Despite all the hoopla that propelled Lamar Odom's exit out of Dallas, don't be surprised if the reigning Sixth Man of the Year still gets another shot to play the way everyone is expecting him to. The Mavericks have already said that he won't be returning to the team after averaging just 6.6 points and 4.1 rebounds in 20.5 minutes per game, all career lows. And, with an $8.2 million team option written into Odom's contract, it's almost guaranteed that he will either be bought out or traded in the offseason.
The Mavericks must buy Odom out before June 29, the day after the draft, or else commit to such a huge salary for someone who clearly was affected by his departure from the Los Angeles Lakers. Ironically enough, the Lakers could end up reuniting with Odom, if not more for basketball reasons than personal reasons. He's still a versatile big man that can aid a sub-par Lakers bench with depth, defense and chemistry.
However, the Lakers may not be so nostalgic, and, if other teams can look past the drama, Odom may be playing elsewhere. Here's a roundup of several teams that may be interested:
Los Angeles Lakers
The destination that makes most sense for Odom is the Lakers. He was an integral part of the Lakers' recent titles and arguably had his best years there.
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However, for Odom to end up there, the Lakers would likely have bite the bullet and wait to trade for him once July 1 comes rather than sit and wait for him to be bought out by June 29. Under NBA rules, no team can reacquire a player that they traded for during the season until July 1 or unless they are waived, whichever comes sooner. Remember that Odom wasn't waived, but put on the inactive list.
Los Angeles is $30 million over the cap and owes $17 million in taxes. That means, come June 29, the team is only eligible to offer a three-year, $3 million mid-level exception, an offer that rising, non-taxpaying teams can outmatch.
With a trade, the Lakers would have to find a way to match Odom's $8.2 million dollar price tag. The combined price tag of Steve Blake and Josh McRoberts comes closest to matching Odom's, but still falls just short. As a result, the Lakers would have almost $1 million more to pay in luxury tax in 2012.
Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers, the team that drafted Odom, have emerged as a Western Conference powerhouse because of the combined impact of Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. Nevertheless, they are in the middle of the league in rebounds per game (41.7), while the team's bench is at the bottom of the league in points per game (25.6)
Odom can provide such a young team with a veteran presence with a proven track record of rebounding and scoring off the bench. Thus, the Clippers seem like the second most likely landing spot after the Lakers.
The Clippers have the financial flexibility to trade or wait to offer a mid-level exception if the Mavericks buy out Odom. In the former case, they can offer a package revolving around Caron Butler (32 years old, like Odom), who will make $8 million next season, without being penalized. In the latter case, they can offer the full, $5 million mid-level.
The drawback for the former is that the Mavericks may not want Butler, a former player of theirs, to rejoin because of age and declining skill. For the latter, Odom is his own drawback. He may want to go to the Lakers and nowhere else.
Golden State Warriors
Next year, in the beginning stages of rebuilding, the Warriors will have their lineup set, leaving small forward the only position to fill. Odom can fill it, although over the years, he has probably grown more accustomed to the bench and playing power forward.
Trading is probably out of the question for the Warriors since those players whose salaries would match Odom's are either too important to the foundation (Klay Thompson, Stephen Curry, Dorrell Wright, David Lee) or are not worth it basketball-wise (Andris Biedrins and Richard Jefferson).
Therefore, if Odom is bought out, expect the Warriors, if interested, to offer him the full mid-level exception. The drawbacks, though, are that Odom may feel Golden State won't contend in the short-term and other teams-contending teams-such as the Orlando Magic, Oklahoma City Thunder, and New York Knicks can also offer him the full mid-level.