Examining the Enigma That Is Lamar Odom

DerekCorrespondent IJune 11, 2009

ORLANDO, FL - JUNE 09:  Lamar Odom #7 of the Los Angeles Lakers reacts in the fourth quarter against the Orlando Magic in Game Three of the 2009 NBA Finals on June 9, 2009 at Amway Arena in Orlando, Florida.  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 Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Throw Lamar Odom into the conversation and the following adjectives are likely to come up: versatile, multi-faceted, inconsistent, enigmatic ,and various other synonyms.

Throughout his nine-year career in the NBA, Lamar Odom has delighted and frustrated coaches, teammates, and fans with equal frequency.

At his best, Lamar Odom is a matchup nightmare, a player who can contribute in so many ways.

At his worst, well, he is an afterthought.

He is one of the few players who can play any position, one through five, and at 6'10", he has the speed and ball-handling of a point guard. His skill set encompasses the entire spectrum, prompting early comparisons to Magic Johnson.

When he was traded to the Lakers, there were fleeting visions of Odom playing the point-forward, or the scottie Pippen role, to Kobe Bryant's Michael Jordan. Those hopes have long faded and Odom continues to defy conventions before him/

Whether on the offensive or defensive end, there is no denying what Odom can do.

Yet each game, the question remains: Which Lamar Odom will show up?

Let us see how Odom's career-highs stack up against the best forwards in the league:

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Player Lamar Odom LeBron James Paul Pierce Tim Duncan Kevin Garnett

Points 34 56 50 53 47

FGM/FGA 15/31 19/36 17/36 19/34 19/33

3pts made 4 8 8 1 3

FTM 14 24 20 17 15

Off Rebounds 13 6 9 12 18

Def Rebounds 16 17 18 23 11

Tot Rebounds 22 19 19 25 23

Assists 12 15 13 11 12

Steals 5 7 9 8 7

Blocks 9 5 5 9 8

Mins 53 55 54 52 52

Apart from points scored, LO's career-high figures actually compare rather favorably with the other four guys. The difference is the others are perennial All-Stars, All-NBA selections and barring a spectacular collapse or early retirement from LeBron, future Hall of Famers. 

Odom,  sadly has no All-Star or All-NBA selections, and frankly I do not see him making the HOF.

If he does not shoot as well from long range as Lebron and Pierce, he can rebound and block better than them. If he does not rebound as well as Duncan and Garnett, he shoots the three better.

Simply put, comparing their career-highs, LO is not put to shame in the company of these luminaries.

Problem is, when career averages are presented, there is a much steeper dropoff for Odom.

His inconsistency has been well-documented, so much so that one is inclined to call it a streak.

You just kind of anticipate it from him.

Two solid nights and a disappointing night. That is pretty much the case for LO.

If you are his coach, you would not build your plan around LO in spite of his obvious talent unless you want to enrich your cardiologist.

He is just too wildly inconsistent, bi-polar, enigmatic.

During the initial post-Shaq years, LO was the number two option behind Bryant, which inadvertently resulted in Kobe setting new scoring records.

To be fair with LO, Smush Parker and Kwame Brown had something to do with it as well.

It was not until Mitch Kupchak stole (insert your favorite description) Pau Gasol from Memphis that Bryant got his reliable big man.

Surprisingly, the trade led to a resurgence of sorts for Lamar Odom.

Unshackled from the burden of being Robin to Bryant's Batman, Odom was free to play. Though his minutes dwindled, his field goal percentage and rebounds reached career-highs in the 2007-08 season, as he became the top rebounding power forward.

Since the start of the 2008-09 season, LO was asked to take on a new role, that of a Sixth Man.

Initially, he bristled. But eventually he accepted it, to the chagrin of his agent no doubt.
His numbers may have dropped but there was no denying his impact on the Lakers' game has arguably increased.

As a scorer and facilitator on the second unit, the Lakers looked like an unstoppable juggernaut.

When Andrew Bynum went down to a knee injury (again), LO more than filled the gap, although the Bench Mob started going to pieces during that time.

Love him or loath him, when Odom gets his game going, the Lakers offense is a work of art.

Odom can post up or blow by the defender using either his size or speed. He is also more than a competent defender utilizing his long arms to block or alter shots while having the speed to stay with his man.

He can grab a rebound and ignite the fast break, invoking memories of the Showtime Lakers. Together with Gasol and Andrew Bynum, he forms perhaps the best 4-5 three-man rotation in the league.

With three games gone in the Finals, LO has been a big part of the Lakers. Despite starting off the bench, he averaged 32.1 minutes and is the Lakers' X-Factor for the series.

When he has a huge night, the Lakers roll. When he disappears, the Lakers struggle. No player epitomizes the Lakers' bi-polar nature better than Odom.

With at most four more games remaining, Lamar Odom's impending free agency looms large over the Lakers. While he is so immensely talented, his inconsistency and the Lakers' huge payroll will restrict what they are able to offer him.

Notwithstanding the fact that Trevor Ariza will be a free agent and No. 24 can opt out of his contract, it will be a busy offseason for the Lakers with tough choices being made.

LO has stated that he would like to remain a Laker unless he is made an offer he can't refuse. On paper, it is possible. After all, OKC, Memphis, and Detroit who have cap space could use a rebounding big man with his skill set.

On the other hand, he has not dispelled the perception of his inconsistency, just when he had four big games for the Lakers in a row, he has an off-night in Game Three.

With re-signing Ariza a priority, besides the obvious top, top, top priority of retaining Bryant, Kupchak might need to source for a long-term replacement for Derek Fisher.

The extension of Bynum's contract shrinks the budget further and there is not much available for Odom (curse you, Sasha!).

This could point to a rather worrying offseason for the Lakers.

For now though, let's focus on Game Four (and Five or Six or Seven).

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