Los Angeles Lakers: Thoughts on potential Trevor Ariza trade

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

The Los Angeles Lakers are attempting to bring back former champion Trevor Ariza in what would be their second roster move of the season.

NBA rosters are almost never completed in the summer. Trades and signing up players who were bought out from their contracts are the two most frequently used tactics to acquire a player in today’s league. Just under two months into the regular season, the Los Angeles Lakers signed Tyson Chandler after he was bought out from the Phoenix Suns and cleared waivers, and now are trying to trade for another veteran.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported over the weekend that the Lakers and Suns, ironically again, are engaged in talks to send Trevor Ariza to the Lakers. Phoenix and Los Angeles are looking for a third team to take on Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, whom the Lakers would need to offload to make room for Ariza given that KCP makes $12 million this year to Ariza’s $15 million, both on single-year contracts.

Neither player is eligible to be traded until Dec. 15 due to them both signing as free agents this offseason. It should be said neither team is near an agreement, but the fact that the Lakers are actively searching for improvements on the wing in terms of defense, shooting and experience shows they recognize a weakness and are being proactive in fixing it.

There’s no reason to dive into this potential trade from the Phoenix perspective besides the fact they would have now gifted the Lakers two rotational players to improve their team immediately and maintain their cap flexibility. This is move would be great for the Lakers, and as of now, offloading Caldwell-Pope for Ariza would be a slam dunk for Los Angeles.

First off, KCP’s departure would open up minutes for Josh Hart and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, who is playing really well since seeing floor time with Brandon Ingram injured. Hart is a more versatile defender (guards 1-4) and is superior to KCP in every aspect offensively. Svi is arguably the best knockdown shooter on the team in terms of talent, something starting to show in recent games.

This is no knock on KCP. His game suits playing next to LeBron James as a spot-up shooter that doesn’t need the ball in his hands and plays hard on both ends of the floor. But there are two other players that do this on rookie contracts and offer more upside. KCP signed two one-year contracts worth $30 million with Los Angleles, but he could get traded to a team with a larger role for him to earn a solid long-term contract.

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

Trevor Ariza just checks a lot more boxes for the Lakers. He was a key cog for the Houston Rockets’ Western Conference Finals run last season, where they were a game away from knocking off the Golden State Warriors. Now in Phoenix, his numbers are similar to last year despite playing in a much worse environment with the Suns. A small downtick in points and 3-point percentage make way for an increase in rebounds and assists.

Defensively, he offers so much versatility for the Lakers. Ariza is still one of the better bets to contain any wing scorer in the NBA outside of the elite tier of defenders. He has always made the right play offensively and is a high-energy player on both ends of the floor. It doesn’t hurt that he already won a title with the Lakers in 2009 and, like Chandler, is another local L.A. kid.

If the Lakers don’t lose any young players, which is tough to imagine them sacrificing, adding Ariza is a slam dunk. The versatility with lineups he would offer head coach Luke Walton (teammate of Ariza on that title team) is staggering. Ariza-LeBron-Hart-Ingram-Chandler or JaVale McGee is a terrifying defensive lineup with spacing and creators offensively. Substitute Lonzo Ball or Kyle Kuzma for Hart and Ingram and there is no drop-off.

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Adding Trevor Ariza would be a move that helps the Lakers contend this season and doesn’t hurt their future cap space given he’s only on a one-year contract. It may not happen, but the possibility of adding a key contributor mid-December is a great deal for any team, especially one with experience playing in big-time NBA games that fits seamlessly with the roster and style of play.