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NBA / Mar 9, 2012 / 4:00 pm

To Trade Or Not To Trade: Dallas’ Lamar Odom Dilemma

Lamar Odom

Lamar Odom (photo. Jeff Forney)

It’s not about Dirk Nowitzki‘s conditioning. It’s not about Tyson Chandler leaving.

This season, the Mavericks are about — and will go as far as — Lamar Odom. It might seem like a weird thing to say for a guy who’s started four games, plays 21 minutes per game and just missed 10 days.

Odom scored 15 points last night in a loss to Phoenix on 6-of-10 shooting. He was aggressive in looking for his shot, getting baseline drives and step-back threes. Playing like he was a Laker, basically.

And that’s the whole problem. Odom wants to be back at Staples Center as a full-time resident, not a visitor.

The trade that nearly was to New Orleans for Chris Paul left Odom talking about being “shocked,” “surprised” and in “disbelief” back in December. When he was finally dealt to Dallas, the rhetoric from Odom’s camp wasn’t much sunnier from a Dallas perspective. The trade talk likely won’t stop there. There’s a good chance Odom has outplayed his welcome in DFW, already, and will be shipped out before the March 15 trade deadline.

He hasn’t been shy about letting it be known his feelings are hurt, but that’s carried over to a dramatic decrease in his game. Why Mavericks fans should care, is that they no longer have the front-court stopper in Chandler to solidify the inside. Odom, more content on the wing than the paint, was never going to fill that spot but there was hope his versatility could mitigate it.

Odom used to be so valued because he was so skilled at so many things, from rebounds (nearly cut in half to 4.5 boards per game now) to threes (39 percent this year to 57 last year). Make no question, the Mavs need him to get back to that point; finding a successful niche will build his confidence but not put Dallas, just two games from falling into eighth place, over the hump in the West. But it has to start somewhere because he’s too good to be this bad.

It’s important to say that Odom, the once Sixth Man of the Year, is worse in basically every category this year compared to last season (and for his career). Here’s where it matters, though — and how the Mavs could benefit should he decide to pick it up.

Odom was the third-most clutch shooter last season in the game’s final five minutes when the lead or deficit was five points or less. Key to that was his ability to drive past a smaller three and pull up for a short jumper before hitting the frontline.

According to hoopdata.com, in the 3-to-9 feet range in his career, he’d never shot worse than 42 percent — now he’s at an atrocious 22 percent. He’s shooting a career-worst 36 percent overall, but that mid-range game is where he used to hurt opponents the most, and where he’s now killing himself by his own hand.

It’s not that the Mavs haven’t given him a chance to prove himself, because his usage per 100 possessions is the highest in his career. He’s just doing less with the ball than ever because he’s lazier than ever. Doubt it? Mark Cuban brought that issue to the fore recently by yelling at Odom from the sideline, which got national attention that had to be clarified by Odom on Twitter. Sending him to the Mavs’ D-League affiliate was in the works but he never played there, wisely. That would have crushed what little confidence he had.

All that adds up to a 10.5 Player Efficiency Rating. Let’s put that in context: He’s never been below 16 in his career and the league average is 13.6 this season.

Thursday was a nice night for Odom in Phoenix. Tonight he gets another shot in Sacramento. The biggest question is, when does he turn around his heart?

Would you trade Odom if you were Dallas?

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