May 11, 2014; Washington, DC; Washington Wizards forward Trevor Ariza (1) dribbles as Indiana Pacers guard Lance Stephenson (1) defends during the first half in game four of the second round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Verizon Center. Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY
This summer, the Rockets possessed lofty goals of acquiring a big-time free agent. However, despite trading away Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin to create cap space, they failed to bring in Carmelo Anthony as well as Chris Bosh. Houston also lost Chandler Parsons to their own division rival as well, as they declined to match the Mavericks’ offer sheet and opted to just let him walk.
Based on these depressing facts, Houston’s off-season turned out to be a disaster – at least judging by their plan heading into it, that is.
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However, looking at everything that has occurred, their offseason has honestly not been too terrible. Let’s focus on the positives. While the Rockets did miss out on talent this summer, the deals they executed helped them establish financial flexibility moving forward. If the fact future free agencies will consist of players such as Kevin Love (2015), Rajon Rondo (2015), and Kevin Durant (2016) is any indicator, spending room will serve as an excellent asset.
Also, Houston did sign one significant piece. He may not compare to Melo or the Bostrich, but he should help all the same.
Ah yes, our old friend Trevor Ariza. The same Trevor Ariza who suited up for the Rockets back in 2009-’10. Welcome back, ol’ pal!
If you’re worried about Ariza playing similarly to how he did five years ago, my advice for you is simple: don’t be. He won’t shoot 39 percent from the floor, he won’t shoot 33 percent from three, and he certainly won’t jack up 13+ shots a night.
Why will his game improve? Because he’s entering into a completely different situation then he did five years ago.
Let me explain.
In 2009, Houston did not boast a top-tier team. Sure, it consisted of names such as Kyle Lowry, Tracy McGrady, and Kevin Martin. But Lowry was still a work in progress, T-Mac was washed up, and Kevin Martin was Kevin Martin – that is, a scorer and absolutely nothing else. The main problem with this roster was it lacked a true star in his prime, and as a result, everyone who possessed second-level talent had to share the scoring load with each other. Anyone in the Rockets‘ core group of 5-6 guys could go off in any given game, and no true leader was established.
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When Ariza was signed on, he was expected to serve as one of these “5-6 guys”. It made perfect sense back then, as Trevor had just finished playing solid basketball for the champion Los Angeles Lakers. Also, the Rockets inked him on a generous deal as well, and that upped expectations significantly. Due to the pressure placed on him from both his contract and his role, Ariza put forth a disappointing year and was ultimately traded away in the offseason of 2010.
Fast-forward to 2014. Houston does possess a playoff roster, they do have set stars in James Harden and Dwight Howard, and Trevor did get paid the type of money he’s worth.
Ok, let me re-phrase that last portion there: he will be earning the proper amount for this summer’s market. In a market where Jodie Meeks received roughly $6+ million annually and Gordon Hayward a max deal, $8 million a year for Ariza is fair.
Ariza does not have to perform outside his comfort zone this time around, and he should produce more efficiently for the Rockets as a result.
Now, with Omer Asik, Jeremy Lin, and Chandler Parsons no longer on the roster, it’s reasonable to assume Trevor will serve as their third option. Obviously, this leads to a big question:
Will he crumble as Houston’s next-best player behind Harden and Howard?
With Harden finishing fifth in scoring last year and Howard averaging 18.3 points for his career, these two will be expected to carry the scoring load. Everyone else will look to produce when possible, but scoring won’t be their primary focus. Trevor Ariza is included in this “everyone else” category, and although he’ll likely have to put up 13-16 points per game, a significant amount of pressure won’t be placed on him to create offense and contribute in this regard.
This is not to say Trevor won’t be forced to make an offensive play from time to time. Odds are, with defenses bound to focus on Dwight and James, he will have to eventually step up and produce something on his own. However, unlike his first stint in Houston, he doesn’t have expectations to do this consistently. That right there is the key, as it is the answer to why he will not falter as option number three.
Instead, Ariza will flourish, as he will be expected to do what he did with Washington this past season: hit open threes, run the floor, and play solid defense. Considering he shot 40.7 percent from deep, scored 1.3 transition points per play, and put forth a defensive rating of 104 last year, these are all things Trevor is capable of doing well. This is the type of play which led him to average 14.4 points last year, and it will serve to help him produce the amount of points necessary for Houston’s success in 2014/15.
As long as Ariza focuses on playing his game, he’ll put forth an exceptional season for the Rockets. The points he produces will come naturally, and everything will work out well.
In the midst of what can be considered a failed offseason, Trevor Ariza is an addition worth celebrating. His skill-set will fit into Houston’s offensive system well, and he’ll serve as a solid asset moving forward.
Great call, space city. This time around, Ariza is bound to succeed.