Name: Lamar Odom
2012-2013 Key Stats: 4.0 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 1.7 apg
Years in NBA: 14
Years With Clippers: 1
2012-2013 Salary: $8,200,000
Contract Status: Unrestricted Free Agent
In A Nutshell:
Perhaps the most significant transaction in the reshaping of this year's Clippers from the prior squad was the late June trade that brought former Clipper Lamar Odom back to Los Angeles. In that trade the Clippers lost last season's sixth man Mo Williams. Williams had been a significant contributor on the best Clippers team in franchise history, but exchanging backcourt depth for front court depth seemed to make sense for the Clippers, justifying the trade.
It was risky from the start. Odom had just completed by far the worst season of his career after being traded from the Lakers to Dallas. Odom was upset by the trade and never got into the proper mental state with the Mavericks. The situation deteriorated to the point where he was eventually dismissed from the team. That worst ever season had come on the heels of arguably the best season of his career in which he won the 2011 Sixth Man Award with the Lakers. Sixth-Man-Award-Lamar would clearly be a huge help to the Clippers; apathetic-Dallas-Lamar would be useless. At the time of the trade, no one knew which one the Clippers would get.
When Odom should up to training camp out of shape most observers feared the worst. But he's never been an off-season workout fiend along the lines of Blake Griffin -- Odom has always played himself into shape, and slowly but surely that's what he did with the Clippers. He was saying all the right things, and working hard when he was on the court, and while he was clearly not at his best, he was just as clearly significantly better, especially mentally, than the guy who shuffled through a season in Dallas.
In the end, the Clippers got a player somewhere between the two extremes that Odom had recently demonstrated. He played a more limited role than he ever had -- a career low 19.7 minutes per game -- but that still qualified him as the first big off the bench and a mainstay of one of the better second units in the NBA. Odom was good for the Clippers this season -- but also very limited.
Strengths and weaknesses are rarely as black and white as they were this season for Odom. His strengths were rebounding and defense; his weakness was offense, plain and simple.
He was the team's best per minute rebounder, no mean feat on a roster featuring Griffin and DeAndre Jordan; in fact, on a per minute basis this was the second best performance of his 14 year career. Bear in mind also that 10.7 rebounds per 36 isn't just good for the Clippers or good for Lamar Odom -- it's a really high level of rebounding, period. Among qualified players, Lamar was the 19th best per minute rebounder in the NBA this season. Not bad.
In addition to his rebounding, his all-around defense was tremendous all season. His length is a great asset on defense, he gets a large number of deflections and challenges every shot. He also happens to be in the right spot on almost every play. His rotations are terrific and his basketball instincts on defense are uncanny. I lost count of the times this season that Odom made multiple defensive plays on a single possession -- rotating to help on someone else's man, then recovering to his own man in time to challenge a shot.
Unfortunately, while Odom was providing solid rebounding and defense, he had completely forgotten how to score -- or maybe he'd simply lost interest. A career 13 point per game scorer who has twice averaged over 17 points for a full season, Odom averaged a career low 4 points per game for the Clippers while making less than 40 percent of his field goals. His lack of offensive punch was pretty astounding actually. In 82 games and over 1600 minutes, he took a TOTAL of 42 free throws -- the fewest free throws per minute of any interior player in the league. If he'd taken more free throws, one might have noticed his terrible foul shooting a bit more. Around 70 percent for his career, he made fewer than half of his freebies this season. How does that happen?
How bad was it? A big reason that Odom was viewed as an upgrade over the likes of Reggie Evans and Kenyon Martin this season was because he could supposedly provide more front count offense off the bench. Unfortunately it turned out not to be an upgrade, despite the fact that he was stepping in for a couple of guys who were offensive nonentities. As it happens, Martin scored more per minute as a Clipper than Odom did, and both Martin and Evans shot a better percentage from the field. Evans, a frighteningly bad free throw shooter, even hit a higher percentage from the line, while getting there more than three times as often.
Lamar still has a good feel for the game and remains one of the better 6'10 passers in the league. He averaged a solid 3.2 assists per 36 on the season. But his playmaking, while still welcome compared to the likes of Evans, was severely hindered by his lack of confidence on offense. Time and again he would pass up a shot and opt for a difficult pass -- he just didn't want to shoot.
At several points throughout the season it seemed as if perhaps his offensive game was coming around. He was so bad to start the season -- 23 percent from the field in November -- that he had nowhere to go but up. He managed to shoot 42 percent the rest of the way -- not good, but at least not terrible -- but remained so reluctant to shoot that he was still hurting the offense.
Future with the Clippers:
Odom made $8.2M for the Clippers this year -- making him wildly overpaid for the productivity he provided, even if he was useful on defense and on the boards. He's an unrestricted free agent this summer and it's safe to say that he's not going to make anything close to $8M per season going forward. Not at 34. Not for one of the most reluctant shooters in the league.
The question is, what is he willing to play for? There is likely not another player in the league more tied to a city -- given who he's married to and given his experience in Dallas last season, it's almost impossible to imagine Odom ever again playing for a team outside his adopted home of Los Angeles. Furthermore, after things ended so badly with the Lakers, it's pretty tough to imagine him going back to the purple and gold.
That gives the Clippers a lot of leverage. Anyone would want a veteran who can rebound and defend at the right price, and it's entirely possible that the Clippers will be bidding against themselves for his services going forward. The Clippers do have his Bird rights, but that almost entirely beside the point. It's nice that they won't have to use any of the mid level exception to re-sign Lamar-- but they will be bumping up against the luxury tax after re-signing Chris Paul, so any other contract they sign above the NBA minimum has to be carefully considered. Will Odom play another two or three seasons for something in the neighborhood of the NBA minimum? If so, then he could be back and he'd be a valuable asset at the right price. And who knows? Maybe he'll even remember how to shoot.