Welcome Back, Trevor? Rockets Pursue Ariza

By Mike Mitchell

Faced with a deadline to decide whether or not to retain incumbent forward Chandler Parsons, the Rockets are turning their attention to an old friend: Trevor Ariza.

According to Mark Stein of ESPN, Houston is considering a reunion with Ariza, who averaged 14.9 PPG and shot 33% from downtown for Rick Adelman’s 2009-2010 Rockets.

Ariza’s Rockets tenure is considered a massive disappointment, as Ariza had leveraged a strong playoff run for the 2009 NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers into a 5-year, $33M contract from Houston to be an impact player on the first post-Yao/McGrady Houston team. Following the season, in which the Rockets went 42-40 and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2006, GM Daryl Morey traded Ariza to New Orleans in a four-way deal that netted only backup guard Courtney Lee in return.

Four years later, Ariza is coming off the best season of his career, with a PER of 15.8 and a sterling .407 3PT% for the upstart Washington Wizards. He has obvious value in the modern NBA.

What is less clear is what Ariza’s return to Houston would mean for Parsons. While Ariza could potentially play as a stretch four — essentially in a three-man rotation with Parsons and Terrence Jones at the two forward spots — Stein’s report implies he is being viewed as a low-cost replacement for Parsons, perhaps commanding $10M per season instead of the $15.3M Parsons would be due. This would give the Rockets some wiggle room below the cap to add a cheap veteran or two, though not a significant piece.

I will withhold judgment until more details are known. Signing Ariza simply to replace Parsons, and likely taking the Rockets out of the running for future max free agents in 2015 and 2016, might be the worst of all outcomes. But Morey is a bright man, and he is not one for half-measures. I suspect Stein is misguided, though he has earned his reputation as a solid NBA reporter.

As we’ve been saying all week, stay tuned.