ESPN has released a list ranking every NBA player from best to worst.
According to the 104 experts who voted, Kobe Bryant is the sixth-best player in the league. His new Lakers teammate, Dwight Howard, came in ahead of him at No.3.
Ever since Shaquille O’Neal was traded from Los Angeles in 2004, Bryant has been the best player on the Lakers. But with L.A.’s acquisition of Howard, the guard may no longer be the top player on his team.
Is Howard now the Lakers' best?
Howard is the No.1 center in the NBA. He’s been named to the All-NBA First Team for five straight years and won the Defensive Player of the Year award in 2009, 2010 and 2011. Last season, he averaged 20.6 points, 14.5 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game.
While the center’s numbers seem to improve each season, Bryant is no longer the player he once was. His shooting percentage of 43 percent in 2012 was his worst since 1998, and he failed to make the NBA All-Defensive First Team for the first time since 2005.
At 26 years old, Howard may not have played his best basketball yet. After 16 seasons in the league, Bryant is on the downside of his career.
It’s not only Howard’s stats and awards that have been impressive over the last few years. He led Orlando to the playoffs for six straight seasons, even without a very strong supporting cast.
Bryant has experienced disappointment in the playoffs the last two years, being knocked out in the second round. He does, however, have an extremely good track record of winning.
The veteran, unlike Howard, is known for playing even better under pressure. Bryant has made countless big shots in the playoffs, and would be the Lakers' first option, over Howard, in crunch time.
While his shooting percentage may have dropped, Bryant still averaged 27.9 points per game last year, which was good enough for second in the league. Los Angeles was lacking in depth at the guard position, and Bryant was sometimes forced to take more shots than he usually would.
Both Howard and Bryant will have to adjust to playing with each other in the coming season. With Steve Nash and Pau Gasol also in the starting lineup, L.A. has four strong scoring options. They were both in ESPN’s top 20 list and have the potential to be All-Stars.
Howard has never played with anyone nearly as good as his new teammates. Bryant, finally, has a great point guard on his team, and he’ll have to learn to share the ball.
The Lakers are set to open the 2012-13 season on Oct. 30 against the Mavericks. Howard may miss the start of the year with a back injury.