Report Card - Trevor Ariza
Just before Thanksgiving, the Lakers sent Brian Cook and Mo Evans to Orlando for Trevor Ariza, a swap met with little buzz around town. And the attention it did receive centered more around Mitch Kupchak finding a taker for Cookie's deal or if Sasha Vujacic could handle being Kobe Bryant's main backup than Ariza himself. But after a week or so of acclimating himself, the L.A. native was worked into the rotation and began opening Lakers fans' peepers by sporting two skill sets not in great supply on this roster: Slashing and the ability to defend a variety of positions along the perimeter. December saw a brief starting stint before moving back to the pine in favor of Luke Walton, a move I didn't agree with. I also didn't think it was a particularly big deal. Especially since Ariza's reintroduction to the bench mob didn't really cost him much in the way of PT.
What began as a hopeful eight week absence ended with Ariza unable to get back onto the court until the Western Conference Finals in late May. By the time the Lakers played Boston, the hope was for Ariza to have recovered well enough to help slow Paul Pierce (or if nothing else, more so than Walton or Vlad Radmanovic). Unfortunately, the rust gathered over five months was evident, as his attempt to make a lie of out the Truth was no more successful than any other Lakers'. Fans still clamored for him to get more Finals run, and while it wouldn't have likely made matters worse, I doubt it would helped much, either. Like I talked about with Mbenga, Ariza's absence sometimes created memories of him as the second coming of Ron Artest. He's a good defender, but that's a bit of a stretch.
That being said, his abbreviated season was a promising one, and assuming that foot doesn't become a recurring issue, Ariza's role is among the more intriguing plot lines of next season. Some feel a front line of Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom could be too much of a good thing with length and not nearly enough of one with transition D speed, citing in particular Odom's inability to spread the floor. Ariza definitely is an upgrade over LO at shadowing perimeter guys, but he's no real improvement as an outside shooter. Ariza's game is about attacking the rim (his attempts at the stripe often equal his tally from the field), but he won't likely win a starter's gig unless he becomes a threat from just inside or outside the arc. Of course, if the bench mob retains its push the tempo pace, he's a perfect fit. Either way, I can picture Ariza finishing many a game, which I always think is WAY more important than starting one. I can also picture him making minutes a limited commodity for Vlad Rad and Walton, unless both pick up their games.
Final Grade: B/Inc.