Category: NBA

The Search for The Next Great Kobe Disciple

Allen Pettigrew Jr.     11/8/2018     Twitter: @AP_The_Great

Welcome ladies and gentlemen, this season of “The Next Great” which will focus on none other than the Hall of Fame Laker, Kobe “Bean” Bryant. Since Kobe’s retirement he’s mentored several NBA superstars including Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kawhi Leonard, and Jayson Tatum, all in hopes that they would unlock their mamba mentality. On this show, we will scour the basketball world to find whose game would elevate to new levels after an offseason with the Black Mamba. There are no requirements for this season’s show so you will see professional and college players on this list.

Donovan Mitchell
Why Donovan: Mentality

Image result for donovan mitchellUSA Today:  Russ Isabella

Mitchell is quite possibly the most fierce competitor of the listed bunch. We all know his NBA story; he hit the ground running leading his team to a second-round run and becoming Twitter’s choice for Rookie Of The Year. The fire he showed all season to get his team to that position is why he’s the perfect candidate to work with Kobe.

At 6-3 with a 6-10 wingspan, he has the size and strength to take most guards in the post. His length combined with his vertical leap will allow him to get the separation needed to pull off Kobe’s patented Jordan like moves. A few weeks of drilling footwork and breaking down the angles of the game should give Mitchell more than just the will to be better than the man in front of him.

With the Kobe work in his bag, it’ll be hard to stop a young player who’s more than proficient at every level of the game. Becoming a Kobe disciple will only bolster his offensive creativity, solidifying his hold as the West’s premiere young guard. Just imagine Mitchell catching the ball in the post leaning back to feel the defender, taking two quick dribbles, faking left then turning over his right shoulder for a fadeaway as we all yell, “KOBE”!

Zach Lavine
Why Zach: Athleticism

Image result for zach lavine jump shotNBA

Lavine is the Chicago Bull’s high-flying star and primary scorer. He’s putting up all-star numbers to start the season and is showing he’s just as explosive as he’s always been. He’s also averaging at least two “mama there goes that man” highlights a night powered by incredible dunks.

Zach’s game relies heavily on his speed, quickness, and of course slam dunk contest winning bounce. Under the tutelage of Kobe, he can turn all those tools into one of the deadliest tool sheds in the league. Zach already has the ability to find holes in the defense by using his lightning quick first step. Being able to see how the defense will unfold without using his speed will only help him as he gets further into his career.

Those same tools can be just as deadly when Zach decides to go into the post. He’ll have the quickness to use Kobe’s footwork in a way that will throw defenders’ equilibriums in a blender. If defenders can somehow stick with him after the fancy footwork he’ll definitely lose them once he turns over his should for Kobe’s signature turnaround jumper. Just imagine Lavine catching the ball in the post leaning back to feel the defender, taking two quick dribbles, faking left then turning over his right shoulder for a fadeaway as we all yell, “KOBE”!

Andrew Wiggins
Why Wiggins: To complete his destiny

Image result for andrew wiggins shotAssociated Press: Stacy Bengs

This contestant was the highest touted prospect coming out of high school that this list has to offer. Maple Jordan, Wiggins nickname out of high school, has been entertaining crowds with his athleticism since the height of the basketball mixtape era. He was compared to some of the games greatest including Kobe, but has yet to reach for that ceiling. Wiggins has been coasting on his athleticism and who can blame he’s reached borderline all-star status off raw athleticism alone. It’s tempting to rely on just that when you’re still able to compete against the best but just think of what could happen if he spent an offseason with Kobe.

The real reason Wiggins is a contestant for this chance of a lifetime is the Jimmy Butler debacle. What made Kobe “Kobe” wasn’t the jump shot, it’s not even the rings, it’s his mentality. Of all the players on this list, Wiggins could use the mamba mentality the most. He’s been judged as aloof and not engaged his entire career in spite of that think about Kobe being able to get him to finally flip the switch. An engaged Wiggins could unlock the defensive potential we saw in him on draft night. He has more physical tools Kobe Bryant ever had so there is no telling what he could become. 

Wiggins was built to take on Kobe’s skill set. The ball fakes, the post-game, shooting off the dribble are all things that would enhance his game. Learning to create space without relying on his athleticism would make Wiggins a nightmare. He’d see plays steps before they happen and it would be nothing a defender could do besides swat at the dust cloud he’d leave behind. Just imagine Wiggins catching the ball in the post leaning back to feel the defender, taking two quick dribbles, faking left then turning over his right shoulder for a fadeaway as we all yell, “KOBE”!

RJ Barret:
Why Barrett: Build

USA Today: Dan Hamilton

Barrett is the youngest competitor in our search for the Kobe Disciple but is one of the most accomplished. Training this young man should be like looking in a mirror for Kobe. We’re looking at a 6-7 competitor whose drive for winning helped him push a less talented Canadian squad over what seemed to be a powerhouse USA FIBA U19 team with two 2019 projected lottery picks and three guys selected in the 2018 draft.

Seemingly more polished than an 18-year-old Kobe, Barrett will show us what made him the consensus high school player of the year at Duke. After the debut performance he had at Duke and well, it becomes even more enticing for Kobe to get in his ear. Establishing yourself as a proven commodity is useful when working with Kobe. His youngest trainee without the last name Bryant is Jayson Tatum, who blossomed into a go-to scorer in last year’s playoffs. 

