Assuming the Lakers dismiss Barnes, and possibly deal Josh McRoberts for a draft pick or a player at a different position, the Lakers would have built an extremely solid bench.
The Lakers would likely feature a starting lineup of Ramon Sessions (assuming they retain him as well), Bryant, World Peace, Gasol, and Bynum. Nothing changed, right? However, the second unit would feature Steve Blake, Trevor Ariza, and Lamar Odom. Throw in Jordan Hill’s success towards the end of the season along with Devin Ebanks’ and Andrew Goudelock’s added experience (that they will have gained over the summer), and that’s a pretty decent bench!
Some might argue that Ariza wouldn’t get enough playing time to be effective. However, he was a reserve during most of his tenure as a Laker. Additionally, he would be replacing Matt Barnes. Barnes saw his minutes increase as the rotations shortened towards the end of the year, and he and World Peace saw a lot of time on the floor together. Ariza would essentially be playing backup to World Peace and Kobe. He gained experience at both shooting guard and small forward positions in his time away from Los Angeles, and would likely be able to fit right in at either position with the Lakers. Can you imagine seeing Bryant, Ariza, and World Peace on the floor together, switching and defending multiple positions? Most other teams don’t want to even entertain the idea.
As for Odom, with Andrew Bynum’s emergence, L.O. likely wouldn’t see the 30-plus minutes he’s used to as a Laker. However, it would still be more than the 20-minutes-per-game average he saw with the Mavericks. Additionally, Odom’s versatility would likely gain him minutes in crunch time once again for the Lakers. It was a liability against the Oklahoma City Thunder having two seven-footers out there. Odom can do so many things on the floor, and his defensive versatility is one of his most underrated traits. The Lakers would have options defensively with Odom back as well. If they attained Ariza, the defensive combinations between Bryant, Ariza, World Peace, and Odom could be a major headache for other teams’ offensive flow.
The move would positively affect the rest of the team individually as well.
Ramon Sessions would be enabled to play at a more natural, faster pace when he’s out there with a more “Showtime” type unit consisting of Odom and Ariza. Pau Gasol would have more players cutting to the basket and get easier looks and inside passes–not to mention more space to maneuver down low. He would virtually be operating in a more fluid moving offense, in which he absolutely thrived in before.
Andrew Bynum might see his numbers dip due to the minutes Odom would take up, but the reduced minutes would keep him fresh throughout the season and in the playoffs. Steve Blake would be able to maintain his role with the starters as a spot-up shooter, even off the bench. He had some success running the second unit, but with Odom back, he would just have to sit in the corner and drain three-pointers. Then, once the defense is forced to respect him, he would be able to handle the ball more and create offense for others.
Perhaps the biggest beneficiary would be Kobe Bryant. Kobe would have tons of pressure released off of him in the form of play-making (Odom) and defensive (Ariza). In the Thunder playoff series, Kobe did a great job on James Harden, but there was nobody to guard Russell Westbrook. Ariza is capable of bothering fast point guards with his speed and length, but can also guard shooting guards as well. The two would be able to find the right combination to guard virtually any team’s perimeter players. The team also suffered because towards the end of games, it was solely Bryant with the ball in his hands. That’s where Odom can help out a bit too. With his skill level, teams have to respect his shooting ability, his ability to drive, and his ability to pick apart defenses as well.
The biggest positive for Bryant, however, would be his comfort level with the team. He was upset when the Lakers first traded away Odom, and has referred to Ariza as his “little brother” on many occasions. He has complete trust in both, and would feel a sense of comfort if both were to return. Bryant recently stated that he can only count on Metta World Peace to give 100% in each and every game and after the Lakers traded away Derek Fisher, he had one less person to truly confide in on the team.
Bringing back two players that have contributed to the Lakers’ success in the past makes sense. There are possibly better options out there, but the Lakers are simply not financially flexible enough to pursue them. Additionally, the Lakers would be bringing back two fan-favorite players, whom many–between management, players, and fans–trust to deliver. Any time you bring in a new player, there are concerns of chemistry on and off the court.
If it’s possible to bring back these two players that have had success in both areas before, why not give it a shot?