After trading away all but one of its 2012 NBA Draft picks, the Lakers have to rely on free agency and the trade market to improve a team that is on the steady decline. Unfortunately, they don't have much money to spare that would allow them to sign a notable free agent. The trade pieces they have in Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol are expensive and hard to obtain equal value from.
In other words, the Lakers are somewhat stuck and at best, very limited.
They have to find a creative way to bolster their regular season league-worst bench and retool as the teams that have overtaken them in the Western Conference continue to improve. The Oklahoma City Thunder, for example, have three young stars in Russell Westbrook, James Harden, and Kevin Durant.
What's the scariest aspect of this dangerous trio for the Lakers? They will only get better.
And then there's Odom, who will be 33 years old near the start of the 2012-2013 season. His sad journey into irrelevancy deserves to be repeated:
He was part of a failed trade that would have sent a bona-fide superstar, Chris Paul, to the Lakers only to see the NBA step in and cancel the transaction. Next, he became disgruntled and had his feelings hurt, asking to be traded. He then proceeded to have the worst season of his NBA career with the Dallas Mavericks, who questioned his commitment and work ethic. Finally, he was effectively dismissed from the team prior to the postseason.
Despite all of that, he'd still be a good fit for the Lakers.
Again, the Lakers do not have a lot of room to improve the roster. A motivated Lamar Odom, even as he ages, can still be effective, especially off the bench. He is not unlike Gasol when it comes to having a diverse skill set coupled with exceptional length. The real question lies in his mental state. Will he be able to put the past behind him and show up to play hard each game?
At this point, the Lakers don't have many options, and a former Sixth Man of the Year who is familiar with the team is as good a fit as it will find. Kobe Bryant missed him, and head coach Mike Brown would love to have him. Even more encouraging is the fact that he would be a relatively low-risk option. The mid-level exception the team could use on him would only amount to $3 million, much less than he was making through his previous contract.
All of this speculation relies upon the premise that the above reports are true and that the Mavericks will actually buy out Odom's contract as expected. Still, there is too much sense to make out of the scenario to ignore, and it may be one of the best options the Lakers have left that they can afford from a salary cap perspective.
This could get very interesting once free agency begins this summer. Last time I checked, there was another team in Los Angeles that could use a versatile, motivated forward who loves the city.
Michael C. Jones is a Yahoo! Featured Contributor in Sports and covers the Los Angeles Lakers and the NBA. He has written for southern California's Press-Enterprise and Examiner.com. For more, follow Michael on Twitter @MikeJonesTweets.