Pau Gasol for Kwame Brown. The steal of the century. The trade that made every NBA General Manager, basketball analyst and blogger across this great nation scratching their heads and wondering why? Why on earth would the Memphis Grizzlies give up a premier power forward for THAT? Couldn’t they have gotten a better a deal?
Truth is, they probably couldn’t because most teams were not willing to go over the luxury tax for him. The Lakers took that risk and it has certainly paid off as Pau in his first nine games helped lead us to a 8-1 record. Not all is roses in Laker-land though, as the trade has also created a new problem. What to do with Lamar Odom?
Ever since Lamar came to the Lakers there have always been question marks on his game. Arguably one the most talented and versatile forwards in the game, he has been plagued with inconsistency as he was called on to play sidekick to Kobe Bryant. To that end he has been a disappointment, but with the ascension of Andrew Bynum his game began to flourish as our third option. With the spotlight off of him, he is able to rebound and pass to his hearts content, adding the odd bucket here and there. This role has resumed with the acquisition of Pau.
But, and this is a big but, when Bynum comes back Pau Gasol will move to the power forward position which will force Lamar to play the small forward; a position that contrary to Lamar’s insistence is not one that seems to suit his abilities very well. Another is an issue of expense. While he can definitely put up solid numbers as our fourth/third option, at 14 million a year he is going to be very expensive for what he does, especially since his key strengths (rebounding, passing and mismatching) will be sort of a wash with Paul and Bynum on the team.
Also to consider is the Lakers payroll is currently at $72 million (which is well over the cap) and it’s only going to get bigger with the expected extensions for Farmar and Bynum. So the big debate right now with Odom is whether to keep him and see if he can hack it as out small forward option or trade him for a more traditional (and hopefully cheaper) small forward.
My personal stance on the issue is to keep Lamar.
I know there are serious issues with his game. His jump shot makes me want to cry. His help defense on shooters (which consists of him running at them with his arms up in the air) is threatening to nobody. He seemingly blows at least three lay-ups per game. He never jumps on rebounds (that might seem somewhat nitpicky seeing as how he’s tapping 10 rebounds to himself per game, but it’s still a problem.) Now while all that’s true, ask yourself this: who in the NBA with Lamar’s ability would not only be content as the fourth option, but would flourish? Who would consider that ideal? Right.
Also, to consider is the health issues of the Lakers. Over the past few seasons the Lakers, Kobe excluded, have shown that they have all the toughness of a Fabergé Egg. Having a versatile forward like Lamar would be extra insurance that we avoid a situation like what happened in the 03-04 season.
The money issue is big concern and will continue to be one for years to come, but since in my opinion keeping Lamar pretty much guarantees a few rings I would think they will make that money back. On top of that, we will have a lot of money coming in from our newfound Spanish fan base. However, In the spirit of debate, if I were to get rid of Lamar these would be my top seven choices (get it? Because his number is seven. Oh never mind.)
1. Stephen Jackson
Personally I feel the best possible small forward for this Lakers squad, if the Lakers could have their pick of small forwards, would be Captain Jack. He can score in a multitude of ways, he is a very good passer, he can shoot the three and he’s a fantastic defender. He is also a great leader who can take a backseat to a star, which he has displayed during his tenures in Indiana and Golden State. The only knock that could possibly be put on Jacko is that he’s kind of a head case, but according to most published accounts from his coaches and teammates that doesn’t effect the team chemistry as most will sing his virtues as an ideal teammate with a heart of gold.
Chances: There is about a 0% chance that Golden State is gonna trade Stephen Jackson. On paper though, adding Odom to the Warriors would be an intriguing combination due to the fact that they are in dire need of rebounding and Odom is one of the best rebounders that can run and gun this side of Shawn Marion.
2. Caron Butler
I think everything that can be said about the benefits of having Caron have been said, so I won’t bother reiterating them since what he brings is pretty obvious. The one caveat I would have about bringing in a guy like Butler is that he is too talented a scorer for the role he would play. I feel like getting a Caron would be overkill.
Chances: Zero again. The Wizards trading Caron? Please.
3. Shawn Marion
If anybody can match what Odom brings to the team and then some it’s the Matrix. The most impressive aspect of Shawn’s game is his ability to dominate the game without dominating the ball and that is precisely what would benefit the Lakers the most with Bryant, Gasol, and Byno on the floor. HOWEVER, Shawn doesn’t like playing without the ball anymore. He wants to be the focal point. A big reason he wanted to leave Phoenix was he didn’t want to be the third option so I don’t think being the fourth option would be particularly appealing. That and he wants $20 million per year.
Chances: This is a possibility. Riley really likes Odom and there are some reports saying that Marion is not in Riles’s long term plans. The money thing would really kill it though.
4. Let him walk
The most un-sexy option for the fan, but from a business standpoint the biggest deficiency in Lamar Odom is perhaps not his game, but the fact that 14 million for a fourth option is pretty ridiculous. Add in that we have two starting level small forwards in Walton and Vlad Rad locked up to fairly long term deals, letting Lamar walk would probably not hurt the team too much and save them a ton of money.
Chances: I think this is the most likely possibility if there is going to be any change in Lamar’s status.
5. Ron Artest
I’m not a huge fan of a Ron Artest move. On paper he looks like exactly what we need and he certainly can be, but he is a lunatic. Unlike Stephen Jackson who‘s like a thug with a heart of gold, Ron Artest is just crazy. He also has a tendency to try and take over games and ignore the coach to follow his own agenda. We already have one guy who does that; two would just be chaos. However, if anybody can handle Ron Artest, it’s probably Phil.
Chances: This seems very possible. Unless of course we are trying to pry him from Denver or some team other than Sac-town.
6. Richard Jefferson
RJ has really proven himself this year to be a pretty dominant scorer who’s great at playing off the ball (or at least playing off Jason Kidd.) That’s not really what we need, but I put him on this list anyway because he’s best friends with Luke Walton. Salary wise he makes about a million or two less than Odom, but that won’t be enough to offer the Lakers the cap relief they would want. However with Jefferson on the squad, Jerry Buss can finance a reality show starring Luke and RJ. That would make up the luxury tax easy.
Chances: I have no idea. I’m gonna say low, but there are reports that nobody in New Jersey is safe and they do need a good power forward more than a good wing player since they are seemingly stuck with Half-Man Half-a Season .
7. Corey “Baby Oil” Maggette
Close your eyes and imagine: Corey Maggette and Derek Fisher. Imagine the buff-ness. Imagine the shiny-ness. Imagine the flopping….ness. Does Maggette offer what we need? Probably not, but a starting lineup featuring Derek Fisher and The Eel, Corey Maggette, would be a pretty beautiful thing for the NBA. Just imagine all the money the Lakers would make with all Johnson & Johnson baby oil endorsements.
Chances: Seems possible. I wouldn’t do it if I were the Clippers though since I think they need a scorer off the wing more than an inconsistent rebounding machine, but if this trade were to go down I can definitely see it benefiting both teams.