Lamar Odom off the bench?

» September 2, 2008 5:26 PM | By Brandon Hoffman

Lamar Odom had a solid first half of the 2007-2008 season.  But upon Pau Gasol’s arrival in February, Odom ushered in three consecutive months (February, March, April) where he averaged ten plus points and rebounds while shooting over 50% from the field.  The Gasol acquisition essentially bumped Odom from the second option to third — a role Odom is better suited for.

With a fully rehabilitated Andrew Bynum penciled in as the Lakers starting center next season, coach Phil Jackson has two options:

  1. Move Odom from power forward to small forward and start him alongside Gasol and Bynum in the Lakers frontcourt
  2. Bring Odom off the bench

I don’t think Odom is the answer at small forward.  Odom lacks the lateral quickness required to defend opposing small forwards and many of his strengths (penetration, low-post scoring) will be null and void with the return of a healthy Andrew Bynum.  The majority of the Lakers post-up opportunities will go to Gasol and Bynum and the lane will be occupied by those two.

With two seven footers in the lineup, the Lakers starting unit is going to become increasingly half-court centric.  And as such, they will need a small forward that can stretch the defense with long-distance shooting.  Odom possesses an accurate mid-range jumpshot, but is a career 31% three-point shooter.

As the Lakers sixth man, Odom could spell either Gasol or Bynum in the Lakers frontcourt while moonlighting at small forward from time to time.  Odom’s point forward skills and ability to finish on the break could also be beneficial to the Lakers second unit, which was an uptempo squad for much of last season.

Of course, this is dependent upon Jackson’s desire to bring Odom off the bench and Odom being amenable to a “diminished” role.  But it could also go a long ways towards determining Odom’s future with the Lakers.  Odom is the final year of a contract that will pay him $14,148,596 next season.  If the Lakers decide to extend Odom’s contract, it will be at a considerable discount.  And one way to convince Odom to accept a paycut while underscoring his value would be to give him an opportunity to win one of the league’s most underrated individual awards:  Sixth Man of the Year.

After capturing the Western Conference’s number one seed and advancing to the NBA Finals without their starting center, the Lakers are the odds on favorite to win the championship in 2009.  The league’s Sixth Man of the Year award has a long history of being awarded to the first reserve on one of the NBA’s top teams.  Manu Ginobili won the award last season after he averaged a Spurs team-high 19.6 points per game coming off the bench.  Leandro Barbosa won the award in 2006-2007.  Both Barboasa and Ginobili ended up averaging starter-like minutes, but gave their teams an advantage coming off the bench.

Toni Kukoc won the award in 1996 as the first man off the bench for the 72-10 Chicago Bulls.  Dennis Rodman was the runner-up to the award in 1989.  And Kevin McHale — one of the greatest power forwards of all-time — won the Sixth Man of the Year award in 1984 and 1985.  The Celtics won the championship in ‘84 and advanced to the NBA Finals in ‘85.  Bill Walton captured the award in Boston’s ‘86 championship season.

Odom’s versatility and unselfishness would be on full display as the Lakers sixth man.

Coming off the bench carries the stigma of a reduced role.  But as the Sixth Man of a championship contender, Odom could have more impact on the Lakers than he ever has.


7 Responses to “Lamar Odom off the bench?”

  1. Erick Says:

    Odom off the bench is certainly an interesting idea, but Odom’s always had trouble focusing in the past…it’s probably his biggest downfall as a player.

    Coming off the bench requires mental preparation to stay ready, stay loose, and understand the flow of the game. Also, Odom probably won’t be involved early in games, because he’ll be on the bench, and he may not be able to make the rapid adjustment to game-action.

    Odom almost has to be a starter and has to be a featured player to succeed. For himself and the Lakers, that might come true on another team.

  2. King_Kaun Says:

    Lakers need to trade him.

    His long history of bad games in the clutch is staggering… let’s just pretend he stays a Laker and a starter and puts up killer numbers for L.A. in the regular season…trust me…the dude will still find a way to cost the team a crucial victory or two in the playoffs. He always does…he “disappears” in big games.

    trade. trade. trade.

    I’m also not convinced Odom would think shooting for the ‘6th man’ award would net him a big payday. Odom does not necessarily need a pay cut. We aren’t talking about MARBURY coming off a max contract or anything like that. Remember when TONS AND TONS of ‘talking heads’ were saying that Brand and Baron wouldn’t opt out cuz no one would pay them near what they were making….

