Can Mike Brown Tap Into Lamar Odom’s Versatility?

Darius Soriano —  August 1, 2011

From the limited exposure we’ve had to Mike Brown via press conferences and sit down interviews, we’ve learned a few things about what he plans to do with the current Laker roster on the offensive side of the ball. He will implore the team to play a bit faster by having his guys push the ball up court and initiate the offense quicker. He wants to get Kobe the ball “in his spots” in order to maximize his effectiveness. He plans to utilize some of the offensive sets from his days as a Spurs assistant coach to take advantage of his twin towers of Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum. And while all of this sounds great – after all, these are the key players to the Lakers’ offensive attack – one name we haven’t heard come out of Mike Brown’s mouth very often is Lamar Odom.

But make no mistake, Lamar Odom will need to be involved for the Lakers to truly excel on offense.

In the past 4 seasons Odom has been a key contributor on offense, using his well rounded game to both be a complimentary player and a primary option in the Lakers’ offensive sets. Phil Jackson used Odom’s versatility expertly by having him initiate the triangle offense, run pick and rolls as both a ball handler and a finisher, play off the ball as a slasher, post up smaller players, isolate slower defenders, push the ball as a middle man on the break, and space the floor in lineups where Kobe and either Gasol or Bynum worked the post. Odom’s ability to do all of these things effectively gave him immense value and created a variety of mismatches whenever he was on the court.

However, as the Lakers transition away from the Triangle and into a more traditional offense it’s fair to ask how Odom will fit into this new scheme. Some open questions:

  • Will Odom still have a lot of ball handling responsibilities?
  • Will Odom still initiate the offense?
  • Will Odom work more as a post player ala Gasol and Bynum or more as a perimeter power forward?
  • Will Odom have the freedom to still push the ball in transition or will he be bottled into the more traditional role of a big man?

As of today, we don’t have answers to these questions but I can only hope that we can say “yes” to all of the above. Odom’s versatility is his biggest asset on this team and putting him in positions to explore his full skill set is the best way to maximize his value. Mike Brown has spoken extensively about trying to get the most out of his players, but doing that with Odom may be his most difficult job as an X’s and O’s practitioner next year.

Understand that Odom was the Lakers best pick and roll player last year when you combine the ability to initiate and finish in the set. His ability to create off the dribble for himself or his teammates is second to only Kobe and his instincts on when to pass and when to shoot probably surpass #24′s. Odom works effectively in space with and without the ball and getting him moving into the free space to take advantage of the attention Kobe/Gasol/Bynum draw is one of the best ways to create high percentage shots without having to run an actual play. Not to mention he’s one of the team’s best offensive rebounders so putting him in position to still attack the glass is also a key.

Can Mike Brown’s offense do all of these things for Odom; can his sets put Odom in positions to utilize such a wide variety of skills? The triangle naturally set Odom up to use all his natural ability by limiting the play calls and letting the players read and react to the defense. This let the players’ ability take over and put their versatility on full display. On any given possession Odom would bring the ball up and then shift from the two guard front to the to the wing; he’d set up shop at the elbow or sink into the short corner; he’d work to the middle of the paint off flashes and dive cuts, doing it all based off what the D was doing. On one side of the floor he’d be involved in a pick and roll with one of the big men, making an entry pass and then cutting to the rim looking for an easy score or setting up for the offensive rebound. On another possession he’d isolate at the top of the key in a 1-4 set or hang back behind the arc and shoot the long ball. But in Mike Brown’s O – one in which he’s stated the PG, SG, and SF are interchangeable parts as initiators and where big men are post up players and screeners – where does Odom fit in?

Will he play like a guard? Like a big man? Can he do both for Brown like he did for Phil?

Carving out a role will be key, but in an offensive system where players usually play more conventional roles it will be interesting to see how one of the more unconventional players in the league is used. As a power forward, Odom can do it all but what will his coach ask him to do? And when he asks him, will it stifle his skill set or allow it to flourish? Right now, I have my questions and concerns as to how this will actually play out. We’ll know more when the games start, but the fact is we’ll have to wait because Mike Brown isn’t offering any clues as to how the versatility of Odom will be tapped into.

Darius Soriano

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17 responses to Can Mike Brown Tap Into Lamar Odom’s Versatility?

  1. I guess a different question is whether Odom is traded for a playmaking guard. He is the only real asset to do so.

    But if he’s not, I don’t see why he wouldn’t remain in his role. He’s not a back to the basket player, nor is he a sniper from long range. Ergo, he’ll stay in his floating role.

  2. Odom had one of his best seasons in Miami with an offensively conventional SVG. I think it more informative to think of how Odom excelled with Team USA last summer. He was put in the center position, which he does not play in the NBA, but the role of a European center is a little bit different then in the NBA (versatile seems to be oner of the elements of a Euro big that most often comes up) and then his specific role on that team seemed well tapped into, even as he played in a system more conventional then the Triangle.

    I haven’t seen the Team USA footage recently and wasn’t looking for this specific element at the time, but I wonder how much reading and reacting went on in Turkey. Coach K is one of the best coaches in the world and I wonder how his philosophy differs from what we will see Messina implement in Laker Land.

  3. Rusty Shackleford August 1, 2011 at 12:33 pm

    If they can’t find a role for him they’d better find another team, with pieces the Lakers can use, who can.

