When the Los Angeles Lakers acquired Trevor Ariza in a trade with the Orlando Magic in 2007, Ariza was an unproven young player looking for an NBA home after getting traded twice in his three-year career to that point.
Over 10 years later, Ariza is an NBA champion, a solid two-way wing and one of the hottest names on the NBA trade market.
According to Marc Stein of The New York Times, Ariza is “at the top” of the list of players rival executives believe will be moved after Dec. 15, when new free agent signings can be moved.
Ariza signed a one-year, $15 million deal with the Phoenix Suns this summer in hopes of helping them compete for a playoff spot in the Western Conference alongside budding star Devin Booker. Through 24 games this season, the Suns are 4-20 and have every reason to keep their win column as low as possible in preparation for the 2019 NBA Draft Lottery.
It’s for that reason many felt that Ariza would be a likely buyout candidate after the trade deadline on Feb. 7. While that’s doesn’t seem to be the direction the Suns want to go — or they are at least posturing otherwise if other teams think he’ll be a trade candidate — Ariza told Ric Bucher of Bleacher Report that he would keep his options open if he became a free agent, including a return to his hometown Lakers.
“If I was a free agent, I would have to consider everything,” veteran swingman Trevor Ariza said. “But my role is different than PG and Kawhi. They ask them to do different things than they ask of me. Guys similar to [LeBron], why would they want to play with somebody who does all the same things? I can see why they would want to play elsewhere.”
Ariza would be a seamless fit on a team that could use a 3-and-D wing, but a reunion seems unlikely for a number of reasons.
For starters, Ariza is represented by Aaron Mintz of CAA Sports, the same Aaron Mintz that represents D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle and Paul George. According to Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report, that bridge has been burnt.
The Lakers' relationship with Aaron Mintz of CAA was not a fruitful one - poor mutual experience with D'Angelo Russell, Lakers' prioritized cap room over an extension for Randle, benched him, etc. - George didn't give Lakers a meeting. It's all connected and apparently over— Eric Pincus (@EricPincus) July 2, 2018
While Mintz does ultimately work for Ariza, it’s safe to assume that Mintz will strongly encourage his client to consider different teams.
Aside from that, the Lakers don’t have the salaries to match Ariza’s $15 million expiring contract.
The easiest way to get there would be to include Kentavious Caldwell-Pope in a trade for Ariza, but Caldwell-Pope has a de-facto no-trade clause because he would have to waive his early bird rights in a trade. If his agent, Rich Paul of Klutch Sports, thought trading for Ariza would keep his superstar client LeBron James happy, it’s possible that he could talk KCP into a move to Arizona. However, it’s unclear if that’s the case.
The Lakers could also include Rajon Rondo in a trade, and considering the Suns’ need for a point guard they might just bite at a package like that, but Rondo is well-regarded in the Lakers’ locker room and has been productive for L.A. so far. That’s not to say Rondo will be untouchable at the trade deadline, but if he is moved it seem unlikely it would be for a role player.
It’s possible the Suns don’t find any takers for Ariza and his hefty contract by the trade deadline and if that’s the case, the Lakers should absolutely consider opening a roster spot for him. Otherwise, they’re probably better off looking elsewhere for upgrades.
You can follow this author on Twitter at @RadRivas.