Keeping Odom should keep Lakers on top of NBA

There’s little doubt that the extended drama involved in Lamar Odom’s threat to sign with Miami was nothing more than a negotiating ploy to force a more favorable deal from the Lakers.

Here are several reasons why Miami never had a real shot at Odom:

  • The ballyhooed fact that Florida doesn’t have a state income tax was a red herring. So what if Odom could have saved about $200-300K per season? With the Lakers able to offer a signficantly larger salary, the tax savings would have been mere pocket change.
  • All of Dwyane Wade’s talk about Odom’s “coming back home” to Miami was also nonsensical. L.O. was born in Queens, N.Y., has played a total of nine years in Los Angeles and only one in Miami.
  • Even if the Heat had inked Odom and Carlos Boozer, the best they could have hoped for was to finish behind Boston, Cleveland and Orlando. Why would Odom — or any other player in his right mind — leave a defending championship ball club to play on the fourth-best team in the Eastern Conference?
  • There was some buzz about Odom’s lingering unhappiness coming off the bench for the Lakers and Miami’s guaranteeing him a starting slot. But hey, last June the guy averaged over 32 minutes per game in the playoffs and was always on the court in the end game. Winning the gold ring ultimately convinced Odom that finishing for a winner is better than starting for an also-ran.
  • L.A.’s pulling its offer from the table last week was just another business-as-usual negotiating ploy.

  • Hadn’t Odom repeatedly claimed that Phil Jackson was his all-time favorite coach? And that he couldn’t see himself playing under anybody else?

    That said, here’s the usual run-down on what Odom will bring to next season’s Lakers.

    Pros: Simply put, Odom can do just about everything he puts his mind to. Rebound, handle, run, jump, shoot from long range, post-up, pass and defend. All this at either the small forward or the power forward positions — and even playing center in selected matchups.

    More specifically, he can drive effectively both ways but prefers going left — and therefore works very hard (mostly with a nifty right-to-left crossover) to get back to his left hand. He’s quite a handful when he posts on the right block and looks for his lefty jump hook or turnaround jumper. And he’s learned to be aggressive when playing without the ball.

    Cons: His habitual lack of focus is a problem. Too often, Odom will disappear and not be a factor whatsoever. This happens perhaps one out of every three games in the regular season and one game per playoff series. Also, his 3-ball stroke can be flat. Plus, he exhibits too much ball and body movement at the stripe and is therefore little better than a lifetime 70 percent shooter from there, which is slightly below the average league-wide efficiency.

    Prognosis: With both Odom and Ron Artest in the fold, the Lakers are heavy favorites to repeat. All they need to round out their roster is another lively big man off the bench — Josh Powell doesn’t fill the bill — and a guard/wing who can provide another reliable scorer off the bench. It could very well be, however, that if Adam Morrison’s leg has healed and fully regained its strength, he could be the secondary scorer for the second unit.

    Note: The Lakers would have had absolutely no chance to re-sign Odom if there was an NBA franchise in Hershey, Pa.

    Let’s also look at the most significant of the latest player relocations.

    Andre Miller to Portland

    Pros: He’s strong, smart and can run an offense with clockwork efficiency. When he must, Miller can also overpower opponents and create his own shots. His hesitation moves enable him to consistently get to the hoop and finish. Has incredible court vision and a great drive-and-kick game. Can do a good job defending screen/rolls.

    Cons: Cannot run, shoot from long range or defend any but the slowest point guards in one-on-one situations.

    Prognosis: Miller’s presence will force the Blazers to play a more deliberate style than they have in recent years. This will put even more pressure on Greg Oden to hasten his development. So even with Miller, Portland’s future still depends on Oden.

    Matt Barnes to Orlando

    Pros: He’s a high-energy player who can run the floor like a guard. Barnes’ quick hops also make him an effective rebounder and an outstanding finisher. He has excellent 3-point range and rarely misses open shots.

    Cons: Takes far too many ill-advised shots, especially in fast-break or early offensive situations. His lefty handle is weak. Worst of all, Barnes is a below-average defender.

    Prognosis: If he learns to differentiate between good shots and bad ones, Barnes could be a streaky but potentially dynamic scorer off the bench. A probable plus for the Magic.

    Jamario Moon to Cleveland

    Pros: This guy is one of the best all-around athletes in the league. He can run, jump and change direction like a Hall of Famer. Moon is a highlight finisher on the break. Can also knock down treys and play aggressive defense.

    Cons: His incredible skills remain somewhat unsophisticated. Doesn’t see the court well enough to make judicious passes and he makes mucho mistakes in executing half-court sets.

    Prognosis: If the Cavs can get him to slow down and look before he leaps, Moon could be a huge addition who greatly enhances their championship hopes.

    Tyson Chandler to Charlotte

    Pros: A quick jumper and eager shot-blocker, especially when coming from the weak side. Can outrun most other centers. Does a good job of spinning off of top-heavy interior defenders and making himself available for lob passes. Except for some lefty jump hooks, put-backs, and duck-under moves, Chandler’s primary offense is generated by his slipping screens and dunking the resultant lob passes.

    Cons: Is very soft and can be bullied. Can’t pass or score when stationed in the low post but gets upset when he doesn’t get sufficient touches. When opposing players take the ball right at him and then execute a convincing pump fake, Chandler is so intent on blocking shots that more often than not he’ll commit a foul. Is both foul prone and injury prone. A poor free-throw shooter.

    Prognosis: Is the perfect eraser in a zone defense, and the perfect backup. Unless the Bobcats come up with a more stalwart starting center, Larry Brown will be hard on Chandler’s case all season long.

    Emeka Okafor to New Orleans

    Pros: Big, strong body and sure-handed rebounder. Will block his share of shots.

    Cons: His post-up moves are very crude and depend more on power than technique. A poor passer, Okafor is a turnover looking for a place to happen. Has trouble defending opponents who can face-up and go. Another below-average shooter from the stripe. Lacks the foot speed to provide Chris Paul with the screen/roll options that Chandler did. Is grossly overpaid.

    Prognosis: Plays better without the ball than with it. Could turn out to be the kind of lane-clogger that will limit the flexibility of the Hornets’ half-court offense.

    Drew Gooden to Dallas

    Pros: Plays hard. Likes to post-up on left box and execute either his go-to move — a right-handed jump-hook — or a turnaround jumper. Also looks to spin on his drives. Can rebound, handle some, and block an occasional shot.

    Cons: Is a streaky shooter who stubbornly tries to shoot his way through dry spells. Has slowed down to a noticeable degree and since he’s always had trouble defending quick players off the dribble, his defense is now highly questionable.

    Prognosis: Gooden is a career under-achiever and the Mavs are the seventh team he’ll play with during the course of his (soon-to-be) nine years in the league. As such, Dallas is the latest outfit to believe it can prompt Gooden to fulfill his potential. Could be a useful player off the bench who should be quickly yanked when he misses three shots in succession.