Holly MacKenzie and I were discussing Lamar Odom earlier today and a couple of ideas that have been circulating around in my head bubbled to the surface.
Odom's struggles on the court are well documented. He has been chronically misunderstood as a player, oftentimes relegated to the post when he is more naturally suited to perimeter play. His size was perennially misinterpreted to mean he would be most effective on the block. And last season, after the Lakers acquired Pau Gasol, I joined the sizeable chorus of commentators who praised Jackson for finally utilizing Odom from the spot where he is most comfortable: The 3. Aside from his struggles in the NBA Finals, there seems to be a general consensus that Odom has found his rhythm and role in a way that had eluded him up to this point.
Although happy to see him develop as both a person and a player over the last season, I think that the notion that he has once and for all escaped the label of "underachieving enigma" has been too quickly applied. Odom needs a subtle combination of freedom and support from the Lakers organization that just may not be available. During the Finals, the old Kobe reared his ugly head, and if unselfish Kobe eventually turns out to have been a passing fad, there is a decent chance that Odom could find himself lost again on a team that lacks the necessary chemistry to really bring home another championship. I may be imposing this on him, but in some ways Odom strikes me as one of the NBA players whose confidence, if shaken, most directly affects his productivity. Something about the guy just seems sensitive.
So Holly and I are riffing back and forth on Odom, and she notes how she thinks he may be better suited for a more laid back franchise, like Miami. This reminded me of a feeling I have had for sometime: Michael Beasley will be Lamar Odom, fully realized.
I have always thought that Beasley and Odom were similar players: Muscular, long wingmen who could bang on the inside but were genuinely more dynamic when given some room on the perimeter to let their athleticism come a little loose. I think Beasley has a better outside shot, and in general is just a tab bit more likely to be in the "elite player" category than Odom ever has been. The other similarity is their personalities: both have a very casual style, as well as a playfully healthy sense of their youth (although Odom has always had a more tragic air about him then Beasley likely ever will).
But, unlike Odom, Beasley is already in Miami. Now maybe I am falsely imposing the culture of south Florida on the Heat, but it just seems inevitable that Beasley's casual style will be given more room to breath on South Beach. The positional mistakes surrounding Odom also strike me as less likely to be repeated with B-easy (not to say the threat isn't still there). I like Lamar Odom, and hope that during the next few seasons we see him permanently blossom into the player we hoped he would be. But I think it is much more likely we will look back a few years from now and find our aspirations for Lamar definitively realized by Beasley.