Barrett already has a scorer’s mentality partnered with a win at all costs mindset but picking Kobe’s mind would make him one of the most dangerous prospects we’ve seen in years. A literal student of the game working with a master of his craft could turn one lucky franchise’s fortune for the next seven years. We could truly see the second coming of Kobe with a Barrett-Bryant mentorship. Just imagine Barrett catching the ball in the post leaning back to feel the defender, taking two quick dribbles, faking left then turning over his right shoulder for a fadeaway as we all yell, “KOBE”!

The All Defense No Offense Team 2018 – 2019

The NBA is full of multi-talented ball players who have one skill that sticks out much more than others. The players on this list epitomize this at their core, at least at this point in their careers. They all have one thing in common, DEFENSE. They may have an opportunity to change this list but for now meet the five players who have to play both sides of the ball but need to focus on one way more than the other.

64803d41-02f3-4b82-bebe-dc1e5bfb4dc2-large16x9_909902058.jpg.0NBAE via Getty Images

Dejonte Murray

Murray isn’t known for his offense, well at least not yet, the Spurs could unlock his potential there this season. But what matters is the 6’ 5” point guard is a menace on the defensive end. His size allows him to guard both guard position and the occasional small forward which is perfect for all your defensive switching needs.

After being named to his first all-defensive team there seems to be no reason why there won’t be more selections to come. Murray gets play time because of his smart decision making but he stays on the court and more importantly out of Popovich’s doghouse thanks to his defense.

Murray separates himself from other options at this spot because of his lack of offensive production. 8 PPG and 3 APG don’t scream starting PG. Other elite defensive PGs are able to score at least 12 PPG. Murray, stuck out at this spot due to his almost one-sided play on the court.

andre-roberson-42417-usnews-getty-ftr_11zb0lnv1al1f122wd2zg264drGetty Images

Andre Roberson

Roberson may as well be a tumbleweed on the offensive end. If he’s shooting the ball, most fans should cringe unless he’s slashing to the basket with his nearly 7’ wingspan. Luckily, he exerts 110% of his energy on the less glamorous side of the court. Roberson’s foot speed and length allow him to guard 1-3 and small ball fours to very substantial results.

Roberson seemed to be the cog that made the OKC defense turn last season. Once Roberson was injured, the team’s defensive rating fell to as low as 27th in the league without him. And due to his lack of impact on offense, there was almost no change in their offensive output. Metrics like the ones listed above are the reason why Roberson makes the list; his stamp is squarely placed on one side of the ball.

USATSI_10786595_168384643_lowres.725be707.fill-735x490Bill Streicher: USA TODAY

Robert Covington

Covington falls in this position simply because there aren’t enough shots to go around on the 76ers. Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons will dominate the ball and with a healthy Markelle Fultz, you can’t blame Covington for not being aggressive. Covington was the lowest scoring starter for the team last year, but at 6’9, his obvious role is his versatility on the defensive end. And he’s done just that last year after making his first all-defensive (see a trend here?).

Covington’s per 36 numbers don’t show any sign that he’d be a more dynamic scorer without the 76ers stars and that should suit their fan base just fine. Being a Swiss Army knife on a team with enough size to switch 1-4 at any given time is all that he needs to do. Save your energy on offense young man, you’ll need it for the daunting tasks of guarding the Celtics and the new Toronto Raptors franchise leader, Kawhi Leonard.

usa_today_10713421.0Kelley L Cox: USA TODAY

Draymond Green

Every NBA should know Draymond Green’s role on the Warriors all too well. He’s the most versatile defender in the league even though he’s relatively undersized for the 4 and 5 positions. As the 2017 defensive player of the year, he anchored one of the best defensive teams in recent history and he was nearly a repeat winner if it wasn’t for the next guy on the list. With the addition of Demarcus Cousin, there’s almost no need for Green to touch the ball on the offensive even though he is a great decision maker at the 4 spot.

After averaging a near triple-double at 11,7, and 7, expect those numbers to go down once Cousins is back in the rotation. Yes, Cousins may open the spacing for other teammates once he establishes himself in the post, but don’t expect that to help Green much. He’s shooting a career average of 32.7% from the three-point line and that’s with being with playing with the best shooting duo in history his entire career. His shooting percentage has even fallen since adding Kevin Durant in 2016. Warriors fans should be absolutely ok with that happening because that means he can conserve energy for where he is really needed during the game, the defensive end.

usa_today_10382599.0Jennifer Stewart: USA TODAY

Rudy Gobert

When you’re the reigning defensive player of the year, do you even need to score? Well, Rudy Gobert sure doesn’t need to. His rim protection alone makes him one of the most valuable players on a court at any given time. Standing 7’1 with the second longest wingspan in the NBA, 7’9, Gobert has enough length to step out to the three-point line and be much more than serviceable.

Over the past two seasons, Gobert has taken a step forward with his scoring. But by no means is he an offensive standout at the position. Players like Anthony Davis and Joel Embiid can challenge for this spot, but they mean too much to their teams offensively. If Rudy Gobert had more offensive firepower around him to lessen his load just imagine the havoc he could invoke on the NBA.