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While his status with the Lakers remains somewhat unclear, the current expectation is that when Lamar Odom isn't moonlighting at point guard this season, he'll be trying his hand at the small forward spot alongside the big frontcourt combination of Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum. Making room for one returning center and moving one forward over means somebody else is going to lose some minutes, and more than anyone else, that somebody currently looks to be Vladimir Radmanovic.
Randmanovic started 41 regular season games and all 21 playoff games at small forward for the Lakers this season, and he stands to see the greatest decline in playing time if the Odom-Gasol-Bynum front line is in place. The seven-year vet is less than thrilled about this development, and the Press-Enterprise's Jeff Eisenberg reports that a championship is the "one scenario that would ease his frustration if his playing time evaporates this season as expected."
It's natural for a player to want to be on the floor, and it sounds like VladRad understands that the big picture is winning first and sticking together as a team. But it's worth noting that any reduction in his playing time is well earned on his part.
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The 27-year-old Radmanovic is a 6-foot-10 forward who excels at one part of playing basketball, which is shooting the ball from the outside. Radmanovic shot 40.6 percent from behind the arc last year (38.2 percent for his career) and put up a career high 58.3 percent true shooting mark. More than half his field-goal attempts came from deep, and Radmanovic deserves credit for putting up a highly efficient campaign. Shooters who can spread the floor are commodities in this league, and Radmanovic undoubtedly has situational value to the Lakers.
But the facts that he doesn't score with high volume or do anything else well make him much more useful to the Lakers as an occasionally-used reserve than he is as a starter. Despite his efficacy from the field, Radmanovic took less than seven shots per game last year and averaged 8.4 points per game (9.3 as a starter). That he limits his shot attempts is a good thing because Radmanovic doesn't create his own shot well, and his accuracy would drop if he tried to force more rather than deferring to the likes of Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol.
But if he isn't going to be a big-time scorer, he needs to add something else when he is on the floor, and Radmanovic doesn't do that. He doesn't rebound the ball well (3.3 per game last year, 4.3 per game for his career, 6.1 per 36 minutes for his career), particularly for a player his size. He also isn't anything special as a passer, particularly when compared to his expected replacement. The 6-10 Odom has long been praised for his passing vision as a big man, and VladRad doesn't possess that. Radmanovic's focus isn't exactly renowned either, and Eisenberg notes that the forward has earned monikers such as Space Cadet and My Favorite Martian from Phil Jackson.
The biggest problem of all with Radmanovic remains on the defensive end. In short, the guy doesn't guard anybody. While he has power forward height, he isn't strong enough to bang down low, and his offensive game lends him more to the three. The issue becomes the fact that he also doesn't have the quickness to stay with the small forwards in this league. He was consistently embarrassed by Paul Pierce in the Finals in June, and the sort of defense VladRad played in that series - none - is typical of his usual work at that end of the floor. He doesn't use his length well to block shots, and he doesn't have the foot speed to stick with slashers going to the rim. This forces him to give more of a cushion on the perimeter, which leads to Radmanovic not guarding either the outside shot or the drive to the basket all that well. Simply put, he's a liability defensively. While Odom may have his own share of troubles defending his new position as well, they likely won't be quite as pronounced, and Odom does everything else save for outside shooting with far more proficiency than Radmanovic does.
Vladimir Radmanovic says that he has put in the work to make himself a better defender and that he will earn his way back up the ladder in the Lakers' rotation by improving that facet of the game. He'll have to do just that, or the reduction in his minutes will be well deserved.