Mostly agree with your rankings; with the optimism bias from being a cardinals fan personally, I'd argue you could make a 1 star increase at each position, but their current rankings are also fair. I very much disagree with the 1 star ranking at special teams however, as we have a pro bowl gunner in Justin Bethel being joined by some high upside athletes in the kick coverage team and kick return game. Probably the best coverage unit in the game, which coupled with a punter who is below average (don't think he's as bad as stats show- his hangtime is rediculous, and it seems the staff went with him for this reason. I'd choose a distance leg with our coverage team, butI digress). In short, I'd say 3 stars is fair. A perfectly average special teams unit, whose only limitation really seems to be Drew Butler's distance and the uncertainty of a new long snapper (but both seem pretty reliable this far)
In the end, it was the best scenario for both parties. Why it took so long to complete the signing is a different story. After a month of playing cat and mouse, the Lakers have re-signed forward Lamar Odom to a 4-year, $33 million deal (with a team option on the fourth year.)
Originally, Odom was unhappy with the Lakers' initial offer of three years, $27 million because he wanted at least a 4-year deal which L.A. was not willing to do at the time. The 29-year-old forward was so frustrated that he broke off negotiations with the Lakers to pursue other opportunities. However, in these tough economic times for many teams in the league, all that was left for Odom was a mid-level exception (a return to Miami was the hottest rumor with Dwayne Wade even flying to L.A. to try and convince him) that would have only earned Odom about $5.8 million per year which would have been a significant paycut from the original offer from the Lakers.
Both sides would have been pretty foolish not to agree to this deal. Yes, Odom felt he deserved more money, but it just wasn't realistic for him to receive a more lucrative deal in this buyers market.
Statistically, Odom's 2008-2009 season was the worst of his 10-year NBA career. His scoring and assist averages were the lowest they had been since entering the league in 1999, mainly because Odom was coming off the bench due to the emergence of Trevor Ariza. Yet, Odom is still a very crucial piece to the Lakers' chances of a repeat. He is one of the most versatile 6-10 players in the league with the ability to play several positions and act as a point forward on the offensive end. Plus, he has embraced being a role player, and playing second, third, even fourth fiddle to the talent around him.
His most valuable role on the Lakers next season might be that of Ron Artest's keeper. Odom and Artest are boys from back in the day, and Odom should help keep Artest in check next season, hopefully eliminating any chance of any crazy spats that could disrupt the Lake Show's chemistry. (By the way, did anyone else see Bill Simmons' report that Artest walks around everywhere in his underwear and even showed up on a team bus filled with staff and team supporters in just his boxers? I shouldn't be shocked by this story, but I still totally am.)
Bringing Odom back at a very affordable deal gives L.A. one of the most formidable crunch-time lineups in the league. When Odom, Kobe, Artest, Gasol and Fisher are on the floor at the same time, what are you going to do? You key in on Kobe, and Fisher can knock down an open three as he's proven time and time again. You can't sag off Odom or Artest, or leave Gasol open underneath.
As you can tell, I'm buying the Lakers again next season and think the Odom deal cements their status as the team to beat in the West.