Ariza’s Shot

Special thanks to Travis J. Rodgers for submitting his take to the Lakers Nation and giving us the rights to post it on the blog. Once again, if you have your own take and want to see it on TLN, feel free to e-mail it to us at Articles@theLakersNation.com.

Recent rumblings have suggested that the LA Lakers are toying with the idea of sending starting Power Forward Lamar Odom to the bench. There are several considerations that recommend this move, but probably the biggest issue would be deciding who would start in Odom’s spot. The move with the highest potential payoff is promoting Trevor Ariza to the starting lineup. This move, however, is fraught with risk.

Lamar Odom came to Los Angeles for the 2004/05 season in the deal that sent out Shaquille O’Neal. He has played in more than 250 games since joining the Lakers, playing either Forward spot, initiating the offense on occasion, and filling in as the biggest man on the court in rare instances as well. But Odom’s willingness to play whatever spot the Lakers have asked him to is too frequently outweighed by his unwillingness (or inability depending upon whom you ask) to remain aggressive as a scoring option. With limited shooting from distance, and two behemoths manning the 4 and 5 spots for the upcoming season, Odom’s lack of aggressiveness could force management’s hand. He simply lacks a skill set that will allow a Small Forward to thrive in the current Lakers’ lineup.

This is precisely where Trevor Ariza becomes intriguing. While Ariza is not much of an outside shooter, a casual fan may not have noticed that in more than 200 games in his career prior to coming to LA, Ariza hit just four three-point shots in 28 attempts. This amounts to an incredibly poor percentage (14%) and an incredibly low shooting rate (1 per 134 minutes of game play). Meanwhile, Ariza hit 5 of 15 shots from the arc with the Lakers. That’s 33% and one shot per 29 minutes. These numbers come in a very limited sample size, but it is suggestive of Ariza’s willingness to make his game more dynamic and fit the team around him. Apart from an otherwise unremarkable jump shot, Ariza is an efficient offensive player, who shot 52% from the floor largely on slashing moves to the hoop. A solid rebounder despite his lack of bulk, Ariza also uses his length to benefit in passing situations. His ast/to ratio (nearly 2:1) was just slightly better than Odom’s, who, while touted as a skilled passer, is a poor decision-maker. So Ariza’s offensive game is at least adequate and arguably better suited for this team’s needs than Odom.

Ariza also adds increased ability on the defensive side of the ball. Odom is probably twenty pounds heavier, but Ariza is much more agile, uses his length better, and invests much more pride on defense. None of this is to say that Odom is a poor defender. He has been shoddy at times, but for significant stretches last season he was above average. Ariza’s talent lies in the fact that he has relishes the role of being employed to cover opposing teams’ best players. He is a timely shot blocker, an adept ball thief, and plays with full intensity. While fans frequently complain about Odom’s “coasting,” that label is wholly inappropriate for Ariza, who plays all out.

So where is the risk in moving Odom to the bench? His scoring, assuming he is not considered a first or second option, and rebounding would energize a second unit. There is, however, always a risk to moving a player from the starting lineup to the bench. Consider Luke Walton. It may be said that he played so well as he did in 06/07 because he was in a contract season. That is true. On the other hand, it could be said that the move from being a starter in 06/07 (he started all 65 games he appeared in during 06/07) to losing the starting spot accounted for his epic decline. Walton shot 2.4% worse on FGs, 5.4% worse on threes, and 3.9% worse on FTs, and was roundly criticized by LA faithful. With this in mind, the consequences of sending Odom to the bench must be considered. Playing as he does currently, he would be a huge lift to the second unit. Playing even more inefficiently, Odom would be an incredibly pricey disaster.

There is one further risk: Ariza’s health. In four seasons, Ariza has averaged 56 games per season. Over the past three seasons, that average falls to 50. He has not appeared in more than 60 games since his rookie season and appeared in just 35 last season. Questions about a congenital defect in his foot, the same foot that caused him to miss three months last year, linger and make the likelihood of his appearing in a full season a slender hope. Add in increased minutes that come along with starting (he has averaged 18 minutes per game in his career) and the odds of a breakdown must be countenanced.

As with any roster tinkering, the pros and cons of moving Odom out of the starting lineup must be weighed heavily before committing to a move. He may not work out. And if he does not, consider Ariza the best fit given the surrounding team’s skills and skill gaps. The potential reward is huge: Phil Jackson would have his Doberman on defense, a solid rebounder, a good slasher, and a fiery competitor. Next to Kobe Bryant, and with Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol in the low post and veteran sniper Derek Fisher at the Point, the Lakers could be significantly better than they were last season. Yet for all Ariza’s potential as a difference-maker, the risk factor remains quite high.

Jaime is the co-owner and Operating Director for LakerNation.com from Alhambra, CA. He's help create the official websites for Kevin Durant and Goodwin Sports. Currently, he's the Online Producer for FOX Sports Radio and AM570 KLAC.
  • Freshh

    Good read

  • Chris

    Craig Hodges should be working on Ariza’s J come training camp. If he can add outside shooting to his arsenal, then he can life a heck of lot better for Bynum and Pau in the paint. Guards and Small Forwards who can defend and space the floor are very valuable pieces of a championship team. Just remember what Rick Fox and D-Fish contributed to the 2000-2002 Lakers Championships. Bowen helped the Spurs with his dirty style of defense and his side 3 pt J’s. James Posey proved his worth in the Boston Celtic’s championship.

