The Lakers have gotten off to a sensational start this season. They are undefeated through six games, dominating their opponents with an average victory margin of 19.8 points. When most people think of the Lakers names like Andrew Bynum, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, and Lamar Odom come to mind. But so far, the real difference maker has come in the form of fifth year forward Trevor Ariza.
When the Lakers first acquired Ariza last season most people focused on his defensive capability. He's definitely pretty darn good on that end of the floor -- rebounding, blocking shots, and jumping out for steals (2.2 per game in only 22 minutes per night). But this season Ariza has also become somewhat of a force.
Outside of wide open shots, Ariza only has one idea in mind when he gets the ball in his hand, and that's going to the cup and finishing. His lanky body, freakish athletic ability, and forceful finishes bring to mind Tracy McGrady circa his Toronto days.
Ariza is what I like to call a momentum changer. He is so full of energy that as soon as he enters the game, the Lakers level of play immediately steps up a notch or two. For example, the Lakers comeback against the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday night was completely led by Ariza.
This impact hasn't gone unnoticed. Check what Phil Jackson said about Ariza recently:
"He's like a ghost out there," Jackson said. "Like a shadow. Just all of a sudden he shows on a screen and he's gone. He's a blip and he's away. He runs the court like that. He's a stealth player more than you'd say a person that infuses the team with energy. But his presence is certainly felt."
Lots has been made of the return of Andrew Bynum, but I'm telling you, the real difference maker this season might be Trevor Ariza. And to think, all they had to do to get him was give up Brian Cook! Don't be surprised if by seasons end Ariza becomes a lot of folks favorite NBA player.