Better right now: Kobe or Carmelo?

December, 13, 2012
12/13/12
3:36
PM ET
Getty ImagesKobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony are the top two scorers in the NBA this season.
When the Los Angeles Lakers and New York Knicks face off tonight, the matchup to watch will be between this season’s top two leading scorers –- Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony.

Both players are having superb seasons, but here's the question:

Who would you rather have right now: Kobe or Carmelo?

Kobe Bryant
Despite the Lakers' struggles this season, it may not be Kobe's fault. The Lakers are a much better team with Bryant on the court this season. They're 20 points better per 48 minutes with Kobe on court -- 17 points better at the offensive end and three points better on the defensive end.

Most would agree that Bryant is a top-10 player of all-time and historically better Anthony. If that is the case, it's hard to argue the case for Carmelo when Kobe is having one of the best seasons of his career from an efficiency standpoint.

Kobe has career highs this season in field-goal percentage, 3-point percentage, true shooting percentage, offensive rating and win shares per 48 minutes -- that covers virtually every vital offensive statistic.

What about at the defensive end? Kobe is still an elite man-to-man defender, holding opponents to 32 percent shooting this season. Of the 155 players to defend at least 150 plays this season, Kobe is holding opponents to the 12th-fewest points per play. Carmelo ranks 75th on that same list.

The problem with the Lakers may not be Kobe, but rather their over-reliance on him.

The more the Lakers have relied on Bryant this season, the less successful they've been. The Lakers are 2-11 when Kobe's usage percentage is at least 30 and 7-2 when his usage percentage is below 30. Before Mike D'Antoni was on the sidelines, Kobe's usage percentage was 29.5. Since D'Antoni took over, it's 34.6, which ranks second in the NBA to Carmelo during that span.

Carmelo Anthony
Kobe isn't the only one having a career season at the offensive end. Carmelo is averaging career highs in 3-point percentage, offensive rating win shares per 48 minutes.

The most impressive part of Carmelo's increased offensive efficiency this season is that he's doing it with a career-high 34.2 usage percentage, which leads the league.

Then, there's the clutch factor.

While "clutch" may be a word associated with Kobe's past, statistics show that may not be the case anymore. Kobe is shooting 5-of-17 (29.4 percent) this season in crunch time -- in the last five minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime with the score within five points. Carmelo is slightly better at 6-of-16 (37.5 percent).

In fact, Carmelo shot a higher percentage on those shots last season and in 2010-11 as well.

When the game's really on the line, it's the same story. Carmelo has shot a better percentage on game-tying and go-ahead shots in the final 24 seconds of the game in each of the previous two seasons. Last year, Carmelo shot 4-of-8 on those shots, while Kobe shot 3-of-15.

With Carmelo on the court this season, the Knicks are 14 points better at the offensive end but two-and-a-half points worse defensively per 48 minutes.

Who would YOU rather have? Leave your comments below.

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