to Kobe’s personality. On the court this season, Kobe has taken some ridiculous shots, which had me rolling my eyes. Of course, it’s obvious this Lakers team is bad, very bad. Talent wise they are down there with some of the NBA’s worst teams. But, I think Kobe could get more out of this team if he wanted to, but I think he’s more interested in his own scoring and his own accolades than taking this team from a 25 win team to a potential 35 win team. Because in the end, does it really matter?

DeMarcus Cousins

Picture courtesy of the N.Y. Post

2. DeMarcus Cousins is in his fifth NBA season with the Sacramento Kings. He has elevated his game to new heights, including a new level of maturity. Cousins is averaging 23.5 PPG, 12.6 RPG, 1.5 BPG, 51% FG, and 81% FT. Most importantly, the Kings are actually winning out west. Is DeMarcus Cousins a serious contender for the MVP award?

Tyler Michels

Absolutely. Cousins has been the best player I have seen so far this NBA season. LeBron in Cleveland thus far has been a bit of a struggle. Anthony Davis has been impressive, but had great difficulty stopping Cousins in recent matchups. I really believe DeMarcus Cousins is the best player in the league right now. Amazingly, he’s finally made the Kings relevant again (in conjunction with Rudy Gay, of course). DMC has been out the past week or so, and the Kings have yet to win a game in his absence – strengthening my argument for him as an MVP candidate.

Overall, Cousins efficiency and ability to shoot, dribble, and pass out of the post is remarkable to watch. He’s extremely versatile for a near seven-foot center, and plays so hard every night. You can tell he’s truly committed to winning. If he could limit his fouls per game (he currently leads the league at 4.7 per game), he would be playing more than 32 MPG and his numbers would be even more impressive. If Cousins leads this team to the playoffs, I think he definitely needs to be considered for the MVP.

Jim Armstrong

Those are eye-popping stats. I have to admit, I haven’t seen a live Kings game this year yet and now after seeing those stats, I need to tune in to a couple of nationally televised Sacramento games. Yes, it’s true that the Kings are a fringe playoff contender this year, at 9-9, and currently just 1.5 games out of the #8 seed. Another crazy number: this is Cousins’ 5th NBA season and he’s all of 24 years old.

We need to see more from the Kings to determine if they’re a legitimate contender or a fringe playoff contender. Are they similar to the ’06 Kings (a la Ron Artest, Mike Bibby & Shareef Abdur-Rahim) who won 44 games to nab the #8 seed, only to bow out in the first round against the Spurs in six games. If they’re a fringe playoff team, I don’t see Cousins bringing home the hardware. If the Kings continue to coalesce and grab a middle seed in the Western Conference, then he’s absolutely in the conversation.

I can’t wait to tune into the next nationally televised Kings game. Lucky for me that takes place on December 11th.

DeMarcus Cousins

Picture courtesy of the NBA

3. Is Memphis a legitimate contender in the West? Familiarity has bred consistency with this team and while they were only a #7 seed last year (due to injuries to their key guys, including Marc Gasol), they could and should have beat the Thunder if Zach Randolph was never suspended for Game 7. They returned essentially the same team this year minus Mike Miller and plus Vince Carter and a healthy Quincy Pondexter.

Tyler Michels

Yes. Memphis is a contender. Under one condition: they stay healthy. Marc Gasol is a different type of Center, but he’s as effective as anyone in the league. Zach Randolph is still playing at a high level, and the emergence of Courtney Lee and Mike Conley in recent years give them a pesky backcourt that can frustrate Oklahoma City, the Clippers and other top Western Conference teams. With the addition of Vince Carter as well (who still has some game, by the way), I believe Memphis is absolutely a contender. It won’t be easy for them, but it’s going to be one hell of a fight in May out West.

Jim Armstrong

Agree with Tyler. Any time a team has such a lethal high-low post combo such as Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, they’re difficult to defend. Memphis has always been weak on the wings (this was part of their undoing in the last couple of postseasons) but as Tyler mentioned they acquired a still effective soon to be 38-year Vince Carter and have Quincy Pondexter back. Between these two guys, defensive mainstay Tony Allen and Courtney Lee, they have enough on the wings to compete. Despite the stars down low, the guy that makes this team tick is Mike Conley. At 27 years old, he’s one of the few guys on this team who’s in his prime and as long as he’s humming (16.2 PPG, 6.3 APG, 3.0 RPG) Memphis remains a top team in the West.

About Tyler Michels

Tyler is an NC State alum living in Raleigh, NC. Growing up in Northwest New Jersey, Tyler developed a love for New York sports teams, driving his desire to become a writer. In his free time, Tyler can probably be found on a golf course.


  1. Very insightful questions as well as responses.

    I have to agree that Kobe will continue to shoot 30+ shots as he needs to, because he needs to. I applaud him for knowing his team and not buying into the truck loads of criticism there is out there about him. As the Lakers develop and become stronger as a unit I believe Kobe will start to include is team more as evidenced by his high assist games of late. Kobe loves the Lakers and knows that one day he will be gone…he cares about the future of the team as well as the present. A side note: the fact that Kobe’s assists and rebounds remain almost equal to his career average is promising, given his age and past injuries. I believe as the year goes on we could see high assist numbers for Kobe as well as a hand full of triple doubles.

    Quick note on the Kings: Cousins is a beast and I am surprised at his numbers as well, good to see his maturity. Also nice that Rudy has found a fitting home, hope his success continues.

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