Lamar Odom: My Sixth Man Of The Year

Darius Soriano —  March 21, 2011

With the post season rapidly approaching, we’re nearing the point where the regular season awards will be voted on. Over a series of posts, I’ll make my argument for a specific Laker to win an award or be included on one of the All-NBA or Defensive teams. Today, my take on why Lamar Odom should win the Sixth Man of the Year award.

I understand that with any regular season award there are several viable candidates.  And in terms of the Sixth Man of the Year award, this year is no different. Jason Terry, Jamal Crawford, George Hill, Shawn Marion, James Harden, Serge Ibaka, and Ty Lawson all having very good seasons and helping their respective teams win games. They’re relied upon to be the first (or second) man off their teams’ benches and expected to produce in tangible and intangible ways to help their squads. I think any team would be lucky to employ the above list of players, they’d surely have a better team for it.

That said, Lamar Odom should win the Sixth Man of the Year award.

I won’t delve into the numbers here because others have already done that very well, making convincing cases for LO. Check out this post for a clear look at how Odom compares to some of the above listed players. Or this one to see how some of the top candidates perform in different parts of the game. Heady cases both of those articles are, and worth your time.

Instead, I’m here to talk about Odom’s role on the Lakers and how, even beyond the tangible numbers, he’s been key to the Lakers success.

As I’ve mentioned several times over the past few years, Odom’s versatility allows the Lakers to play multiple styles without sacrificing talent. On offense, Odom is an initiator of the Lakers sets and allows the other versatile pieces on the roster to spread their wings and work different parts of the court to be most effective.

This is most evident in how, with Odom bringing the ball up the court and facilitating the offense, Kobe Bryant can move out of the two guard front of the Triangle and into his sweet spots of the elbow and weak side low block where he can take advantage of his mid-range and excellent low post games. As has been proven countless times over the years, when Kobe is isolated at the elbow or the low block, defenses are put in the difficult position of having to choose between single covering him or coming with a double team. What rarely gets mentioned however, is how the Lakers are able to put a guard into these positions on the floor without sacrificing floor balance or spacing. The key is Odom, as his versatility allows Kobe to move off the ball and into positions where he can focus solely on working over a compromised D.

But Odom’s ability as an offensive initiator isn’t his only valued skill in the Triangle. He’s also a tremendous finisher with an innate understanding of spacing, timing, and how to work off other offensive threats to make himself available as a finisher. How many times have we seen Odom perfectly time a cut off the ball, receive a pass from Kobe or Pau, and finish inside? How many times have we seen him use a screen to curl into the lane and get an easy dish that he converts for an easy deuce? Or how about the times that he’s working sideline P&R’s with Gasol and he either swoops into the paint for a lay in or dishes last second to Pau or another teammate for an easy finish? The fact is that Odom’s ability as a finisher perfectly complements his teammates and he’s able to consistently do damage both with or without the ball in his hands. The fact that the Lakers don’t have to run plays for Odom but still reap the rewards of him as a finisher is one of the most underrated part of his success.

Defensively, though, is where I think Odom really makes an unheralded impact. The fact is that most times, when looking at this award voters only focus on one end of the floor. However, when looking at Odom, that’d be doing him and his contributions a major disservice. Odom is very good at defending the P&R and is one of the few big men who more than holds his own when needing to switch onto ball handlers on the perimeter. Beyond outright switching out onto wing players, though, he’s also excellent at showing help and then recovering back to his own man, or rotating to a teammate’s man to keep the integrity of the Lakers’ schemes. This year he’s also been much better at stepping in and taking charges beyond being a threat to block shots from the weakside (or even on the ball). When you throw in his top 15 rebounding numbers, you have a player who’s impacting the game a great deal on defense with few metrics actually available to measure it.

Lastly, there are arguments to be made about other players being a “closer” for their team. I know that Jason Terry is an elite scoring option in 4th quarters for the Mavs and is often a player that hits big shots for his team down the stretch of close games. However, Odom too is a closer for the Lakers. Many times, it’s he – not Bynum – that is in at the end of games as his versatility on both sides of the ball is valued by Phil Jackson. Just last Friday against the Timberwolves, it was Odom who hit a three-pointer that pushed a three-point lead to six with only two and a half minutes remaining. He then again hit a big jumper with a little over a minute to go to make a five-point lead seven. This type of late game production has happened a lot this season, but with Kobe, Gasol, and even Fisher all on this team there isn’t a lot of room for recognition of late game heroics.

In the end, Odom has the numbers but he also has had a tremendous impact on the Lakers beyond those numbers. His versatility makes it so he can be a highlighted player or one who contributes in the background. He helps slot players into different roles where they can excel, all while molding his game to fit the teammates he’s playing next to. In essense, he’s been the ultimate Sixth Man and he deserves this award.

