Baby, you got what we need

As James Posey proved last spring, every serious NBA title contender needs a right-place, right-time guy who is looking to right past wrongs. This season, four clubs have good reason to think they've found theirs.

Originally Published: March 16, 2009
By Ric Bucher | ESPN The Magazine

Trevor Ariza | Lakers

Joe Murphy/NBAE/Getty Images

WRONG TIME -- His first two teams underappreciated defense (Knicks), overemphasized three-point shooting (Magic) or had internal turmoil with a bunch of similarly sized swingmen (both).

RIGHT TIME -- It's all stability and structure these days. Fill lanes, defend, maybe take a wide-open three. Plus, with Luke Walton and Sasha Vujacic as the other small forward options, Ariza's athleticism is a crucial change of pace. Playing for a new contract and the chance to erase a "bust" tag in front of hometown crowds is a bonus.

BIG TIME -- If and when the Lakers reach the Finals, they are almost certain to face a high-scoring small forward: Paul Pierce, LeBron James or former Magic teammate Hedo Turkoglu. Kobe pulled double duty against Pierce last June, and you didn't need to be in Nicholson's seat to see the toll that took. Ariza (in terms of size, skills and manner) is the closest thing right now to a young Posey. Posey, you recall, hounded Kobe in the Finals as Ariza hobbled around on a still-healing broken foot. With Ariza healthy, LA is a man up rather than a leg down this time.

Ric Bucher

NBA Reporter, ESPN The Magazine Senior Writer