The latest buzz has Lamar Odom leaning toward accepting a deal with the Miami Heat. If this happens, no one will be more to blame than Jerry Buss and the Laker brass. It's astonishing to think that the owner of the hottest franchise in all of sports is squabbling over one million dollars a year. That's correct, Odom is seeking 10 million a year over five years and Jerry Buss refuses to pay him more than 9 million a year. If there was ever a player that should be overpaid, it would be Lamar Odom. Why? Lamar Odom is the Lakers bench. While the Lakers may possess one of the best starting units in basketball, they have absolutely no reserve that comes close to the caliber of play that Lamar Odom brings when he enters the game. The Celtics have Rasheed Wallace, Dallas has Jason Terry, (last year's six man award winner), and the Spurs have all-star Manu Ginobili anchoring their second unit. Without Lamar Odom the Lakers’ best reserve will be the hope that Luke Walton suddenly morphs into the player his father once was. The Lakers blew away the western competition last year, but most analysts feel that the reloaded Spurs have closed the gap. According to ESPN’s trade machine, losing Lamar Odom would result in 7 less wins for the Lakers. Considering the Lakers won 65 times last year that would mean a win total of 58 without Lamar Odom. The Spurs had 54 wins last year with Ginobili, Parker and Duncan missing long stretches at a time. Given their recent acquisitions, it's not hard to imagine the Spurs winning 60 or more games this season. If Jerry Buss and the LA brass would only rationalize the situation from a win/lose standpoint then the one million dollars that is hindering the deal with Odom doesn't seem like a whole lot after all. Jerry Buss bought the Lakers for 60+ million and their current value is somewhere in the neighborhood of 600 million. Surely Mr. Buss has the money needed to keep the Laker's dynasty dreams alive.
Remember when the Spurs were too old and athletically challenged to keep up with the Lakers, well not anymore. Both teams appear to have their rosters set so I ran a few averages to see how they match up. Including the eventual signing of Odom for the Lakers and Ratliff for the Spurs, both teams top out at an average height of 6.8". The average age for the Lakers is 27 compared to the Spurs 28. Lets look at both teams by position and depth.
At center the Spurs start Tim Duncan with Theo Ratliff likely backing him up. The Lakers counter with Andrew Bynum with DJ Mbenga coming off the bench. The Spurs drastically improves the PF position by starting McDyess with the rookie Dejuan Blair backing him up. LA counters with tandum of Gasol and Odom. At small forward the Spurs will start Richard Jefferson with Finley and Malik Hairston in the wings. The Lakers start Ron Artest with Luke Walton backing him up. The Spurs are banking on a healthy and motivated Manu Ginobili playing in a contract year to light it up from the shooting guard position with sharp shooter Roger Mason providing relief. For the Lakers the black mamba, Kobe Bryant would love nothing more than a competitive battle with Ginobili come the playoffs. He will be backed up by Vujacic. Once again Tony Parker will be the motor pushing the Spurs offense at point guard with 2nd year guard George Hill running the second unit. The Lakers will rely on veteran Derek Fisher and Jordan Farmer to provide offensive direction for the defending champs. It's fair to say, this may go down as one of the most exciting seasons we will ever witness.
In an effort to flank the San Antonio Spurs big three with some much needed help, the ownership spared no expense going well pass the luxury tax threshold. Will this investment pay the kind of dividends that warrant such a gamble, namely a fifth championship? Only time will tell. One thing is for certain, Tim Duncan may have the most potent combination of teammates he has ever seen. Check out these numbers.
We know what Duncan, Ginobli and Parker can do on any given night. Last year Kurt Thomas averaged 17minutes, 5rebounds and 4points per game. He is replaced in the starting line-up by Antonio McDyess who averaged 30minutes, 9.8rebounds and 9.6points per game. Basically Duncan now has a front court partner who should double the output of his predecessor. Additionally, the more time McDyess play, the less time Duncan will have to log during the regular season. This is huge on some many levels.
The biggest improvement however comes at the wing position. Last year Michael Finley averaged 25minutes, 9.7pts, 3.3rbs and 1.4ast. His replacement Richard Jefferson averaged 35minutes, 19.6, 4.6rbs and 2.4. Even more telling is the fact that Jefferson averaged 6.3 FTA compared to Finley’s 0.8. Put simply, RJ should drastically increase open looks for the dead-eyes in the corners when he attacks the basket. By replacing Kurt Thomas and Michael Finley with Antonio McDyess and Richard Jefferson in the starting line-up the Spurs should increase their rebounding by 6 boards per game and their point production by and whopping 15 points per game.
Now that the 2009-10 salary cap has been established we have a more definitive picture as to the financial footing of each team. The consensus view establishes 5 teams as contenders, Lakers, Spurs, Celtics, Caverliers and Magic. Let's look at each conference contender's financials as this could have a barring own future moves prior to the start of the season.
WESTERN CONFERENCE CONTENDERS
SPURS - 9 players - 71million (Includes their core and Richard Jefferson) Expected to spend MLE on front court help - 6million Draft pick and roster filler salaries - 3million 2009-10 Projected Team Salary - 80million 2010-11 Team Salary - 47million (not including Manu Ginobli) Forecast - Good
LAKERS - 13 players - 84million (Includes Gasol, Bynum, Kobe) Spent MLE on Artest Odom's asking price 10mil/several years No Draft picks 2009-10 Projected Team Salary - 94million 2010- 11 Team Salary - 75million (not including Odom or Fisher) Forest - Costly long term
Now that Rasheed Wallace has verbally agreed to sign with the Celtics, true Spurs fans can breath a sigh of relief. The Spurs still have their MLE and Bi-Annual to throw at a couple of free-agents. If Xmas could come early, I wish that the Spurs could convince Both Antonio McDyess and Channing Frye to join the Silver and Black express in their quest for championship number 5. The Spurs MLE is almost twice the amount of money that Detroit can offer McDyess so if all reports are true that he is deliberating between the Pistons and Spurs then delibrate no more.......Spurs = more money and better chance a winning a title. With regards to Mr. Frye, it is hard to imagine him not garnering an offer worth more than the Spurs 1.9million bi-annual so realistically seeing him next to Duncan is a stretch to say the least. Nevertheless, if Channing Frye is thinking long term, then signing with the Spurs for the bi-annual makes plenty of sense. Here's a look at the Spurs roster should Xmas come early.
Starter: Duncan - C McDyess - PF Jefferson - SF Ginobili - SG Parker - PG
Reserves C - Frye, Mihinmi PF - Blair, Haislip (Bonner) SF - Finley, Hairston SG - Mason, Williams PG - Hill, McClinton
Of course to accommadate this much young talent either Bonner or Finley would require a buyout. I say thank for your service but here's the door red rocket. This would be the deepest team in the league and would have to be considered the biggest threat to the Lakers, more so than Boston, Cleveland and Orlando.