The Last Lakers Roster Spot And Why It Should Go To Lamar Odom
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Earlier this week Kevin Ding reported that Lamar Odom was warming up to re-joining the Lakers this season, but the lakers don’t seem intent on bringing Odom back — the team seems more willing to give an un-proven-but-hungry younger ball player. While it makes sense for the organization to want to go younger, especially with Mike D’Antoni still slated to stalk the sidelines, but it’s hard to fathom who the Lakers could bring in with more upside than Odom’s unique skill set.

As of right now, the Lakers have one open roster spot, and that last spot will likely go to one of three guys: Odom, Chris Douglass-Roberts, or Marcus Landry. Odom is the veteran who has played with Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol. Douglass-Roberts is a guy who made it to the Lakers training camp last season, but never panned out. Landry impressed in the summer league like recent signing Elias Harris. Douglass-Roberts and Landry can both run the floor and would be great along side either Steve Nash or Jordan Farmar (Steve Blake isn’t exactly a speed demon); Douglass-Roberts can handle the ball in stretches while Landry can shoot from deep (42 percent from three in the D-League last season) and has played for D’Antoni before (with the Knicks during the 09-10 season before being traded to the Celtics).

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However, with all of the upside that both Douglass-Roberts and Landry afford, neither can provide what Odom can offer: big man depth at two positions and the ability to cut down the team’s turnovers.

This season, the Lakers will be rotating the likes of Chris Kaman, Pau Gasol, Jordan Hill, Robert Sacre and Elias Harris in the center and power forward positions while Nick Young and Wesley Johnson are the team’s two small forwards. Bringing in a guy like Odom improves the depth at power forward and small forward immediately. Also, considering that he’s a pass-first forward who already has shown he can share the floor with Gasol (their game’s compliment each other so well), it makes moving Gasol to center for stretches easier for D’Antoni, who struggled to fit Gasol in at the four last season.

Kaman is also another big with high basketball IQ who moves the ball well. Sliding Odom in at power forward along side Kaman seems like it would be a natural fit. Odom’s ability to play small forward also opens things up to some awfully big lineups that teams would struggle to match up against. Kaman-Gasol-Odom is an aging, but rather difficult lineup for opposing defenses as all three can stretch the floor to at least 15-feet and bring the most favorable match up out of the paint to give the others room to operate around the rim. Also, with all three having above-average passing abilities for big men, their ability to both put pressure on defenses both scoring and passing the ball will be unmatched by just about every front court in the NBA outside of the Zach Randolph-Marc Gasol duo in Memphis.

What is most fascinating about potentially bringing in Odom, however, is his ability to cut down the team’s turnovers next season. In Odom’s last two years with the Lakers, the team ranked sixth and fifth in the league in turnovers, respectively. In the two years since Odom has been gone? The Lakers fell to 20th and 23rd in the league. The most significant change in the turnover spike has fallen in the hands of the Lakers point guards.

Take a look at the turnover percentage and turnovers per 36 minutes of the Lakers point guards over the course of the last four years.

2009-10: 6th in turnovers (13.3/gm)
Derek Fisher: 11.2, 1.3
Jordan Farmar: 11.5, 1.8

2010-11: 5th in turnovers (13.1/gm)
Derek Fisher: 10.9, 1.1
Steve Blake: 18.6, 1.7

2011-12: 20th in turnovers (15.1/gm)
Derek Fisher: 18.1, 1.9
Ramon Sessions: 18.8, 3.0
Darius Morris: 29.2, 4.0

2012-13: 23rd in turnovers (15.0/gm)
Steve Nash: 19.3, 2.8
Steve Blake: 17.8, 1.9
Darius Morris: 18.1, 2.4
Chris Duhon: 23.7, 1.8

One thing you’ll notice when going through the turnover numbers is that Lamar Odom took the ball out of the hands of the point guards a lot during his years with the Lakers. His ability to initiate the offense, and have a defender not used to playing on the perimeter cut down a lot of the turnovers that ended up happening over the course of the last two seasons.

While a jump from 13 to 15 turnovers per game may not seem like much, take into consideration that that’s about a four possession swing per game. The Lakers lost 37 games last season, 20 of which were lost by three possessions or less. This isn’t to say that Odom immediately fixes the Lakers turnover problems, but he helps out in a huge way. The Lakers struggles at the point guard have been an issue for years, but the presence of Odom helped hide that chink the Lakers armor. Without a forward who could handle the ball in stretches these last two years, that issue was amplified in a huge way.

The way things look right now, Odom probably will not receive the last roster spot for the Lakers, but he should get a serious look before deciding elsewhere. He’s a guy who can stretch the floor, run the floor, and slide into multiple positions on both sides of the ball. He’s a great fit for the system that Mike D’Antoni likes to run and meshes well with both Bryant’s and Gasol’s styles of play.


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