  4. Lamar is best in a traditional offense where he can play a PG type of role on offense. When he was used in pick and roll actions with Bynum or Gasol he was ungaurdable. The problem is bringing in a big guard to defend opposing PGs.

  5. Lamar-the size of a PF, with the skill set of a guard or SF.

    He has to be utilized in that way, not like a traditional PF.

    He just gets worked whenever a real PF with any size goes up on him.

    Lamar’s quickness and length are his pluses. If that won’t be utilized, then what use is he?

    Bye.

  6. I believe Lamar Odom is a great player, and the Lakers should, and better keep him. Lamar loves working for the Lakers, and if they use him right; he won’t let the Lakers, lakers fans down. Love ya Lamar!

  7. Isn’t Lamar the closest thing to Lebron the Lakers have? I’m kind of worried every play will result with him catching the ball 30 feet out… #OldJokes

  8. Great article Darius. Welcome back and congrats on the birth of your child.

    Lamar should be fun for Coach Brown to work with. If he is a true coach, using Lamar effectively should not be a problem. He is our second best X factor. I still would love to see him paired with Varejao on our second unit.

  9. Great post Darius, with good questions. I think he will fit into any equation that Brown comes up with for the new offense. I am one who would prefer that he stays a Laker, he is just what you said, versatile. The big three did not seem to work very good together in the Triangle, but can LO play PG in Brown’s system?

  10. the other Stephen August 1, 2011 at 7:31 pm

    7. that’s also what i was thinking when i was reading through this article. for what it’s worth, mike brown should be accustomed to utilizing a versatile, ball-handling forward like odom.

  11. LO is the last person we should worry about on this team, He always does what is needed on this team without any regard for his stats. If the Lakers biggest problem is what do we do with LO, then were gonna be ok. Lets figure out kobe, gasol, and Bynum first!

  12. Mr. Versatility has the skill set to do it all, he is the straw in that happy hour cocktail. Unless LO is moved to the 3 in Brown’s system all three of the teams biggest assets will not be on the court at the same time. The bench is already at sea level, if Odom started it would sink faster than a boat with holes. Lets face it neither Pau or Bynum is going to the bench. LA will continue to have the same problem as it did last year, a healthy Bynum means someone has to sit during crunch time.

    In a perfect world(which it is not) players would do whats best for the team, not let their egos control their play. A healthy Drew should be great for the team, but it seems to have the opposite effect. If Phil couldnt figure out a way to play all three when healthy, then I dont see how Brown is going to step in and produce different results with the same ingredients.

    The potential of this team as currently constructed has reached its ceiling, it is what it is, the high from a game 7 win in LA against Boston in 2010 was pure emotion at its finest. I want LA to win just as bad as the next fan, but I sense a parallel between LA and an old boxer who decided to hang on too long, only to regret not having the foresight to cash in.

  13. I could see Kobe at PG on offense in crunch time providing Brown can find someone to both hit the 3pt consistently at the 2 and be able to handle the opposing PG on D. Lamar could play the 3,a position he likes. The opposition would probably zone or semi-zone this group forcing it to hit oustside shots.

  14. 14. Ed

    Kobe at PG, no thanks, already having trouble handling the ball over the past couple of years due to finger ailments. Where is this 3pt specialist and pg defender we dream of, not on this roster. Dont say the rooks will come in and fill that void. Fools gold in the regular season when playing the bottom feeders of the league, but against the top teams in the league it will be exposed. If LA is that dependent on 2nd rounders to save whats left, we are in for a long season. Might as well bust this team up to keep expectations low because the blood thirsty hounds are going to be wanting pay back for the past 4 years.

    Trade Bynum or Gasol, put Kobe in the post where he belongs at this stage of his career, and find a play making point who can pentrate and make life easier for everyone else. All these ideas of gimmick offense and smoke screens will lead to one thing, a short season or an early exit from the playoffs(see San Antonio).

  15. True, the rookies and 2nd yr players have yet to prove themselves. But,I think Brown will give them a chance,challenge them to work hard and earn minutes,and not exile them to the end of the bench. Kobe might still have problems handling in traffic,but I think he`s capable of setting up the O,and his knowledge of the game in unequaled. He loves challenges,and playing PG in a more conventional offense would be a new one.

  16. Having Kobe at the point takes away from what has made him the deadliest player on this earth since the sighting of MJ. Opposing teams had to double #24, creating opportunities for teammates and himself if he was able to allude defenders. But as we have seen in the past couple of years less teams are using this strategy , coaches are deciding to stick with man to man coverage almost forcing Kobe’s killer instinct to be his demise. Teams will live with Kobe taking a jumper all day, as long as he is not getting into the paint drawing additional defenders. Forays to the rim off the dribble are becoming less of an occurance from him due to loss of quickness and athleticism as he gets older. I dont believe having him start at the top of the key would be the most viable option for such an unathletic team that has multiple players that has problems creating their own shots. The reason why a Fisher, Craig Hodges, B. Shaw, B.J. Armstrong, or Steve Kerr existed in the league was because their was a threat on the perimeter or inside that had to be doubled.

    The pieces on the current roster just dont fit for Kobe to control the game,allah J. Kidd, because there is no weapon outside of himself that teams fear. Kobe needs some help, if LA cant get dominate play from the bigs on the inside its not going to matter where he plays.