Lakers Would Be Wise Not To Overpay Ariza

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Lakers Would Be Wise Not To Overpay Ariza
(Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

Los Angeles is in a tizzy over the recent reports that Lakers free agent forward Trevor Ariza might just sign elsewhere—Cleveland or Houston it seems—because he was offended by the NBA champions' multi-year offer starting at $5.6 million.

If he wants to cry over that offer, good riddance. He's bound to follow in the footsteps of other overpaid Laker role players, who signed lucrative deals, namely Luke Walton and Sasha Vujacic.

Don't get me wrong. Ariza is good. He's athletic. He's quick. He has a knack for getting to loose balls and lazily thrown passes. His three-point shot "improved" tremendously down the stretch.

And I want him back on the team.

I just don't think the Lakers should overpay for him like it appears Houston or Cleveland might be prepared to do.

The Bryant Effect

I put "improved" in quotes because Ariza only shot well from beyond the arc during the playoffs when he shot an unreal 47.6 percent.

But during the regular season, he shot a subpar 31.9 percent. Much lower than the oft-maligned Vujacic, who despite his struggles, shot 36.3 percent from beyond the arc—second best on the team.

In fact, much of the credit for Ariza's success from beyond the arc in the playoffs needs to be given to Kobe Bryant. The playoff MVP drew double or triple teams nearly every time he touched the ball, and he found Ariza open for countless shots.

Same thing happened last year when Ariza was injured with Vujacic.

Fans forget that Vujacic played alongside Bryant much of last season and during the playoffs. And he excelled, shooting 43.7 percent from three-point land during the regular season and 39.2 percent in the playoffs.

Ariza is a better player than Vujacic, but perhaps not by as much as fans like to give him credit for.

Ariza's Defense

Ariza has a tremendous knack for making steals—ask the Denver Nuggets inbounds passers—and finished ninth in the league in that category.

But he is definitely not a lockdown defender. 

Those comparisons to Michael Cooper people wanted to make near the end of the season were laughable.

According to 82games.com, Ariza's opponents at the small forward position shot 48.8 percent, and he maintained a solid, but not great defensive PER (points allowed per 100 possessions) of 16.

For comparison, Hedo Turkoglu, hardly a defensive specialist, allowed his small forward opponents to shoot 45.1 percent.

Vladimir Radmanovic, whose trade to the Charlotte Bobcats gave more playing time to Ariza, actual had a better defensive PER as well.

The main benefit of having Ariza on the court instead of Vujacic, or Walton, the other Laker small forward, was that it allowed Bryant to roam defensively. Ariza could adequately guard guys like Lebron James, Paul Pierce and Hedo Turkoglu. Assignments that would've been given to Bryant a season ago.

Maturity

Midway through the first half of the season, the bench imploded. They were awful.

Part of the terrible play of that unit had to do with the injury to Andrew Bynum, which thrust bench catalyst Lamar Odom into the starting lineup.

But part of it had to do with a lack of maturity shown by Ariza, Vujacic and point guard Jordan Farmar.

Each played selfishly and the bench never got their groove back.

It seemed Ariza never knew his role was that of spot-up shooter, or catch and go to the basket. He opted to create his own shot on far too many possessions.

Ariza didn't start to come into his own until he entered that starting lineup to play alongside Bryant, Odom and Pau Gasol. With that unit, he played a role and played it very effectively.

Today, Ariza's agent David Lee told the Los Angeles Times that all his player wants is a little appreciation for what he did this season.

"I am disappointed and surprised by what I thought would be some feelings for the people who have given you everything they've got," Lee said.

Another sign that Ariza's head might be a little bigger than his actual skill.

My Take

The Lakers $5.6-million offer to Ariza is plenty.

And since I can't see the Lakers going much higher than that, I think Ariza will leave.

I imagine he'll end up in Cleveland where he'll have similar looks from beyond the arc as he did in Los Angeles because of the attention James attracts.

But come this time next season, don't be surprised to see Ariza's name on the top of those lists of free agent busts and the Cavs searching for a way to unload his contract.

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