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Friday, September 17th, 2010 at 1:00 pm  |  48 responses

Top 50: Lamar Odom, no. 48

The definitive ranking of the NBA’s best players.

by Kyle Stack / @KyleStack

Lamar Odom has been given many labels throughout his 11-season career — upcoming star, versatile, underachiever. At 30 years old, he can add another one. Winner.

In the past 15 months, Odom has won two NBA championships and a World Championships gold medal. This isn’t the path many suspected he would take as little as three yearsLamar Odom ago, when he finished his eighth season with the Lakers getting promptly knocked out of the playoffs’ first round in five games. Up to that point, Odom had made the Playoffs three times but had advanced beyond the first round only once. Furthermore, he had been on just one team that finished with a regular season record more than two games over .500.

Then Pau Gasol came along and Odom found his true calling as a basketball player — that of a leader and an emotional center of a championship squad. When Gasol was traded to the Lakers in February 2008, Odom took a backseat in on-court production. Yet his true value to the Lakers rose as he became a bridge between the starters and bench. Derek Fisher’s guidance can’t be underestimated but it’s Odom who offers calmness in the face of a storm. He’s a great communicator.

The characteristics for which Odom is currently revered weren’t always noticed. People expected more from him when he was in his early to mid-20s. His versatility has always been mesmerizing and it was thought that his varied skill-set would vault him into superstardom. There’s nothing physically that Odom can’t do on a basketball court. He embodies the idea of the power forward with point guard skills. In many ways, he resembles former Lakers great Magic Johnson. The court is his playground; there’s no player he can’t match up with.

Unlike Johnson, Odom has never had the capacity to do what others thought he should be capable of. Expectations can cast a cloud over a player’s career. Rather than appreciate Odom for his unselfishness and versatility, his critics chose to point out why he wasn’t the superstar his physical skills said he should be. He was soft, they said. His play was too inconsistent. He didn’t care enough about the game to be great.

After that playoff dismissal in 2007, it seemed as if Odom’s career would fall under the category of good players who never realized their potential. Think Derrick Coleman or, to some extent, Chris Webber. Odom’s calling as a basketball player still wouldn’t arrive during the Lakers’ first of three straight Finals appearances in 2008. If anything, the Lakers’ embarrassing 39-point loss to the Celtics in Game 6 was in some ways a reflection of Odom’s perceived shortfall as a player, as someone who couldn’t rise to the occasion.

It was before the ‘08-09 season that Odom’s career path changed. With a healthy Andrew Bynum back in the starting lineup, Lakers head coach Phil Jackson identified Odom as the one who would have to move to the bench. He was to become a leader for the second string as well as remain a valuable asset for the starters. Despite fighting the demotion at first — after all, he was in his prime — Odom embraced the role that was always waiting for him.

Odom’s easy-going demeanor has been a necessary complement to Derek Fisher’s strong-willed leadership and Kobe Bryant’s legendary competitiveness. His past life experiences, which have included tragic deaths of those closest to him, have taught him that basketball isn’t necessarily life or death. That’s given him the kind of perspective he can impart on his teammates at times when nerves are tested. And he’s still putting up numbers.

Even though his scoring average in ‘09-10 fell for the fourth consecutive season, he’s still averaged double-figure points each season in his career. He’s ripped at least 8.2 rebounds per season for seven straight campaigns. Only his playing time last season — 31.5 minutes per game — kept him from averaging a double-double for a third time. His 10.8 points and 9.8 rebounds per contest showed he can bring it every night. When Team USA needed low-post defense and scoring, LO was there with a double-double in waiting.

It’s turned out that Odom’s perceived greatest weakness has become maybe his greatest strength. No, he won’t dominate a game. But his ability to communicate with teammates, his way of adapting himself to different personalities, has become the glue every championship team needs. The Lakers know it. Now, Team USA has come to find out that Odom’s newfound reputation is that of a winner.

SLAMonline TOP 50 PLAYERS OVERALL RANK POSITION RANK
Player Team Position 2010 2009 2010 2009
Ray Allen Celtics SG 50 36 11 10
Gilbert Arenas Wizards SG 49 34 10 9
Lamar Odom Lakers PF 48 33 14 10

Notes
• Rankings are based solely on projected ’10-11 performance.
• Contributors to this list include: Jeremy Bauman, Maurice Bobb, Erildas Budraitis, Sean Ceglinsky, Ben Collins, Bryan Crawford, Sandy Dover, Adam Figman, Manny Maduakolam, Eddie Maisonet, Ryne Nelson, Doobie Okon, Ben Osborne, Charles Peach, Branden Peters, Quinn Peterson, David Schnur, Todd Spehr, Kyle Stack, Adam Sweeney, Dennis Tarwood, Tracy Weissenberg, Lang Whitaker, Eric Woodyard, and Nima Zarrabi.
• Want more of the SLAMonline Top 50? Check out the archive.

