Really?! With Kurt, Reed and Darius

Kurt —  October 16, 2008

So you want to trade Lamar Odom? Really? You think it’s obvious and simple? Really? You want to bring in a real three and rely on Josh Powell and DJ Mbenga to play more minutes along the front line? Really?

We’re just a couple of weeks camp and already trade talk is popping up all over the Web. This prompted an email conversation yesterday between a couple of Forum Blue & Gold regulars, which I am going to excerpt here. But I think the bottom line was summed up well by Darius:

If the goal is to get a championship, it won’t come down to who we play at SF, but moreso how we evolve as a team on defense and whether or not we mentally take that next step where we don’t lose 20 point leads in the Finals.

Let me be up front, I can see a scenario where trading Odom is a good idea. But to my mind, the key to that equation will be Odom’s attitude in his role this year — which could be off the bench, which may well be in a less defined role than the past and based more on matchups. Can he adjust to that and be a good team member? Or will he lose focus? I don’t think we can answer that right now.

But if talk of trading Odom were to get serious, there are a lot of factors to considered, because Odom’s versatility covers a lot of potential wholes for the Lakers. Reed explains:

When you look at possible playoff series, Odom gives us critical insurance against foul trouble. When we play against the key playoff contenders, we will often face a PF that could put our bigs in quick foul trouble (Duncan, Boozer, West, Yao, Amare, Garnett). It would be a big relief to know that if Gasol or Drew got two quick ones, Lamar could come right in and we wouldn’t lose much (as opposed to Powell or Mihm). I think this would be very important in any critical series.

Darius echoed that point:

I think that when you have a player like Odom, he’s a one-man contingency plan for so many of our weaknesses. Rebounding, Ball Handling, Passing, PF, SF, he does a lot for us. And he does it playing multiple positions. However (after these pre-season games and what he’s been for us since he came to LA), I feel like his work at SF is going to be severely limited to spot match-ups and that most of his time will be spent playing PF next to either Bynum or Pau at center. Like I said earlier, those backup minutes could easily become starter minutes if one of our bigs goes down. But while I love having contingencies, I don’t think you coach or GM to large contingencies like this one. …

A lot of talk about trading Odom has focused on bringing some of the better (and potentially available, depending on who you ask) small forwards around the league. The problem is, if you swap out Odom straight up for a three, now you rely on Powell, Mbenga and Mihm to play more minutes, key minutes if there are fouls and injuries.

And, you create a worse logjam at the three than there already is: Ariza, Walton, Radmanovic and at times Kobe all play the three, Bring in another and you are cutting minutes and dealing with frustrated players on the bench (guys who would start or play key minutes a lot of other places).

Darius added this nugget about the roster right now:

I actually think Phil would prefer to have a little less talent in players 9-14 if it means having a better 1-8 that had clear, defined roles.

Reed basically put all the pros and cons into a few bullet points about moving Odom:

• While Radman (and potential trade pieces) can play the 4 in a pinch, none can rebound or defend adequately against the versatile post players that are on almost all contending teams.

• Odom provides instant insurance against injury (in the regular season) or foul trouble (in the playoffs) as to Bynum or Pau.

• Odom gives us a tested lineup combination that gives opposing rivals fits (Utah, San Antonio) given his and Pau’s length, speed, and skill sets. No one had an answer for the Fisher, Kobe, Sasha/Radman, Odom, Pau lineup until Boston.

• We don’t currently have a maximally dominant 5 man unit that we can go to against any team. While our depth gives us great flexibility in adapting to various teams, it also is a sign that we don’t have a single lineup devoid of some glaring weakness (whether it is outside shooting b/c of Ariza or Odom, defense in Radman, or size/defense in Sasha). An upgrade for the right SF would solve this problem.

• Odom was an absolute beast after the Pau trade, shooting 59%, playing incredible team defense, controlling the boards, and giving slow opposing bigs fits.

• Odom does not have the ability to be effective on the perimeter so long as Pau and Bynum are clogging the lane. He cannot play SF next to them in key playoff series.

Which is why, as I said before, I think it all comes back to Odom’s mental state. If he is happy in whatever his new role turns out to be, he is a big asset. If he is a distraction, he may have to go but getting something for him is not that easy. Remember, soon Andrew Bynum is about to get a big deal, and the Lakers likely want to keep Ariza and Farmar’s new deal is just a couple years away. And Kobe could opt out and want to get a new max deal. That’s a lot of money. Odom’s contract comes off the books at the end of this year, and he would resign for less. (How much less, that is a good question.)

I’ll give Darius the final word:

But if the season starts and Odom is playing well in whatever role that he has for us, then do we still want to make a move? (I mean, all these issues would still be there, just lurking in the background and waiting to resurface right at the wrong time). And that’s where the gray area is. We all like LO, we all appreciate what he provides. He’s NOT easily replaceable and that’s why we’ll always struggle to actually trade him.