The NBA season hasn’t even started yet but the Los Angeles Lakers are already dealing with some tough injury news. The team announced on Wednesday that veteran forward Trevor Ariza will be missing at least eight weeks after getting ankle surgery. Ariza was expected to play a big role for the team as one of their better defenders but is now set to miss a big portion of the season.
At 36-years-old, the Lakers shouldn’t have expected too much from Ariza, but it’s certainly a blow to the roster that they can’t have him for around two months. With him out, Los Angeles could look to find a temporary replacement. The season is closing in so there aren’t a ton of great options available in free agency but there could be some players that would make sense on the team. Sam Quinn of CBS Sports suggested the Lakers take a look at James Ennis or Wes Matthews.
Obviously, Matthews was with the team last season. He was a disappointing addition and only made 33.5% of his threes despite being a career 37.9% shooter. Ennis has been linked to the Lakers this offseason and even had a workout with the team. However, there’s been little movement on that front as Los Angeles was planning on keeping a roster spot open during the season.
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Ennis or Matthews a Better Fit?
If the Lakers are looking for a player of similar size to replace Ariza, then Ennis would make sense. He’s 6-foot-6 and can play small forward but isn’t a great 3-point shooter. He only averages 36% over his career. Matthews is usually a much more consistent 3-point shooter.
Out of the two, Matthews makes the most sense. He’s familiar with this coaching staff and many of the Lakers players. He should be a natural fit despite his struggles with the team last season. His performance last year is concerning. He had a very limited role with the Lakers by the end of the season and the team isn’t likely to have forgotten his struggles. That said, last year was an anomaly for the normally dependable shooter. It was his first-ever season 36% from beyond the arc.
Lakers Could Also Stay Put
While the Ariza injury is a blow, the Lakers don’t necessarily need to replace him. He should be back well before the postseason. The team has plenty of players who can pick up the slack while he’s gone. His injury does leave a bit of a defensive void but Los Angeles should have more than enough offense to make for it.
Keeping a roster spot open would give the team more flexibility during the season to add more appealing pieces. We’ve seen big names become available on the buyout market almost every year. The Lakers figure to be title favorites and will be very appealing to big names looking to win a championship. Ennis or Matthews may not be worth giving up some of that flexibility.