Sorry Shannon Brown, but as much as we love your attitude and athleticism, you’re not the talk of the free agent market right now. Both Trevor Ariza and Lamar Odom are extremely talented players who pose a serious problem for the Lakers this off-season because of their free-agency. Mitch Kupchak and Dr. Buss have an interesting little conundrum to deal with here. LakeShowLife.com breaks it down for you.
In the finals, both players played brilliantly and had equally important roles in the series:
Ariza led all players in the Finals with 9 steals, and trailed only Kobe Bryant for the most steals in the playoffs this year. Playing roughly 75% of Bryant’s minutes, Ariza still managed to have 36 steals to Kobe’s 38. In the regular season, Ariza finished 3rd in steals per 48 minutes among players who played in 30+ games even though he had significantly less playing time than those players ranked above him. And lest we forget that Ariza had a few of the biggest steals in playoff history this year as well.
Odom, on the other hand, was a rebounding machine. Lamar was in the top 20 for the regular season in rebounds for forwards despite playing less time than 17 of the 18 players above him. More importantly, he was in the top 15 (for Forwards) for offensive rebounding in a season that saw him frequently coming off the bench and playing less minutes than normal. Odom was third in rebounding in the finals to two all-star’s: his teammate Pau Gasol and Orlando’s Dwight Howard. He averaged only 1.5 rebounds less than Pau despite playing only 75% of the minutes that Gasol played.
Add all of that up and you have a very difficult decision to make. The Lakers are already above the luxury tax limit without signing either Ariza or Odom (or Shannon Brown for that matter). While Brown will likely be willing to take a lower salary because of his limited playing time, both Ariza and Odom were instrumental to the success of the 2008-9 championship team. Keeping both would be ideal, of course, but that may mean a combined salary of well over $100 million next season when the luxury tax cap is projected to hover around $70 million.
One fact that many overlook in this decision is age. Ariza is 24 years old, and Odom is going to turn 30 at the start of next season. That means Ariza is primed for a long term contract that could keep this budding star in purple and gold for years to come while Odom likely only has a few more years left where he can play at his current level.
Personally, I can’t imagine letting either player go, but the reality of the situation may prove otherwise. While both Ariza and Odom have stated that they’d like to remain in LA for another season (Lamar going so far as to say he’d take a pay cut), neither of them is going to accept the league minimum (which may be all Mitch Kupchak can summon).
The coming weeks will be VERY interesting in the world of the Lakers. Let’s hope we get some good news from the team.