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  • http://slamonline.com/ Ryne Nelson

    Watch out! We’re going two-a-day for a couple weeks: 8 a.m. and 1 p.m.!

  • http://www.twitter.com/hurstysyd Hursty

    um, ok? I like Odom alot, but not more than Arenas, not contribution wise coming into this reason.
    Does this mean Luis Scola is on the list? If Odom is.. Then he should be. For pretty much the exact same reasons.

  • http://slamonline.com/ Ryne Nelson

    At least we know Odom will play. But I hear you…

  • unrel

    I love what LO brings to a championship squad.. i hear what Hursty is saying.. and to an extent i agree.. cause scola’s contributions is just as important.. but maybe LO’s addition is about what doesn’t show up on espn.. but hopefully he won’t be considered an underachiever anymore..

  • JTaylor21

    It’s CRAZY that people had the never to compare this guy to Magic his first few years. Dude is a very SOLID player but Magic like, that deserves a COME ON SON and CHILD PLEASE.

  • Mitya

    If only Lamar had some hops…
    On a completely different note, I got a question for slam fam: where to play ball in Paris?

  • http://www.euroleague.net/competition/players/showplayer?clubcode=oly&pcode=AQU GIANNIS BOUROUSIS

    1)Where is Anna….??(Anna is in China…)
    2)I’m living for the moment Andre “got no idea what to do with a basket ball but i make millions cause kids love dunks” Igguodala apears over Lamar&RAY!!!!!

  • http://slamonline.com/ Ryne Nelson

    Mitya, how long will you be in Paris?

  • Royal

    Jtaylor: Any player 6’8 or taller with playmaking ability will be compared to Magic just like how every 6’6 to 6’8 athletic scorer will be compared to M.J

  • Mitya

    @Ryne: I’m leaving Monday night, why, are you going too? I googled it, found a reference to a court near the Stalingrad metro station, I’ll probably check it out tomorrow.

  • Mitya

    @Ryne: I’m leaving Monday night, why, r u gonna be here too?

  • http://www.slamonline.com Wayno

    It’s pretty much the ideal 2nd/3rd banana on a contending squad. He fulfulls his role very well.

  • http://slamonline.com/ Ryne Nelson

    Nah, I won’t be there. But if there was more time, I could’ve tracked someone down to give advice.

  • luv2ball

    My coach used to say that a great basketball player can be the MVP of a game without scoring. I think LO is one of the few guys that can do that. QUEENSBRIDGE!!!!

  • http://www.dontevenreply.com total scrotal implosion

    Lamar is still the most versatile player in the league. But dont trust him in a fantasy league, he will put up 6 5 just as often as 22 15

  • LB

    JTaylor, Royal, any player 6’8 and above that can handle and dish will be compared to Magic, just like any white player that’s 6’8 and can shoot will always be compared to Larry Bird

  • http://slamonline.com nbk

    odom’s game is great. He rebounds, runs the floor, defends the pick and roll, can play multiple positions, doesn’t cause issues in the locker room. He is the epitome of “glue guy” while still possessing the talent and skills of an all star. LIke everyone throughout his career I just wish he was a little more aggressive.

  • Mitya

    Thanks Ryne, I think I found the spot, gonna check it out tommorow.

  • http://twitter.com/HarryByrdMan44 LA Huey

    Odom fills in the gaps like very few role players in the game right now.
    btw, shout out to Greek dude hating on Iggy. I love how much Europeans seem to underestimate how important defense is when it comes to winning.

  • http://Slamonline.com Nbk

    Especially when said player absolutely dominated his European counterparts…..playing out of position

  • TrailBlazing&SportingLisbon

    hes way too inconsistent but hes better than the next 10 guys probably…at his best hes a top 10 PF for sure…damn the fu#kin lakers, even more stacked than the Heat! give me kob, Ron, LO, Pau, Bynum over lbj, flash, MM, Udonis, Bosh!!!!!!

