Fresh off winning the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year Award Lamar Odom carried the Lakers to a tough 87-78 victory in game two on Wednesday night reminding everyone how important he is to the team. After watching that, the question that begs to be asked is why can’t Odom start over Ron Artest who just completed his least productive season ever?
Early in his career when a lot was expected of Odom he tried his best, but showed he couldn’t carry a team offensively because he is skilled at so many different facets of the game, not just scoring. During Odom’s first five or so years in the league he was subject to mental lapses and ensuing mistakes, but perhaps that was because he was playing for the Clippers at the time. Just kidding, but Odom has finally matured under the coaching of Phil Jackson. But now, as a member of a talented Lakers squad why can’t Lamar Odom play as a starter and isn’t it in the team’s best interest?
If you look at the 2010-11 season on a per 36 minutes played basis, Odom had his highest scoring season since 2003-04. His rebounding average was third highest of his career. And perhaps most impressively his turnovers were the lowest of his career.
In addition to the turnover statistics there are two other stats that indicate this; his field goal percentage and his three point shooting percentage. This season Odom shot 53% from the field (eleventh best in the league) which is great production considering he takes shots from all over the floor, not just in the paint. The increase in three point shooting success is due to increased patience on the three pointers he shot during the season. Odom averaged 2.4 three point attempts per game which is right on his career average. But he made .382% of them which is well above his career average of .321%. Odom was never a bad three point shooter, but in taking better shots he has become more productive. His scoring average of 14.4 ppg was his highest since 2007-08; his last season as a starter.
As a reserve this year in 47 games, Odom averaged 13.0 points and 7.5 rebounds in 28.4 minutes. Overall, Odom averaged 14.4 points on .530 shooting, 8.7 rebounds and 3.0 assists in 32.2 minutes.
The response we generally hear regarding Artest’s poor play is that as the best defender he guards the opponent’s best scorer, which is generally true but at certain points on offense he looks like he’s never had a basketball in his hands in his entire life. Or is it that Odom is still the sixth man simply because the Lakers couldn’t deal Ron Artest because no one wanted him?
I don’t have any problem with Artest, I love what he has brought to the floor throughout his career but why not give the most productive guy of the two more minutes? Obviously that spells more production for the team and keeps Artest fresh for key defensive possessions; if he’s “focusing on defense”, why not have him just focus on defense?
After sputtering offensively thru the first two games of the 2011 Playoffs why not get Odom more involved? After losing game one and trying to give game two away, can they afford not to?