By Jason Wojciechowski on July 1, 2008 at 5:32 AM
It is time for me to weigh in on Ronny Turiaf. I think the Lakers can't keep him. There, I have weighed in.
Ok, no, wait. Look, I love Ronny. I love that his name is spelled "Ronny" but it's pronounced "Rony" like "Rony Seikaly". Who didn't love Rony Seikaly in NBA Jam? I love that Ronny is the best dancer in the league. I love that the fans and his teammates love him. I love that he's a monster shot blocker despite not being the biggest guy in the world. I love his hair. I love how barrel-chested he is. No, scratch that. I love how he's basically just a barrel on legs that jumps a lot. I love his energy, his infectious love for the good things his teammates do.
But you know what I don't love? I don't love that when he's on the floor, it's 4-on-5 when the Lakers have the ball. I don't love that his rebounding percentage was even below Pau Gasol's, despite his entire job being to rebound and play defense. I don't love that his skill set is basically replaceable.
But here's what I really don't love: I don't love that I'm completely uncertain about whether losing him to another team will affect the Lakers' makeup. I have no mixed feelings whatsoever about chemistry in baseball: it doesn't matter in 99% of situations. I have much more mixed feelings about chemistry in sports like basketball and football, however. On the one hand, the Shaq-Kobe thing was pretty much poisonous for at least the last three years of their five-year run, yet they won a championship and got to the Finals one other time in those three years. On the other hand, it seems hard to discount the joy this Lakers team played with in completely overachieving this season. So would removing Ronny make the team less happy? Probably. Does that matter? I really don't know.
Of course, it's not just a question of losing Turiaf's lack of skills as well as his emotion: he was actually fifth on the team last year in Win Shares Above Average and third in Defensive Win Shares, so his defensive skill set is showing up in some of these numbers. (The same numbers on the offensive side of the ledger confirm how awful he is on that side of the court.)
There's also the question of if he does get away, who actually replaces him? Supposing Lamar Odom were traded for that Chicago package that just seems better and better to me every day, the answer is "Joakim Noah and Ty Thomas". But failing that (and I'm pretty sure an Odom trade isn't forthcoming), who's out there? Jamaal Magloire? Eduardo Najera? Theo Ratliff? DeSagana Diop? Melvin Ely? (cringe) Bob Horry? Primoz Brezec? Some of these guys aren't bad: Najera, Ratliff, and Diop can all provide defensive lift off the bench, but do any of them give you things Turiaf doesn't? And if that's the case, then does it make sense to bring one of them in when you could just bring back Ronny?
Here's what it comes down to: if someone goes nuts and offers Ronny like $4 million for four years or $3.5 for five or something like that, I just don't see how L.A. can match. Since they're over the cap, double the dollar values to get the real cost out of Jerry Buss's pocket, and you see how those prices could be steep, especially given Turiaf's limited skills. It'd be crazy for someone to give Ronny that kind of money, wouldn't it? Sure, of course it would, but this is the NBA, where L.A. lost Mark Madsen to a big-money Minnesota contract a few years back, you'll recall. Turiaf's got to be twice the player Madsen is, right? (Though they're probably on the same level, dancing-wise.)
So, conclusion? It depends. That's an awful, wishy-washy conclusion, but it's true. It really depends on what kind of money is out there for him from other teams. You can't begrudge a second-rounder with a heart condition taking the biggest dollars he's likely to ever see, and I'd wish him well if he got them. I just hope that they don't come from Dr. Buss.