  • Young C

    @Giannis: Actually Iguodala is a very good basketball player in every aspect except shooting…yet he somehow mananges to average about 18 per game. How you hate so obsessively on someone who you dont know is beyond me. Unless he diddled your ma or something, I really dont get it. There are much worse players you could hate on who made ridiculous amounts of money in this league, like Brian Cardinal for instance. If i have to put up with your complaining for the next month, I’d rather skip the rest of the top 50. Please dude, get a life.

  • TrailBlazing&SportingLisbon

    good write up…its amazing how Pau Gasol just put everything in the right place for LA, thats a shame for the rest of us rooting for others in da wild wild West!

  • Bruno

    when Lamar really comes out to play then there’s no competition to the Lakers … when he’s ballin LA’s unstoppable

  • The Lord of Nsam (formerly known as Fresh Prince)

    LO, one of my fav players in the League (despite the fact that he plays 4 the Lakers) actually, I hate him there. KD did a good job scoring with Team USA but if LO was not there, they wouldn’t have won the Gold. Just like last finals game 7 when KB chocked. Great player and good writing Kyle.

  • TrailBlazing&SportingLisbon

    cosign LAHuey, Iverson must´ve stole greek dudes girl or smthing, lol…hey GIANNS: Iggy has a bad outside shot, aside from that, listen carefully: EXCELENT DEFENSE, GREAT PASSING AND PLAYMAKING ABILITY, nice rebounder and competent scorer. YOU OVERESTIMATE the outside shot

  • fizzrocket

    Odom above Ray Allen. This makes SO much sense my head is exploding.

  • http://www.kb24.com The Seed

    Love Odom’s game, but he is not top 50 to me, but he help the Lakers win back to back so I guess he gets his love too, but he is number 51 to me.

  • Will

    @mitya

    Go to the Champ De Mars. Good streetball court and usually good competition

  • http://itsahardwoodlife.blogspot.com omphalos

    Anyone think there will be any other bench players in the top 50? (Barring Manu of course).

  • http://www.slamonline.com J

    Odom is great. and now i think, just like what you said, he knows where he could be most effective. he can start a fastbreak from his own rebound, he’s a very good passer. but the labeling as a point-forward should be dead by now. maybe because of the reduced role, but if we look back all we saw were somehow “flashes”. it never materialized. it was never a consistent thing even in those Smush Parker era lakers. but don’t get me wrong i appreciate the things he brought to the table.

  • http://www.goal.com Tariq

    I don’t know if that narrative is convincing: that Odom changed because of these 15 months. It’s worth noting that the word “perceived” gets repeated a lot in this piece. Nice work though.

  • logues

    well, this list sucks now. kevin love better be on here if odom is

  • http://nicekicks.com meloman2.0

    Ray allen, Gilbert arenas, and John wall are ALL better than Odom… I’m now assuming that the Lakers have 5 players in the top 50…

  • bashmo

    Odom over Ray Allen?? I thought John Wall ahead of Ray Allen was bad lol!

  • bashmo

    Odom over Ray Allen?? I thought John Wall ahead of Ray Allen was bad lol!

  • http://Slamonline.com Nbk

    Do any of you realize the importance of rebounding, & defense? Ray Allen is a one trick pony. Gilbert is even more one sided. I wonder what’s gonna happen when Andrew Bogut comes up. Ignorance will flow like a river is my guess.

  • Elvis Freshly

    WTF!!!! Lamar over RAY? never amazes me how underrated Ray is…. this is just disrespectful if anything. lmao

  • wottywo

    I agree, Lamar over Ray is pitiful and sick. But Odom has two rings so I guess that counts for something. But Odom is most of the time a no show. Not only that, but if Odom made this list, I expect to see Ron Artest, because without Artest, the Laker’s would not have repeated, and they wouldn’t have beat the Suns. But Odom in the top 50, wow, I’m still shaking my head(confused) that Odom made the top 50.

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  • cruise

    belated but Lame-r Odom? Really? Despite living in Laker land I really don’t note his existence most of the time. When rarely he does show up everyone’s all “YEAH LO” like they believed in him the whole time, but no one really expects or get much out of him. And the writers put this guy in front of Ray Allen? It makes more sense that Sun Yue has a ring than this list’s ordering.

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  • http://retroxi.com Mark

    This may be a little late but considering 6th man of the year… LO needs too move up in the list.

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