Versatile (say versa-tile) adjective
having many abilities or interests
If you had the luxury of selecting a starting five unit based purely on versatility, who would you select? The idea was floated here at the starting5 offices in part to editor Nick Metallinos' love of Lamar Odom and what he brings to the table for the Lakers. "He does whatever Phil (Jackson) asks him to", says Nick. "He's a basketball player, you can't define his role by position". Which got us to thinking, what other players have the skill sets to play multiple positions, guard multiple positions and carry out different roles for their teams? Which players are capable of giving you double digits in three catergories on any given night?
The criteria was set, the selection process began. The beauty of trying to select a starting five based on versatility was that you are not boxed in to placing a player in his 'natural' position. Some leeway was needed to create this starting five but we came up with a squad we most definitely would pay to see play. We welcome your thoughts and feedback.
Rajon Rondo's versatility goes beyond being able to play multiple positions. The slight 6'1 guard is probably only suited to play the point but it's the multitude of skills that he brings to the table that earns his spot on this list. Opposing teams are wary of the fact Rondo has emerged into the most dangerous of the Celtics players liable to go off for 15-15-15 on any given night. One of the best rebounders in the league at his position – and size for that matter – Rondo is capable of starting and finishing a fastbreak on his own. His preferred scoring method is driving to the bucket where he is able to contort his body to finish with either left or right hand. His outside J is not as consistent but he has shown a willingness to take more of those open shots defences are so eager to give him.
Once he improves his shot to a'la Tony Parker, he will be unstoppable. The greatest strength remains his court vision, an uncanny ability to find an open teammate when the driving lanes are full. A triple double waiting to happen, Rondo recorded a stat line of 29 points, 18 rebounds and 13 assists in a playoff game last year. He has the most rounded game of all the point guards in the league which has caused 29 other teams to plan for him on game nights.
The beauty of selecting a versatile starting five is that we get to play LeBron at shooting guard where he has the the scoring chops to drop 30 a game if need be ( if you need reminding of what he did to Detroit in the playoffs a couple of seasons ago just check Youtube). A natural small forward LeBron's size and athleticism allows him to defend much smaller guards but he is also big enough to bang with the big bodied forwards down low. Still finding his footing within the Miami system and playing alongside a better supporting cast has caused James numbers to dip a little but make no mistake about it he is still the most skilled player in the NBA. James can do it all and just like Rondo is able to give you triple figures in multiple categories.
James is able to play on both ends of the floor, he can guard the opposing teams best player – be it a point guard or a power forward – and on the offensive end is just as comfortable creating plays for others or being the recipient and finishing a play. Has shown a greater inclination to post up a little more this season and still needs to work on his long range game but his whole court game more than makes up for any perceived weaknesses.
This team is already starting to look scary good and now we have a 6'9 forward who can score at will in the side and well, it's lights out for the opposition. Durant's versatility on the offensive end is limitless. He can score from anywhere on the court pretty much whenever he wants do but is probably most dangerous when coming off screens. Averaging 28.4 points per outing this season the Durantula can take it to the hole, hit a spot up J or draw the foul to get to the line.
Durant proved to the world that he can adapt to any kind of basketball leading Team USA in it's truimphant win in the FIBA World Championships. A new found willingness to put his skinny frame on the line against much more physical defenders, being much more active on the defensive end all the while taking home tournament MVP honors. The experience has translated into a more rounded NBA game rendering Durant virtually unguardable. His defence still needs slight improvement but his length alone will be bothersome for guards whom he towers over and is quick enough to blow past less mobile opponents.
Odom is one of the staff's favorites here at starting5. The very defintion of versatile. From the moment he came into the league L.O. has been a fantasy managers dream. Able to fill the stat sheet in as many as five different categories. Not your traditional power forward, Odom is a hybrid version, one that has the ball handling ability of a point guard ( skills honed in New York's famous streets, ) the ability to play on the wings like a shooting guard or small forward and at 6'10 has the size to play with power forwards and most centers in the League. And just to confirm, dude has street ball skills too taking Gauchos Gym by storm when Rucker Park was rained out in 2003.
Career averages of 14.9 points, 8.9 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 1 steal and 1 block per game show that Lamar doesn't do one thing great but rather does lots of things really well. Plays his game according to what the team requires from him, it's easy for him to grab double figure points and rebounds. The luxury Los Angeles has is because of the height of their frontcourt, many times Lamar comes into the game playing alongside Gasol and/or Bynum, usually guarding the opposing small forward. Just his size alone is a matchup nightmare and we're sure Phil Jackson would concur when we say having a guy capable of 20-10 coming off the bench changes the whole dynamic of the game when he's on the floor.
The most skilled big man in the league bar none. It's a scary thought that the Lakers possess two of the most versatile players in the league and also a shooting guard that's not too shabby either. Gasol complements this team just nicely. A great passing 7 footer with excellent footwork around the basket. Pau has great hands and when he catches the ball deep, that excellent footwork usually means it's going to be a score for LA. He has nice range on his game comfortable shooting out to about 18 feet and is not scared to run the floor on a fastbreak to finish with a dunk. Pau has so many moves around the basket it's difficult to stop him, he can post up but also posseses a soft touch and is known to score from a teardrop or two during a game.
If there is a loose ball around the bucket you bet your life that Gasol will be there to grab it, averaging 12.3 rebounds so far this season to go with his 23.2 points. His passing is often underrated but with 4.2 assists per game makes a Gasol a willing and competent passer, especially for a big man. Alternating between playing power forward and center for Los Angeles makes Pau a tricky cover for players. His basketball IQ has grown exponentially since he first burst onto the scene as a rookie, when you're this skilled and have the smarts to match you deserve your spot on the versatile five.