Just a few months ago, the prospect of any team signing Lamar Odom seemed preposterous.
You could play public relations bingo with all the negative buzzwords attached to Odom this summer. DUI. Missing. Drug problem. TMZ.
With all of his issues in the past, it seemed like the happenings this offseason were a death knell for Odom's NBA career.
But here we are in December, and teams are apparently calling on Odom for his services.
There's a decent chance Odom will be suspended for the DUI if he does come back, and considering how out of shape he was for a good portion of last year, there's reason to believe he won't be anywhere close to game-ready when he returns.
Actively recruiting Odom at this juncture requires a good deal of faith. Handing Odom any sort of guaranteed contract is betting on his mental state and commitment level, which are always difficult to predict.
It also requires a bit of desperation.
If Odom didn't represent an upgrade, what would be the point of bringing him into the locker room? If Odom was a low-upside signing, virtually anyone else on the market would represent less risk.
There's perhaps no greater way of acknowledging a problem with your frontcourt depth than actively pursuing Odom.
The Los Angeles Clippers aren't the only team in the league that needs help in the frontcourt behind their starters, but teams with championship aspirations rarely have such glaring holes.
The Clippers' starting lineup of Chris Paul, J.J. Redick, Jared Dudley, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan has the sixth-highest net efficiency rating of all lineups that have played more than 100 minutes together, according to NBA.com. The starters have been getting the job done.
But the bench has been a little questionable.
While the defensive abilities of second-unit players like Darren Collison and Jamal Crawford can be fairly questioned, having a sieve on the front line can be even more detrimental.
The offseason signing of Byron Mullens has been a complete disaster, and Ryan Hollins is too foul-prone and limited to be relied upon as the first big man off the bench.
While the Clippers can go small with Matt Barnes as a backup power forward or count on Antawn Jamison for some crafty scoring around the rim, an injury or foul trouble for DeAndre Jordan could spell doom for the Clippers. There isn't an above-average defensive big man on the roster except for Jordan, and that's an issue.
A lot of people like to picture Odom as he once was: making plays, swooping down the lane, finishing with his left hand.
That version of Odom is pretty much gone.
While Odom is still a capable passer, offensively he's a negative player. He has shot below 40 percent from the field in his last two seasons, and his true shooting percentage was a dreadful 42.9 percent last year. Odom just doesn't have the legs and stamina to be a reliable shooter or scorer.
That may be enough to make most teams stay away, but it's not the worst thing for the Clippers. There are other offensive options to take shots on the roster, but more importantly, Odom may have a better grasp of his limitations than a guy like Byron Mullens. Odom took 8.2 field-goal attempts last season per 36 minutes, while Mullens has taken 13.3 attempts per 36 this year.
If Odom were just a slightly less trigger-happy version of Mullens, there wouldn't be any interest. The reason the Clippers and head coach Doc Rivers might be interested in adding Odom is because of his impact on defense.
A Great Fit
Blake Griffin leads the Clippers this year with a defensive rebounding percentage of 26.1 percent. That's the 11th-best mark in the league.
Lamar Odom's defensive rebounding percentage last year? It was 26.3 percent. That's how good Odom was cleaning the defensive glass, and that's something desperately missing off the bench for the Clippers right now. Odom may be a terrible shooter, but he's an elite rebounder.
That shouldn't really go away, even as his other skills erode.
In addition to the rebounding, Odom was probably the Clippers' best pick-and-roll defender last season. His ability to hedge hard or trap ball-handlers with his length was a secret weapon for the Clippers. It would provide a nice counter to Griffin's more casual approach in that setting.
With Odom on the floor last season, the Clippers were 9.7 points per 100 possessions better defensively. A lot of that had to do with playing next to Matt Barnes and Eric Bledsoe, but Odom played a major role in a defense that forced the most turnovers in the league.
Forcing turnovers is an area where the Clippers have fallen off so far this year. They rank just 21st in opposing turnover percentage. Even if Odom is only 75 percent of himself, he still represents an upgrade over Mullens, Jamison and Hollins on that end.
Defense and frontcourt depth have been the biggest issues for the Clippers so far this season. While it's dangerous to view Odom as the missing piece or the ideal third big man for a team with title aspirations, he represents an upgrade over the current options on the roster.
For that reason alone, it's worth it for the Clippers to once again kick the tires on Odom and hope for the best.