  • http://thelakersnation.com/blog/?page_id=2373 Jonny

    good read. personally I think the Lakers give Odom a shot at the 3. . if only during camp. . Odom as a back up PF is a fall back option at this point

  • http://www.thelakersnation.com Fred A.

    From the start of the season I would start LO at the 3 and we will go from there. I might make a few changes.

  • mr.laker19

    Great article first of all, I want to write sports one day and that is a impressive column. But on the topic, I know this is becoming a lot redundant but lets see how our lineup looks with Odom in it first. I really do love Ariza’s game, but overall he is not a better offensive player than Odom. They both have the same problem really which is I rather have Jerry West come back and shoot a shot 15 foot or higher before those guys do. But if Ariza does work on his shot, he can be dangerous, we can be dangerous. If we start Ariza we will have a kind of Bruce Bowen effect where are whole defense is good and we have a great one on one defender to shut down the other teams best guy (of course he will still switch off with the Mamba). And if we start Odom we will have the biggest, most talented front line since Bird, McChale, and Parrish. Either way, lets get it Lakeshow!!!

    Fish
    Kobe
    Odom or Ariza
    Gasol
    Bynum

    Farmar
    Sun
    Odom or Ariza
    Vlad Rad
    Mihm or Benga

    Forget Luke!!!

  • DCLAKER

    I feel LO will is better right now starting just ’cause of his length and dribbling ability,plus it’s only right,I mean your already payin’em 14 mil.and you want him off the bench? To hell with that,you make that much money then your $$$ better get out there and handle your 14 mil.a year business.

    For right now anyway…’cause everybody talkin’ ’bout LBJ should come to LA,I’d trade’em for Kobe in a heartbeat (HATERZ),STUPID A## WE ALREADY HAVE HIS PROTOTYPE…ARIZA!

    Check it……..http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_p6MpMn47mE&feature=related!!

  • DCLAKER

    Didn’t work..

  • jplakers

    no way sun gets the sg spot off the bench thats why we paid sasha 15 million

  • K0be

    I still think Odom should start and maybe if that doesn’t work, have him start off the bench.

    I would be excited to see both lineups.

    someone plz let the season begin!! Im tired of watching football and baseball games.

  • 323 TOWN

    K0BE…
    GET OUT OF HERE!!!!
    RAiDERS ALL DAY!!! IM NOT READY FOR THE NBA SEASON TO START…
    I GOT A COUPLE OF MONTHS LEFT TO SE MY ANGELS AND RAiDERS GOT AT iT!!!

  • DCLAKER

    FOR ALL LAKER FANS WHO ARE EAGER FOR THE SEASON TO START……NOW!!!

  • ak24

    this should be our line up :

    Derek or Farmar, Sasha, Kobe, Pau, And BYNUM!
    bench: Derek or farmar, ariza, luke or vlad, lamar, powell or mihm?

  • e

    i would prefer ariza to start over odom..we have more than enough to score points..we need ariza to play defense..lamar wont do that so have him play off the bench as a pf..ariza and kobe playing together would make it so much easier for kobe to score while ariza guards the best player on the other team…and on top of that if he works on his shot, we can rely on him to take the occasional three and we can definitely rely on him to finish fast breaks and slashes to the hoop

  • DCLAKER

    At this point I’d try putting Ariza (SG) and Kobe (PG),I mean,he can play that position ’cause he does to close out the game and have keep LO/Pau/AB (LAKEZILLA)….now I wouldn’t do this the whole year,just certain games to try to gain some sorta ‘psychological edge’,like “WHOA,Kobe and Ariza are gonna lock us down defensively and slam on me…and we still have to deal with the this 3 headed MONSTA OF LO/PAU/”The Game” AB,man,just give’em The O’brien,NOW”!!!!

  • http://lakers.topbuzz.com Mamba2410

    From the start of the preseason to the halfway mark of the preseason, we should have Odom come off the bench, and then for the last half of the preseason we should start him so that way we’l see how everything will work, but if I were Phil, I’d really want to try out having Ariza start and playing Odom with the ‘Bench Mob’, but that’s just my opinion.

  • DCLAKER

    Knowing Phil like we do,he’ll probably show a number different rotations like last year,so Ariza could start while LO is starting or…eff it,I JUST READY TO TAKE SOME UNSUSPECTING CELTICS FAN OFFICIAL CHAMPIONSHIP T-SHIRT,CAP OR WHATEVER AND SNATCH IT RIGHT THEY HEAD AND STEP,STOMP,SPIT ON,DO A NO.1 AND 2 ON,WIPE MY U-KNOW-WHAT WITH,PUT IT BACK ON THE IDIOT’S AND TELL HIM OR HER……CAN YOU SMEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEELLL WHAT THE LAKERS ARE COOKIN’…CAN’T WAIT ‘TIL NEXT WEEK!

  • kobean

    start these 5

    fish
    kobe
    ariza
    LO
    Pau

  • yellowpurplefever

    Good Article,
    Definitely, start Ariza. This is his contract year and has lots to prove. New season, new spirits and new rotation. LO will come off the bench as the 2nd unit to balance the attack. PJ, give Ariza a shot to start, this is his 5th year and already paid his dues. Lets watch that dunk over Grant Hill again won’t you PJ

  • Smush Walton

    I think we should use Lamar to fill Rony’s spot on the bench mob. This should take all the “pressure” off of the feeble-minded Lamar and he should have no excuse for not becoming a consistent contributor on the team.