By Jason Wojciechowski on June 19, 2008 at 11:35 PM
From Chad Ford on ESPN: "With the Lakers flaming out in the Finals, it didn't take long for speculation about Lamar Odom to begin. A number of teams covet Odom because of his expiring contract.
I'd expect the Lakers to hear from the Nets (for Richard Jefferson), the Bulls (for Andres Nocioni), the Kings (for Ron Artest) and the Grizzlies (for Mike Miller)."
Immediately, I say "I dunno about that." $13 million is a large expiring contract, and it's not like Lamar is Kwame Brown: he's a good player, so whoever gets him gets double benefit. He has his flaws, of course, but who doesn't? In short, why wouldn't the Lakers want to keep him and get the benefit of his play and his expiring contract for themselves? I guess two reasons. One, they're so far over the salary cap already that even after his contract comes off, they still won't have much room to maneuver for free agents. Two, Odom's a power forward and with Andrew Bynum coming back to join Pau Gasol, the best Laker lineup seems to me to put Gasol as the starting four with Bynum at center. Odom would then be pushed to small forward, a position he's less well-suited to because it minimizes his rebounding, a strength of his game; forces him to shoot from the perimeter more, a weakness; matches him up with guys who have the quickness to stop his drives; and leaves him less room to go to work on the blocks because Gasol and Bynum are already there. In short, Odom at small forward maximizes his weaknesses and minimizes his strengths. It might thus be the best use of L.A.'s resources to trade him for a true small forward like the four listed above in the quote from Ford.
A straight-up Richard Jefferson deal works cap-wise, but sounds terrible to me player-wise. Odom is a rebounder and an interior presence. Jefferson is a perimeter player who needs shots to be successful. He's a better scorer than anyone on the team not named Kobe Bryant, but that's pretty much his entire game. In particular, I'd worry about the duplication between his game and Bryant's, and the fact that Jefferson doesn't do other things to make up for the fact that Kobe and Pau should be getting shots ahead of him, and Andrew Bynum needs his as well. Look at how well the Nets have played with Jefferson and Vince Carter playing next to each other. Also, three years of Richard Jefferson? I say boo to this deal unless there's a sweetener. Sean Williams would be nice.
Andres Nocioni has four years left on his deal, but his $8.5M salary means other players would have to be involved. Drew Gooden would make the money work, but who the hell wants Drew Gooden? I can't imagine them trading away Joakim Noah, although perhaps a Michael Beasley arrival in Chicago would change that. In order to make the salaries work, it'd have to be Nocioni, Noah, plus say Ty Thomas and Thabo Sefalosha. That'd be quite a bounty for the Lakers, even if Thomas and Sefalosha are just mediocre bench players. Nocioni gives the Lakers a second rough-and-tumble Euro-type (assuming they resign Sasha) and a guy who can and will drive to the rim. Noah is potentially a very good rebounder and his front-court passing skills sound dreamy to me in the triangle. This deal would actually make me pretty happy. I love Ronny Turiaf, but he's a little too Mark Madsen for me, as a number of plays this series showed: Noah would replace him as the backup power forward (Pau starting). Nocioni would become the starting SF, pushing Radmanovic to the bench, where his single-skill profile fits better. L.A. has Chris Mihm, Ira Newble, and DJ Mbenga all departing this year, so there's room for Sefalosha and Thomas on the roster, where they can be useful and help push the team toward a twelve-deep kind of roster. Thumbs-up, then, to a potential Chicago deal. Downside? I don't know if this deal is one Chicago wants to make. It clears salary-cap space after 2009, especially when paired with Drew Gooden's $6.5M deal coming off the books at the same time. And Odom is a good player, particularly in the likely lower-pressure environment of Chicago, not expected to be a championship contender. But is he good enough to give up on a gifted young big man and a useful small forward?
The Lakers have been linked with Ron Artest forever. I've never been sure whether he fits on the team, though. He'd again be the new starting SF, thus having the same benefit of pushing Radmanovic to the bench as Nocioni would. But his contract is also expiring, though it's only at half the price. The Kings would have to package Artest would one or two of their eight or so crummy power forwards (Mikki Moore, Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Kenny Thomas, Shelden Williams ...) in order to make the salaries work, and I don't see how a package like that would attract the Lakers' eye. I guess you can put a Mikki Moore on the bench in the Ronny Turiaf spot, but unlike Joakim Noah, it's not clear what Moore brings that Turiaf doesn't, so why go through that trouble? Artest's contract situation is also up in the air, as far as I know, because he has an opt-out. He's said, I think, that he won't use it, but it does make the trading situation harder until everything's official. Artest is also completely unable to stay on the floor. He misses a lot of games from year to year, substantially lowering his value. I say boo to a Kings trade.
Mike Miller is intriguing. He's a tremendous three-point shooter, he can slash to the basket, he's got enough strength to finish and rebound (although he doesn't do the latter with a lot of consistency), and he'd be reunited with Pau Gasol. To make the money work, the Lakers would probably have to take back Darko Milicic, Brian Cardinal, or Jason Collins as well. Collins is expiring, and Milicic could be useful as a mobile big man with some passing skills and a bit of a midrange game, so this kind of package wouldn't be terrible, particularly since I'd rather have Mike Miller for two years than Nocioni for four. I'd give a thumbs-up to a Grizzlies deal, with a preference to getting Milicic in the package instead of one of the other two guys. That said, it's clearly below the potential Chicago package because, even though Miller is better than Nocioni, the addition of Noah in the Chicago package, plus two other useful guys, completely blows Milicic out of the water. Darko is basically a lesser Slava Medvedenko at this point (no really, go look at their per-36-minute stats on Basketball Reference), and as much as I loved Slava, it was always kind of an irrational love. The one thing Darko adds is surprisingly tremendous shot-blocking: he averaged 1.6 blocks in just 23.8 minutes per game this year. His 36-minute rate (2.5) would have ranked him fourth in the NBA if that were his per-game number.