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Floor General Lamar?

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On the Lakers' list of X-factors heading into the new season, Andrew Bynum is hardly alone at the top.

While the center has received plenty of deserved hype as his return from last year's season-ending knee injury nears, there is another member of the purple and gold whose fate with the team continues to hang in the balance: Lamar Odom.  The media hasn't shied away from the power forward either this offseason, and there have been rumors of everything from the Lakers starting Odom at the three alongside Bynum and Pau Gasol to bringing him off the bench to shipping the guy out of town altogether.

Thursday's report from Elliott Teaford of the LA Daily News brought one more possibility to throw in the mix: Odom as occasional point guard.  According to Teaford, Phil Jackson has stated that he'll be doing some experimenting during the team's exhibition games, namely involving shifting Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher to small forward and shooting guard respectively and allowing Odom to run the point.

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Until Jackson indicates otherwise, the presumption here will be that this is to be an offensive move only as it makes little sense to scramble three defenders in a manner that would likely benefit none of them at that end of the floor.  Further, no matter how well the experiment works, it clearly will not be the majority solution to the Odom question so much as it may be an alternate look to throw at opposing defenses this season.  But it's still an intriguing one.

It's been Odom's inconsistency that has been most frustrating about him for the Lakers.  His production averages are generally very good, and he had another very nice statistical season last year, putting up 14.2 points, 10.6 boards and 3.5 assists per game to go with a career high 58.2 percent true shooting.  The issue is that Odom can look unstoppable one night and terrible the next, particularly as far as his scoring is concerned, and he has garnered a reputation for disappearing in big moments.  His game-by-game field-goal numbers for the last two rounds of the playoffs illustrate the problem in a nutshell: 3-for-12, 7-for-10, 2-for-11, 4-for-9, 5-for-10, 6-for-11, 5-for-11, 2-9, 8-for-11, 8-for-10, 2-for-8.  Not a lot of middle ground there.  It's been a lot of feast-or-famine type production from Odom, and too often for the Lakers', he appears to have lost confidence in himself in the bigger spots.

But if there is anyone on this Lakers team who should be able to overcome poor shooting nights to be a factor for the unit, that someone is Odom.  The 6-foot-10 forward has a unique skill set for a man his size.  He handles the ball very well, has some small modicum of touch from the outside, rebounds well and, perhaps most significantly, Odom is a beautiful passer.  His height allows him an easy time seeing passing lanes, and his soft hands help him thread passes right to the spots he wants.  This is a guy who should be able to add a lot even on the nights when he doesn't turn in virtuoso scoring performances.

Having Odom run the point from time to time might enable him to do just that.  Though his passing skills are depended on from the high post in the Lakers' offense, he is still expected to bear a significant scoring onus when functioning as a forward.  Perhaps having him handle the ball would really allow him to feel less pressure to be a scorer and to focus on his facilitating his teammates, which Odom can do without problem.  Working from the top of the offense could be a big advantage for the natural forward on a match-up level as well as most defenders his size won't be able to stay with his quickness and ball-handling skills on both the outside and inside.  Odom would be taking a big man out of the lane and making his man-to-man situation easier for himself in the process.  Beyond that, it might benefit Fisher to get some run as primarily a shooter as he seems more comfortable hanging on the outside looking to capitalize on open looks than he does in penetrating.  Moving Bryant around just to see what sort of cool stuff he can do in a new role for a few minutes is unlikely to hurt much either.

Of course, this could all fall on its face in the first couple of preseason games, in which case we'd never hear about it again.  But with Lamar Odom's size and passing skills (and Fisher and Bryant's abilities to adapt), perhaps playing the big man at the point a bit won't be out of the question this season.  Label me interested to see how this one plays out in the City of Angels. 

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