Darius Soriano

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36 responses to Lamar Odom: My Sixth Man Of The Year

  1. I agree w/ you, L.O. deserves the award this season. Great article, as mentioned by you, in SBNation showing Odom has the actual numbers to support receiving the award. I thought he would have started too many games, but according to the rules he has not. By the way, who votes for “6th Man of the Year”, coaches, beat writers? Has a Laker ever won the award? Horry, Cooper, & McAdoo come to mind as possibilities.

  2. Writers and broadcasters US and Canada vote on the sixth man award.

    No Laker has ever won.

  3. I completely agree. He definitely deserves it. But most of the time the award goes to the 6th man that scores the most points. Maybe this year they will give it to the best overall 6th man though.

  4. I always thought Lakers fan were hard on Odom and his contributions were underappreciated (the fact that some Laker fans wanted to keep Ariza over Odom says a lot)
    Now that he’s unquestionably playing great, I’m glad he’s getting his due. I couldn’t be more impressed with Odom. Not only is he playing fantastic but let’s remember he actually took a pay cut and less minutes to stay with his team. How many players can say that?

    The only dark cloud to this story is, how many years longer is Bynum going to be okay with giving up crunchtime minutes to Odom, especially with the way he’s playing?

  5. Most impressive thing about LO this year has been his consistency…There have not been those 1-2 weeks of basketball malaise. There have not been those prolonged periods of games where he has a blank expression.

    Before Odom would go on a 7 game binge at 18pts, 10 rebs and 5ast and then have a week or 2 period of 8, 7, 2.

    The consistency has only been matched by Pau and Kobe this year.

  6. I totally agree from a basketball perspective that LO is by-far-and-large the best basketball player coming off the bench across the L.

    But it seems LO does not generate the same respect as some other names, e.g. Jason Terry, Serge Ibaka, etc. Correct me if I am wrong, but I think LO’s earlier funky days with the Clippers, then pot-smoking thing, then the Kardashian connection just made him “less serious” than others.

    By same logic but to a much further extent, Dennis Rodman is highly unlikely to get into HOF… What a shame…

  7. “Writers and broadcasters..”
    Aren’t these the same people who vote for the MVP? I think that says all that needs to be said.

    The built in bias against people the media doesn’t ‘cotton to’ and also the constant need to find ‘new meat’ contributes to my feeling this is not the correct group to be voting on these things. They are sort of like ESPN evaluating teams and players – not very objective and not very team oriented – mostly out for ratings.

    I am not sure there is any really good group and, therefore, I wonder if there is any good reason for the awards? Shouldn’t the title be enough of a reward for the season – Kobe and Phil apparently think so.

  8. Absolutely second your Vote! LO has been so consistent this year and as you succintly point out, extremely versatile. Lots of times people use that term to describe so-so talent. Lamar is an amazing athlete, and I always enjoy his comments. The guy never ducks the limelight. Notice how fast he assesses the offensive floor when he brings the ball up the court? Sometimes driving hard to the hoop, or taking a quick jumper. One of my favorite Laker during the last several years.

    LAKERS FOREVER!

  9. #6. I’m not sure if that’s true or not, but I do know that there are quite a few coaches that think very highly of Odom and his contributions. This year, Monty Williams (coach of the Hornets) said that Odom was the Lakers’ MVP. I think a lot of that has to do with how well LO has played vs his team but I think it’s also indicative of how coaches have gained a lot of respect for LO over the years.

  10. Despite his eligibility, I would be surprised if Odom wins it. Being a Laker, you have to be clearly ahead, very much so that there is no doubt, since all the writers are afraid to be seen as a Laker fan.

    I’m betting that I will hear a lot about how LO’s frequent start ultimately makes him less of a 6th man and that his numbers are inflated by it, as well as a lot of people simply not deciding to mention LO at all.

  11. MICHAEL ZARABI aka ZERB March 21, 2011 at 5:41 pm

    NY is up 51-37 against boston … you think we could overtake them tonight?

  12. 4, that’s a really good question. I think it’ll really depend on matchups. If a team really spreads the floor with 4 shooters, like Orlando used to be able to do, then I think Lamar has to close. Pau is the only thing preventing our offense from going into KobeIso non-stop in the 4th quarter of close games, so he has to be on the floor. But Pau is not nearly fast enough to keep up with a guy like Rashard Lewis (back when he used steroids, not now when he sucks).

    But if Andrew keeps playing this way up till the playoffs, he’ll be making a very strong case to finish games.

  13. Also, I would just like to take the time now to point out that back in August, I predicted that the Lakers would win 59 games this season. I would say the vast majority of the comments said that that total was much too low.

