With a 27-14 record at the halfway point in the season, the Lakers currently sit in the sixth spot in the Western Conference, but have proved throughout the season’s second quarter that they belong in the discussion of elite teams when at full strength. Kobe Bryant’s superior all-around play has continued to spark the Lakers’ high-octane attack, followed closely by Andrew Bynum’s no longer ‘secret’ potential. We’re approaching award season in L.A. so once again, Lakers.com divvies out its midseason awards.
Most Improved Player: Trevor Ariza
Since we gave Andrew the award for ‘Surprise Performance’ in the first quarter, we decided to give the honor for most improved to one of the Lakers’ newest additions, Trevor Ariza. After the trade that sent Ariza from Orlando to L.A., it took Trevor a good few weeks before he figured out how to maneuver through the triangle offense. However, upon finding his way, Ariza has become one of the Lakers’ top defenders and also shown solid explosiveness on offense. His shot is still a work in progress, but at over 52% from the field, it hasn’t been an issue so far.
Most Disappointing Performance: Lamar Odom
After Andrew fell to injury, the team knew that someone else would need to help pick up the scoring slack. The most obvious candidate was Lamar Odom who gets the nod here for the second ‘quarter’ in a row. Without #17, the Lakers are essentially a one-man operating committee driven by Kobe. Unfortunately, that strategy fails as teams are able to collapse on Bryant, forcing his teammates to make shots. The Lakers expect Odom to act as that critical second scorer to help alleviate pressure on Kobe, but he hasn’t shown that he’s up to the task yet.
Surprise Performance: Andrew Bynum
Before his demoralizing injury against the Grizzlies, Bynum was enjoying a breakout stretch in which he not only turned the heads of his teammates, but people all around the league too. At 13 points and 10 rebounds a night, Andrew has developed into the Lakers’ second most reliable scorer, providing them with a presence in the paint that the team has sorely been missing since Shaq departed in 2004. #17 has also shown signs of becoming a dominant defender in the post in addition to his evolving offensive game.
Best Overall Play: Ariza Over Hill
Trevor Ariza’s monster Christmas Day dunk over Suns guard/forward Grant Hill was not only the Lakers’ most exciting play of the first half, but arguably one of the top five plays throughout the entire league.
Best Overall Performance in a Single Game: Andrew Bynum
Christmas was particularly merry for the Lakers this season as Bynum electrified STAPLES Center and fans across the nation with a career high 28 points to go along with 16 rebounds. Moreover, Andrew’s outstanding performance included an array of thunderous ally-oop dunks that sent the Phoenix Suns running for the hills and set the league ablaze with talk of his massive potential.
Best Overall Performance: Kobe Bryant
Despite Bynum’s emergence during the second quarter of the season, Kobe Bryant’s ever-changing game has been the glue that has made Phil Jackson’s team-oriented offense stick. Kobe has flawlessly managed to change his game depending on the team’s needs for that night, shifting from scorer to passer with ease. Kobe may not be leading the league in scoring this season—he’s currently second to LeBron James—but, the example he’s set on offense and defense has set the tone for the Lakers’ impressive first half uprising and makes him one of the leading candidates for MVP this season.