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Wednesday August 13, 2008 3:11 pm

Dropping Dimes Mock Draft: Round 1, Pick 3 -  Kobe Bryant

A lot can change in a year. Last year, who would have thought a humble Dropping Dimes writer would be tying the knot in 2008! Yours truly will be taking the plunge in the upcoming month. I am hoping I can finish all my fantasy football drafts before the wedding?! I digress. Last summer, the fantasy basketball world was debating whether Kobe Bryant or LeBron James should be taken with the first overall pick. Fast forward to this summer, and Chris Paul has entered into the fantasy fray of first overall pick considerations. When my turn came with the third pick, I was not completely surprised that Kobe dropped to me. Have a peep at what the defending regular season MVP has in store for the upcoming season.

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Caption: Kobe Bryant holding MVP Award with daughters; Gianna (R) and Natalia (L).

Assuming that the USA Olympic basketball team will be competing for the gold medal at the Beijing Games, Kobe’s commitment to USA Basketball will run to August 24th. After the Games, Kobe will have surgery on his right pinkie and it has been speculated that recovery time will clock in at 4-6 weeks. With the regular season traditionally starting at the end of October, it looks like Kobe will be good to go for the regular season but will be sidelined for parts of the Lakers’ training camp. No worries for fantasy nation, Kobe will be ready once Week 1 comes along.

This season Kobe will have his best supporting cast since Shaquille O’Neal left town. After underachieving in the NBA Finals, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom are back and will be manning the 4 and 3 spot. Andrew Bynum will be at center; Bynum has been cleared to practice as of the end of July and all reports have been positive. If there are no further changes to the Lakers this off-season, the Lakers will be running with a huge front-court for this upcoming season. Solid veteran Derek Fisher will be Kobe’s back-court mate.

Kobe’s MVP season was not statistically his best season. His scoring average actually dropped from the season before.

’06-‘07 – 31.6 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 5.4 apg, 1.4 spg, 0.5 bpg, 1.8 threes, 3.3 topg, 46.3 FG%, 86.9 FT%
’07-‘08 – 28.3 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 5.4 apg, 1.8 spg, 0.5 bpg, 1.8 threes, 3.1 topg, 45.9 FG%, 84.0 FT%

Several factors could be attributed to the decline in scoring, with speculation that his pinkie injury could have hindered him (BTW, Kobe played all 82 games last season). The emergence of Andrew Bynum at the beginning of the season and the late season addition of Pau Gasol took away some of his looks. We could split hairs all we want; Kobe’s production is still fantasy gold.

Actually the addition of Pau Gasol at the beginning of February did not impact Kobe’s scoring. If anything there was a slight bump in FG%, more threes made and a slight drop in his turnovers. I anticipate that Kobe will continue the trend from the end of the regular season into this season. More open looks for threes are in store with Gasol and Bynum taking up space in the paint. With a talented supporting cast, Kobe will be able to share the ball and take better shots which will add up to a solid FG% in the 47% + range. You can pencil in 28-30 points, two treys a game and 5.5 assists. Kobe will take a slight hit in the rebounding department; still five rebounds from the SG spot is still pretty solid. Kobe will still be an active ball hawk; averaging close to 2 steals per game will still rank him amongst the elite ball thieves.

You can shuffle the deck with this year’s first three picks and deal them in any order and you can make a solid argument for each player why they deserve the top dog status in your draft. However, Kobe will be primed for another productive season and with the taste of the NBA Finals defeat fresh in his mouth, the Black Mamba will be ready to strike!

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