Two players that are key pieces to their teams in the Western Conference playoffs are the Rockets' Ron Artest and Lamar Odom of the Lakers.
Both players can play multiple positions on the floor, and both are able to defend nearly anyone on the other team.
While Artest and Odom have had periods in their career they would like to forget, Houston and L.A would not be where they are today without their play.
This summer, however, both will have the opportunity to hit the free agent market.
Artest is making $7.4 million dollars this season, and is in line to get a raise, either with Houston or another team.
The Rockets management are happy with how their team is playing without T-Mac, and all signs point to the Rockets trying to keep Artest on board.
However, could Ron and Lamar be trading places this summer? It’s not out of the realms of possibility, and could help both teams in different ways.
Artest in Los Angeles would give Kobe Bryant the ability to not have to guard the best scorer on the opposing team all the time, plus it would add some toughness, mentally and physically, to a (still) finesse ball club.
If Odom were to join Houston, the Rockets would have that lanky, versatile playmaker that could spread the floor, and help young guard Aaron Brooks in critical times of the game.
With McGrady being in the final year of his contract, there is still a possibility Houston could trade him this offseason, or they could keep him around, and see if he will play at a high level during a contract year.
The Lakers have to address not only Lamar Odom’s contract situation this offseason, but Trevor Ariza and Josh Powell as well, and there is only so much money to go around in LA.
I would expect the Lakers to try to bring them all back if they win the NBA title. Anything short, including being upset, possibly in the Western Conference Playoffs, and things could change, quick.
As for Houston, expectations are slightly different.
If someone had told coach Rick Aldeman back in October that he would be in a position to advance to the second round of the NBA Playoffs, and he would not have the services of his franchise player (McGrady), or his starting point guard from November (Rafer Alston), I am positive he would ask “where do I sign?”
That is really what it has come down to for the Rockets. Win or lose against Portland, this has been a good season for them.
However, in order to get to the next level, do they need to make changes? That question will have to be answered in the weeks to come.
Lamar Odom Season Stats
Ron Artest Season Stats
(Courtesy of LayupDrill.com)