Does Lamar Odom for Jermaine O'Neal Make Sense?

I want to get a few things out of the way in the interest of full disclosure -- while I am a freelance sportswriter, I also run a web development company for pro athletes, and Lamar Odom is one of my clients. That said, it really has no impact on me whether or not he stays a member of the Los Angeles Lakers, though it is nice having him here in town.

Ever since Kobe demanded that Los Angeles make some changes to the roster, one trade possibility has surfaced in the media, reported first by Peter Vescey in the New York Post: the Lakers are rumored to want the Indiana Pacers' Jermaine O'Neal in exchange for Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum, with perhaps some other pieces thrown into the mix. These rumors were lent more credence today when Marc Stein of ESPN discussed Odom's reaction to the possibility of being sent to Indiana.

My question is simply this: Why is this a good trade?

If you look past O'Neal's reputation, which was built primarily on the earlier part of his career, and just compare more recent statistics, trading Odom for O'Neal straight up seems like a bad idea.

Consider O’Neal and Odom’s stats per game for the past three seasons, courtesy of Basketball Reference.com:

O'NEAL
Season Ag Tm Lg G MP FG FGA 3P 3PA FT FTA ORB DRB TRB AST STL BLK TO PF PTS
2004-05 26 IND NBA 44 34.8 8.8 19.4 0.0 0.1 6.7 8.9 1.9 6.9 8.8 1.9 0.6 2.0 3.0 3.9 24.3
2005-06 27 IND NBA 51 35.3 7.5 15.8 0.1 0.2 5.1 7.2 2.0 7.3 9.3 2.6 0.5 2.3 3.0 3.5 20.1
2006-07 28 IND NBA 69 35.6 7.2 16.5 0.0 0.1 5.0 6.5 2.2 7.4 9.6 2.4 0.7 2.6 2.9 3.4 19.4

ODOM
Season Ag Tm Lg G MP FG FGA 3P 3PA FT FTA ORB DRB TRB AST STL BLK TO PF PTS
2004-05 25 LAL NBA 64 36.3 5.7 12.1 0.6 1.8 3.2 4.7 2.1 8.1 10.2 3.7 0.7 1.0 2.5 3.3 15.2
2005-06 26 LAL NBA 80 40.3 5.6 11.6 1.0 2.7 2.7 3.9 2.3 7.0 9.2 5.5 0.9 0.8 2.7 3.2 14.8
2006-07 27 LAL NBA 56 39.3 5.7 12.2 1.0 3.3 3.5 5.1 1.8 7.9 9.8 4.8 0.9 0.6 2.9 3.3 15.9


For the past three years, O’Neal has averaged:

54.6 games
21.26 ppg
9.23 rpg
2.3 apg
2.3 bpg
2.96 tos per game

For the same period, Odom has averaged:

66.66 games
15.3 ppg
9.73 rpg
4.67 apg
0.8 bpg
2.7 tos per game

Obviously, O’Neal is a tremendous defensive presence (i.e. the blocks), and you've got to defend him down low, which in theory takes pressure off of Kobe.

But - and this a pretty significant but - O'Neal has been out 12 games MORE than Odom per year, on average, over the past three seasons. Aside from the scoring differential – and if Odom remains with the Lakers next year, I have a feeling he will be scoring more, given how this season ended – Odom has better stats in the remaining categories. He’s also a year younger, and costs the Lakers $6 million less next season. Finally - and I know I sound like a homer here - there are all the intangibles that Odom brings: his wide-ranging skill set, his ability to co-exist with Kobe, and his resilience/heart, which was on full display in the first round of the playoffs against the Phoenix Suns.

The other telling fact about O'Neal: If Larry Bird is willing to part with him, he clearly believes that O'Neal's best years are behind him.

Aside from just making a move to placate Kobe, this seems like a lateral step at best, particularly when you throw in Andrew Bynum, who’s got a long career ahead of him. At worst, Los Angeles trades away a player who has really shown over the past few seasons that he may be coming into his own for an even more injury-plagued seven footer who may be on his way downhill.

Los Angeles needs to make changes: I'm just not convinced this is the one they should be making.

June 7, 2007 12:47 AM • Native Intelligence • Email the editor
 

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