OVERVIEW: Small forward Trevor Ariza became a starter in March, after it became clear that he was better suited to the role than Luke Walton. Ariza told Lakers coach Phil Jackson he wasn’t comfortable as a starter, but all that changed in mid-March. Ariza averaged 8.9 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.8 assists in 82 games during the regular season, including 20 starts. He then averaged 11.3 points, 4.2 rebounds and 2.3 assists during the playoffs, making him an attractive free agent. The Lakers hope to bring him back next season, believing his best years are still to come. It won’t be easy to re-sign him, however. His improvement, particularly in his perimeter game, was eye-catching. Expect plenty of other teams to go after Ariza when free agency begins next month. Former Westchester High and UCLA standout wants to stay in Los Angeles, however.
QUOTEWORTHY: “I’d love to (re-sign). I’d hope so. I feel like I’m at home here, because I am at home. So I’d definitely love to come back.”
STRENGTH: Worked hard to improve his 3-point range,making it a weapon.
WEAKNESS: Must avoid temptation to go for steals at every chance.
CONTRACT STATUS: Unrestricted free agent July 1.
Next: Shannon Brown.