MANILA, Philippines – For the first time in 12 years, Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant is not ranked as the best shooting guard in the National Basketball Association (NBA) by the league’s general managers (GMs).
In a survey of all 30 NBA GMs, James Harden of the Houston Rockets was ranked as the best shooting guard in the league after getting 56.7% of the vote.
Bryant, a perennial All-Star who has nonetheless showed signs of decline – especially on the defensive end – last season, ranked second with 20% of the vote.
It is the first time in the 12-year history of the NBA GMs poll that Bryant was not ranked the best shooting guard in the league.
In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Lakers forward Pau Gasol noted that the ranking can motivate the famously hyper-competitive Bryant.
“I like it, because Kobe always finds way to motivate himself and to keep those things in mind,” said Gasol, who won two championships with Bryant in 2009 and 2010.
Last season was a difficult one for Bryant, with the Lakers failing to meet expectations after having traded for All-Star center Dwight Howard. His season ended prematurely when he tore his Achilles tendon in a game against the Golden State Warriors in April.
Bryant is unlikely to play on opening day.
Coach Mike D’Antoni told ESPN that the NBA GMs likely considered the effects of the injury on Bryant.
“They probably took into account that he’s got an Achilles tendon out,” said D’Antoni. “That’s the only thing I can think about. He’s probably the second best with a torn Achilles, so that’s all I know.”
D’Antoni doubts the ranking will have a particularly strong impact on Bryant, because the player is “motivated enough, anyway.”
“It does not matter. This guy is dedicated for the Lakers fans, for himself, for us as a team. He’ll do everything he can,” said D’Antoni. “I don’t think it helps him, hurts him. It’s just maybe one mor thing that’s pushing him, but he doesn’t really need it. He’s pretty good.”
Stephen Curry of Golden State, Kevin Durant of Oklahoma City and Paul George of Indiana received 6.7% of the vote. Miami’s Dwyane Wade received 3.3%.
Meanwhile, Chris Paul of the Los Angeles Clippers was named the best point guard after getting 70% of the vote. Four-time Most Valuable Player LeBron James of Miami was named the best small forward with 86.7% of the vote.
Tim Duncan of San Antonio was named the best power forward, with 31.0% of the vote. Minnesota’s Kevin Love was a close second, with 27.6%.
Howard, who signed with Houston in the off-season, was named the best center with 65.5% of the vote.