Back to the present, let’s look at a couple other of the 2008-09 Lakers...
- Lamar Odom, 4th pick in the 1999 Draft. Odom was drafted behind Baron Davis, and ahead of Richard Hamilton, Shawn Marion and Andre Miller. Of the 1999 draftees, Odom is 9th in total points, 3rd in rebounds, and 5th in assists. Looking back a the 1999 draft, he’s probably still 4th or 5th best in the draft, up there with Richard Hamilton, Shawn Marion, Elton Brand and Andre Miller. According to www.basketball-reference.com, here are the people 6-10 or taller that have more career assists than Lamar Odom: Kareem, Wilt, Kevin Garrett, Vlade Divac, Jack Sikma, Olajuwon, Tim Duncan. In the 2009 Playoffs, Lamar averaged 12.2 points and 9.1 rebounds.
- Pau Gasol, 3rd pick in the 2001 Draft. Gasol was drafted just behind Kwame Brown and Tyson Chandler. Looking back on that draft, http://www.basketball-reference.com/draft/NBA_2001.html, Gasol and Tony Parker, drafted 28th, are clearly the best players that came out that year, and it’s not even close after that. Of those draftees, Gasol is second in points scored (next to Jason Richardson), first in rebounds, sixth in assists. During the 2009 Playoffs, Gasol averaged 18 pts and 10.8 boards per game. Kobe may have had some help.
- Both of these players were in fact drafted ahead of Kobe a #13 pick in the draft. Odom played one year at Rhode Island, and Gasol came over as a 20 year old after playing in Europe, so each was just as unproven as Kobe when they became draft eligible.
Now, the draft position doesn't mean everything, obviously. It's more an indicator of talent, and that great word "upside". But if you look at the data above, those players weren't just picked there, they have actually performed up to those expectations.
It's not like he’s playing with Moe Williams, Daniel Gibson, Wally Szczerbiak and a washed up Ben Wallace. He’s got actual players with him.