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LA Lakers: Would They Have Won Their Last Two Championships Without Lamar Odom?

Ethan Norof@ethan_norofCorrespondent IMarch 28, 2011

Odom has been well worth the investment.
Odom has been well worth the investment.Harry How/Getty Images

Lamar Odom is the most valuable sixth man in the NBA.Β 

There is no other leading candidate for Sixth Man of the Year who can make the seamless transition between starter and bench player that Odom has been able to perfect.

In fact, Lakers coach Phil Jackson recently said Lamar is "invaluable" to the team, and it's pretty easy to follow his logic. This has been a season of maturation for Odom, who is validating the lucrative four-year, $33 million contract that he signed with the team in the summer of 2009.

The long-armed lefty is enjoying his best season since 2007-08, and his superior level of play has directly resulted in a significantly more efficient Lakers offense. He is no longer the inconsistent point forward who looks to be an All-Star at times and a role player at others.

Odom has embraced his hybrid role on this team, and it's really been beneficial to everyone involved.

The 6'10" forward is averaging career highs in field goal percentage (53.9 percent) and three-point field goal percentage (37.9 percent), as well as a career-low in turnovers with just 1.6 per contest.

But his value to the team looms largely beyond his impressive numbers in the box score.

When Andrew Bynum was sidelined to begin the season, Odom started at the No. 4 spot, and the team played Gasol at center without missing a beat. When Gasol began to wear down because of all the heavy minutes he was logging without Bynum, Odom stepped in once again and gave the supreme Spaniard the rest that he so sorely needed.

LO is even so versatile that when Ron Artest was battling a serious string of performances that can only be quantified as absolutely abysmal, the veteran stepped in at the No. 3 spot and provided the two-time defending champions with the biggest front line in all of basketball.

It's really incredible that Odom doesn't get even more recognition than he currently receives, but unsurprising considering the fact he's playing in the shadow of Bryant, Gasol and even Bynum at times.

So just how valuable has Odom been to the Lakers in their back-to-back championship runs? The Lakers wouldn't have won either without himβ€”period.

There's really no debate. He's an incredible insurance policy to Bynum's balky knees and a player who would start on any other team in the league.

To be frank, Odom might be the most underpaid and under-appreciated player in the league, given his $8.25 million annual average salary.

He's never going to gain the national recognition that he deserves as one of the most talented big men in the league, but it doesn't matter.

There's no bench player in the league that is as important to his team as Odom.Β 

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