Is Los Angeles Lakers Forward Lamar Odom the NBA's Most Versatile Player?
Sometimes I wonder how good Lamar Odom could really be if he ever found any level of consistency to go along with his wide array of skills.
Odom just finished his summer as an integral piece of the American team that captured the gold medal at the FIBA World Championships in Turkey.
In Istanbul Odom was Team USA's primary interior force, and the fact that he spent so much time playing the center position is just a testament to the unique versatility of his game.
I say unique because it's hard to find another player in the NBA who has Odom's size, and is just as comfortable playing on the perimeter or in the paint.
And I don't mean that Odom is just competent enough to play on the perimeter at 6'10", but he actually excels while doing it and has the ball-handling skills of a NYC playground point guard.
In fact, it's a good thing Odom is blessed with size and so many other skills, because his game is similar to many of the famed NYC point guards who could never quite get their heart and passion to match their talent.
Odom has the perimeter skills of a guard, but the paint is where he really stands out because he is an excellent rebounder and one of the NBA's more underrated interior defenders.
Odom's height matches most NBA power forwards, his defensive technique is fundamentally sound, and he has the quickness to recover if he is beaten off the dribble.
When motivated Odom can be a nightmare matchup for the opposition because there are few power forwards who can stay in front of his dribble on the perimeter.
Odom has superb vision in the open court, and is often the catalyst of the Lakers' triangle offense when in the game.
Simply put, there are few players in the NBA who possess the rare blend of fundamental skills and physical abilities that Odom is blessed with, and I can think of none who have played all five positions like Odom has.
Odom's inconsistencies will likely prevent him from ever being considered a great player, but could he still be the NBA's most versatile player?
Some people will argue that players such as LeBron James, Dirk Nowitzki, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, and Chris Bosh are all versatile players with stronger numbers across the board.
But just because those players averaged more points, rebounds, or assists than Odom doesn't necessarily make them more versatile, even though they impacted the game in a number of ways.
For instance, James averaged more points, rebounds, and assists than Odom, but even though he is stronger, James doesn't have the same type of post skills as Odom.
James is a much better overall player than Odom, but Odom has natural post abilities and a height advantage which enables him to do some things in the paint that James is not capable of.
It's perfectly natural to imagine Odom defending a 7'0" center in the paint, and while James is multi-talented, it's hard to picture him doing the same thing.
Nowitzki is extremely unique in his own right because he is taller than Odom, has a perimeter-based game, and is competent, if not comfortable in the post.
Nowitzki is also a decent ball-handler, but his responsibilities in that category are usually limited to bringing the ball up court on the fast break, or using his dribble to create space for his jumper.
Odom is a superior playmaker in the open court or in a traditional set, and he is a much better defender than Nowitzki on the perimeter or in the paint.
The same can be said for Anthony, Bosh, and Durant who are equally versatile, but not as strong in certain areas of their game as Odom is.
Of course each player mentioned above is considered to be far superior to Odom, and I agree, but it's more because of their ability to excel in specific areas of the game, rather than their versatility.
Durant and Nowitzki have made their mark by their tendency to score points in bunches, mostly from their perimeter abilities, but neither player is potentially dominant on the interior.
James is probably the best all-around player in the NBA, but he can't play all five positions on the court.
The sad thing is for all Odom's talent, he will never be mentioned in the same breath as the above-mentioned players, even though there is little doubt that he could.
Odom has used what is arguably the game's most unique skill set to become a very good NBA player, but unfortunately he is defined by inconsistencies that prevent him from ever being great.
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