    The Lakers would have to win 9 of their 12 remaining games to reach 59 wins, with a schedule that reads: PHO, LAC, NO, DAL, @UTA, DEN, UTA, @GS, @POR, OKC, SAS, @SAC, with @GS and @SAC both being on the 2nd night of back-to-backs. So reaching 59 is doable, but the Lakers would have to continue their strong play all the way till the end of the regular season.

  14. Zephid,
    Well, I predicted 62 wins. All they have to do is win out to get there. I’m still holding out hope. These guys should really want to make me look right. Ha.

  15. i don’t think most voters are sophisticated enough to appreciate LO.

    They’re vulgarians.

  16. Chibi — excellent one-liner about voters. Plus, there is a prejudice against the Lakers on the media side because as earlier noted, they don’t want to be seen as a “fan.” Pretty darn hard not to be if you love the B-game. Anyone see ESPN’s “The Association” 30-minute presentation on the Celtics? Pretty compelling stuff, just like last year’s gig on the Lakers 2010 season (produced prior to the title).

    LAKERS FOREVER!

  17. I like NYK copying Lakers’ strategy of using Melo to guard Rondo – done in part to avoid Melo’s 6th foul. Anyone watching?

  18. dang it knicks! bottled it

  19. 23-4 run for Celtics to close it out. Knicks need to learn how to execute down the stretch.

    On a separate note, I hope Tim’s fine. I want the Lakers to beat them at full strength.

  20. sean elliot says tim duncan’s out two weeks.

  21. 15) That means they don’t eat eggs, either, right?

  22. How is it that both Amare and Melo could be held to ZERO (0!!!) field goals in the 4th quarter? Wow. Melo wanted to be in NY, I hope he has the stomach (and the cojones) to stand up to the NY press tomorrow!

    As the old saying goes, “beware what you wish for!”

  23. I have a random basketball question:

    Why did Dallas clinch the playoffs but the lakers haven’t yet with the lakers having the better record?

  24. @ 19, Simonoid:

    ‘On a seperate note, I hope Tim’s fine. I want the Lakers to beat them at full strength.’

    Unfortunately, I don’t believe that you’ll get your wish and it won’t have anything to do with injuries. I firmly believe that the Spurs will be eliminated by OKC n the 2nd round and therefore, will not have the opportunity to meet us n the WCF.

  25. 23, Lakers clinched the division and thus clinched a playoff spot.

  26. >Why did Dallas clinch the playoffs but the lakers haven’t yet with the lakers having the better record?

    says who? on a related note, the Lakers clinched their division Sunday (and therefore the playoffs).

  27. tsuwm – the division winner is guaranteed no lower than a 4th seed.

  28. Tra – don’t be so confident just yet; I’ve got my money on Spurs in 6. We’ll see. ;-)

  29. Re: media avoiding looking like Lakers fans. I suppose there’s some truth to that, even though I think the stronger argument is more about the recent trend of 6th man being the highest scoring sub. Ultimately, I think it’s primarily about perception/reputation, than actual stats. Terry and Crawford have been known now for the last few years as top-5 subs in the game, so now they are given credit without having to earn it as much. (but this is true of almost anyone’s reputation once it’s been it’s been relatively established long enough. I swear to god, if Terry and Crawford were averaging 10 less minutes a game, but their scoring was almost the same, they would be given the benefit of the doubt due to their pedigree.

  30. I’ll think it a minor crime if L.O. doesn’t get it. He’s the same player he’s always been but he’s a different player. Same versatility, different consistency, different acceptance and comfort within the system. He’s found his niche.

  31. 25 26; my NBA game time app has a dot next to the teams who have clinched the playoffs and there is a dot next to San Antonio, dallas, and the top 4 teams in the east. It must be wrong or I didn’t read it correctly

  32. Has anyone mentioned this would be the first time an actual 6th man won the 6th Man of the Year award? Every year the winner is actually the best player at his position and always finishes games. Odom is in fact the 2nd best PF the Lakers have and now doesn’t even finish games anymore since Bynum has regained his health.

  33. 4: If Bynum wants to be there during crunch time, then he has to take it.

    He has to prove that he NEEDS to be there during that moment in the game.

    Odom is just a much more proven player.

    Until Bynum can be consistent, we have Odom out there.

    So far, so good. ;)

    Bye.

  34. I predicted the Lakers around 59-61 wins and put my money where my mouth was and took the over at 56.5. Which looked to be a mortal lock after the first quarter of the season.

  35. 33,
    Sorry. But Bynum is already playing over Odom at crunch time. And actually was in last years playoffs until he hyper extended his knee in game 6.

  36. Lamar deserves the 6th man because he is the best. I just hope that the NBA doesn’t revert to Baseball’s Golden Glove rule, where a person who always receives the award continues to receive it until they have an off year AND someone else has a terrific year. Lamar has played exceptional. The fact that he was even mentioned for the All-Star is a testimant to that. The sub articles that are extremely explicit as to the facts support his selection.