This was a motif during the Finals
The general mood this offseason is that the Lakers need to acquire an outside shooting and above-average defending small forward. The main reason being that Paul Pierce blew by whoever was guarding him on his way to Finals MVP. Radman and Luke Walton weren’t quick enough to stay with, Trevor Ariza was coming back from injury and even Kobe couldn’t match Pierce’s strength. Save for Ariza, athleticism is on the light side at the small forward position. On the offensive side of the ball, Vlad showed he could hit the three, but at the same time it seemed that he missed the most ugly shots. It made me cringe when the ball ended up in Walton’s hands as the shot clock was winding down, trying to create his own shot. Ariza can slash and finish, but his perimeter touch is lacking. We played Kobe at the small during crunch time, but in the Finals, he took some bruising defense from Posey and Pierce. Thus, it has been determined that the final piece to our championship puzzle is a new small forward.
Well, the answer to our small forward problem appears to be Lamar Odom. First of all, playing Odom at the small doesn’t cost the Lakers any more money than they are already paying. Secondly, his size and quickness at the position are practically unparalleled, save for Andrei Kirilenko. We saw a bit of Lamar’s capability for guarding small forwards during the Finals, when Phil was searching for an answer to Pierce. But, it was a small sample size in regards to how he would guard the rest of the league’s small forwards. However, I noticed that he could stay in front of Pierce with his quick feet but left a lot of shooting room. Nonetheless, with Bynum back in the fold next year, Lamar will be able to play the shooter close, and if he drives past, Bynum will be there to alter. So much of the defense is based on the anchor at the back, and Bynum will be the defensive stopper that Pau Gasol could not be.
On the offense, Odom would fit into his usual role of facilitating the offense. Playing the ball through to Gasol and Bynum. Odom’s handle is definitely unique for his size and so is his passing ability. He struggled at times with finishing around the rim, but he knows how to take it strong. The only concern would be his outside shooting. Vlad was able to spread the floor and give Kobe room to operate, usually without the problem of double teams. As Boston showed in the Finals, they are willing to leave Odom open around the perimeter and use the extra man to give Kobe more trouble. Lamar’s inability to consistently hit from deep will be a lingering problem that could plague the offense. But, Given Odom’s length and agility, how can the Lakers not try him out at small forward?
What about starting Trevor Ariza and having Odom come off the bench? Not a bad idea, which Phil may end up doing depending on the match-up. Ariza can defend well, and he shoots better than Lamar, but his passing and court vision are not as good as Odom’s. Ariza is also very athletic, so, him and Kobe could give defenders a hard time. As for Lamar off the bench, if you noticed during last season, Phil usually has Odom play with the mob, using him as a PF with Walton at the SF slot. It worked well during the season, and Odom is usually the main offensive option with the reserves.
Trade Odom to get a defensive small forward? I say the Lakers don’t pull the trigger to any major deal this off season. Mostly because it would just be a rental. Main trade targets Shawn Marion and Ron Artest are unrestricted after this year, and they both want long-term deals. Also, we could try to nab Artest with the mid-level next year after he expressed his regret for not opting out this off season. We also need to try Odom out, just to see how it works. If he does great, we sign him long-term and problem solved. Trevor Ariza is then groomed to be a Caron-Butler esque type player for the future (Remember, we used to have this guy).
In other small forward news:
It appears that the Bobcats are looking to trade Gerald Wallace. He is one of the more talented small forwards in the league, and is known for his aggressive defense. Since he is seemingly on the outs with Charlotte, the Lakers might seriously look into acquiring him.
James Posey also appears to be looking for a change of scenery, after Boston decided not to offer him the full mid-level exception. Not a bad idea, as you can see situations that arise with players locked in for multiple years (see Walton, Luke and Radman, Vlad). The Lakers could probably offer Posey a slice of the MLE and see if he takes. He is going to be the next Robert Horry, so hopefully he’ll accept a two year deal.