L.A. Lakers: Should Lamar Odom Start in Mike Brown's New Scheme?

Hadarii JonesSenior Writer IJuly 30, 2011

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 20:  Lamar Odom #7 of the Los Angeles Lakers receives the Kia Six Man of the Year Award from Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak before Game Two of the Western Conference Quarterfinals in the 2011 NBA Playoffs against the New Orleans Hornets on April 20, 2011 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

The 2010 FIBA World Championships were a defining moment for the United States in international  basketball competition since it was the Americans' first gold medal in more than 16 years.

The extremely early starting times of the games made it a challenge to catch any contests live, but in those rare sleepy moments when I did catch the Americans playing, two things immediately stood out.

One was eventual MVP Kevin Durant's amazing point out-put and the other was Lamar Odom's ability to make plays on both ends of the court.

Durant's performance over the course of the tournament was incredible, but Odom may have put on the most impressive displays of versatility I have ever seen.

Odom was at times dominant defensively while manning the center position, his length made him a terror on the boards and Odom was often the team's most effective player in the open court.

In one sequence I watched Odom block a shot in the paint, grab the ball out of the air and dribble the full length of the court and at the last instant throw a no-look pass to a trailing Durant who put a period on the play with a thunderous dunk.

No other team in the tournament had a player who could make that play and although Durant grabbed most of the attention with his offensive explosion, Odom is arguably the reason the Americans brought home the gold.

Odom's inspired play in the FIBA tournament served as a spark plug for what was possibly his best season ever as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers, and it culminated with Odom winning his first major NBA end of the year award.

Odom was honored with the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year trophy, and he was quite possibly the most valuable player on the Lakers roster, even ahead of star guard Kobe Bryant.

Besides being the Lakers first player off the bench Odom also started on the various occasions center Andrew Bynum was injured, and he was also the team's most reliable option beyond the three point line.

New Lakers head coach Mike Brown will probably play at a faster tempo than retired coach Phil Jackson, and a quicker pace will definitely make Odom a more dangerous player in the open court.

But could the Lakers be a better team if Odom begins the 2011-12 regular season as the starting small forward?

That move was recently suggested by one of the comments in one of my previous articles, and I have to say that starting Odom over Ron Artest is an intriguing concept.

For one Odom paired with Pau Gasol and Bynum would give the Lakers the longest and most talented starting front court in all of basketball, and it would also cause nightmare matchups for opposing defenses.

At 6'10" Odom is tall enough to shoot over most defenders from the perimeter, and his quickness and ball-handling ability makes it difficult to defend him off the dribble.

The most significant benefit for the Lakers would come in transition since Odom could serve as a secondary ball handler on the break, and his vision in the open court could create numerous scoring opportunities at the rim.

Last season the Lakers were probably one of the NBA's poorer teams in transition, but with Odom in the starting lineup the Lakers could make attacking the basket off the break a major part of their offense.

There is a chance the team could suffer on the defensive end since Odom would also struggle to guard quicker small forwards such as Durant or LeBron James, but some of that should be minimized by Brown's tendency to utilize the zone defense.

Brown used a version of the 3-2 zone defense while he was the head coach in Cleveland, and James was usually the focus of the scheme at the point of attack.

Imagine how good the Lakers could be with Odom manning that same position and creating havoc with his length and ball instincts?

Brown might choose to utilize Odom in the same manner as Jackson did, since there are few teams in the league who could bring a player as talented as Odom off their bench.

But if Brown really wants to make a splash in his debut season with the Lakers, starting Odom over Artest might be a great place to start.