As the Los Angeles Lakers get ready to end a magical season, capped off by the championship they won on Sunday, they will be facing a dilemma this summer.
Two of their most important core players, Lamar Odom and Trevor Ariza, will be free agents after this season. The Lakers will have to choose between the two as both will command large contracts (certainly more than the $3 million Ariza earned this year).
A year ago, this argument would've easily favored the more established Odom.
However, Ariza has had a great season capped off by his hot shooting in these playoffs.
Both have their own unique skill-sets that helped their Lakers become the the class of the league.
Ariza is the ultra-athletic swingman that can knock down threes and make important hustle plays, which he made apparent in the Nuggets-Lakers series. He has become a much better player this year after an injury-marred campaign last year.
Odom, however, is the much more versatile one.
He is capable of notching a triple-double any night due to his insane versatility, and is a perfect fit for Phil Jackson's Triangle Offense as he is a big man that can pass as well as anybody on the team.
Odom is the better rebounder and passer, but Ariza has age and potential on his side.
While Ariza had a solid season filled with exciting dunks and crowd-pleasing play, Odom has been the facilitator and enforcer for a Lakers team that has been deemed soft ever since their Finals appearance last year.
Odom has been well-known ever since entering the league in 1999, but Ariza had his coming out party this 2009 playoffs. He helped take the pressure off Bryant and Gasol by shooting nearly 50 percent from three-point range.
If the Lakers decide to keep Ariza, as most people assume already, they will be losing a very unique and important player in Odom as he is the perfect third star to Bryant and Gasol.
While there's probably nobody as multi-talented in the league as Odom, except for the Cavalier's LeBron James, there are other athletic wingmen on the Lakers that are capable of doing what Ariza did all year long.
These wingmen include Shannon Brown and Sasha Vujacic, both of whom would be major down-grades compared to Ariza, but effective enough.
Which is why the Lakers should keep Odom, because he is too important to their style to replace.
It is much easier to find an athletic guy than a five-tool player like Odom.