    …well look what happened… Im sure I could come up with at least 10 teams in the league who would pay him 14 million…

    TRADE: Odom for Marion

    Odom returns to Miami and Marion would now play for Hoffman’s favorite team and Hoffman would be forced to love him a la Kwame Brown!! BRILLIANT!!!

  3. dusty Says:

    i think KOBE!! should take a paycut and volunteer to play the defensive stopper role for the lakers the same way he did with team USA, thus freeing up lamar to lead the offense the same way he did with the lakers “bench mob” last season. if you watched the lakers religiously, you’d know that lamar was often times left on the floor with that second unit, and the “bench mob” thrived for long stretches last year.

    besides, KOBE!! can get off whenever he wants at 34% from 3 lifetime.

  4. A-Train Says:

    Odom is not bench material. Not because he’s so talented, but rather because bench material is reserved for high-energy scorers who do little else, a banger or two, a point, a defensive specialist and a bunch of scrubs. Odom doesn’t fit into any of these categories.

    He’s not a scorer. He’s not a banger. He’s not a point. He’s not a defensive specialist. He’s not a scrub either. He makes a lot of money ($14.6 million).

    He’s a starting NBA three, plain and simple. He has to start.

  5. Brandon Hoffman Says:

    Erick – I think Odom’s focus improved as the third option — mainly because the expectations were lowered. I think his focus would increase with decreased expectations as the sixth man. Odom has a tendency to overthink rather than react.

    King_Kaun – It’s next to impossible to get equal value for a player as versatile as Odom. He provides intangibles that don’t appear in a box score. I don’t think winning the Sixth Man of the Year award would mean Odom is deserving of a big pay day. In fact, I think it would have the opposite effect. No team in the NBA — Sixth Man of the Year award or not — is going to sign Odom to a contract that will pay him $14 million a season. It’s not going to happen.

    dusty – Kobe’s 34% from the three-point line is pretty impressive when you look at how many 3’s he attempts over the course of a season. But I agree with your opinion of Odom’s impact with the second unit. He did a great job leading the bench mob.

    A-Train – Where did Kevin McHale fall in your ‘bench material’ categories? I don’t think Lamar Odom is a small forward. He may end up starting there to begin the season, and he may end up finishing the season there, but I doubt he plays the bulk of his minutes at that position. I don’t think he has the athleticism to defend opposing 3’s and the perimeter shooting that will be required to stretch the defense with Bynum and Gasol down low.

  6. A-Train Says:

    Kevin McHale? Easy. Scorer and rebounder–he was great at both. Off the bench or not, once he got the ball, McHale almost always shot it.

    A guy who comes off the bench needs to do something other what Odom does, which is do many little things well, but not one thing on an above-average level. His value is in his size and versatility, and nothing else. Guys like that need to play in starting lineup, especially in the triangle, where their ability to do whatever is needed is an asset.

    He can post up smaller guys in the post and then find the open man with a pass. He can knock down the open jumper. He can run the floor. He’s the wild card in the deck. A guy like that almost always starts. Look at Tayshaun Prince, Adrian Griffin–started most of the games during his three years in Dallas and first year in Boston–, Ira Newble, Bo Outlaw–started a lot in his first eight seasons–, etc. Of course, Odom has more talent than, say, Outlaw, but my point in bringing these guys up is that, like Odom, their strengths were found in their intangibles. And the intangible guys don’t do much to hurt the team, but they do need the minutes on the floor to be effective. Look at Boris Diaw… he was at his best when starting (he didn’t start because Marion was in front of him, and he didn’t shoot well enough–D’Antoni liked his threes to shoot). But Diaw starting is a really good player; off the bench, an afterthought.

    I feel the same about Odom. He needs to get the minutes to be an effective contributor. He might come off the bench next year, but he’ll still get starter’s minutes. He has to, otherwise he’ll be worthless.

    What’s wrong with starting Odom at the three with Bynum and Gasol up front? I think that would be ideal.

  7. Brandon Hoffman Says:

    Train,

    I just think the Lakers are going to need a shooter at the three spot to stretch the defense. With two seven footers in the lineup, the Lakers are going to be more half-court than ever.

    And I don’t think Odom can defend opposing small forwards. But as Kurt from Forum Blue and Gold mentioned, Jackson may switch up his defensive philosophy and funnel opposing players into Gasol and Bynum next year. If so, Odom’s defense could be ideal.

    We’ll see. Either way, he’s going to get starter’s minutes.

Leave Your Comment