Mar 27, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Houston Rockets forward Trevor Ariza (1) during a free throw in the game against the Indiana Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The Indiana Pacers beat the Houston Rockets by the score of 104-101. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
2016-17 Player Preview: Trevor Ariza, The Iron Man
Trevor Ariza is next up in the Houston Rockets 2016-17 Player Preview Series. When Chandler Parsons departed from Houston Rockets and signed with their I-45 rivals, the Dallas Mavericks, a huge void was left to fill at small forward. Although the Rockets found their replacement days later, fan criticized Houston’s decision to sign veteran Trevor Ariza from the Washington Wizards.
While Mavericks fans spend the last two seasons watching Parson battle knee injuries and witnessing him derail, Houston quickly realized that Ariza was the better fit. In fact, next to James Harden, Ariza played the most significant role for the Rockets the past 2 seasons.
In a season where the Rockets were more inconsistent than Houston’s weather. Ariza was the most consistent player for Clutch City.
Despite spending the summer in the midst of trade rumors, Ariza is ready for another phenomenal season in Houston.
Feb 4, 2016; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Houston Rockets forward Trevor Ariza (1) dunks the ball against Phoenix Suns forward P.J. Tucker (17) at Talking Stick Resort Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports
2015-16 Season Stats:
Points Per Game: 12.7
Rebounds Per Game: 4.5
Assists Per Game: 2.3
Blocks Per Game: 0.3
Steals Per Game: 2.0
Point Per Game: 6.6
Rebounds Per Game: 4.2
Assists Per Game: 0.8
Blocks Per Game: 0.2
Steals Per Game: 2.6
Apr 10, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Los Angeles Lakers forward Kobe Bryant (24) guards Houston Rockets forward Trevor Ariza (1) during the first quarter at the Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Even though James Harden is by far the Rockets’ MVP, Ariza has established himself as Houston’s best all-around player. Now, before getting upset, take a moment to see what Ariza is capable of on the court.
He is a versatile offensive player that can score both inside and outside. Additionally, he is Houston’s best defender capable of guardin every position. Without Ariza, Houston would not have accomplished anything over the past two years.
Since entering the league in 2004, Ariza has always been one of the top defenders in the league. Even with the departure of Dwight Howard, Houston will still be a solid defensive team thanks to Ariza.
What makes him a defensive stopper is his ability to shut down the perimeter. Night after night, the Rockets rely on Ariza’s perimeter defense to shut down stars such as LeBron James and Kevin Durant.
Although Ariza is great at contesting shots, it’s his ability to steal that stands out the most. Last season marked his career-high in steals per game. Among small forwards, Ariza ranked first in steals and sixth overall.
Ariza’s responsibility as the Rockets primary defensive stopper may be the most important role on the team. Even more so than the ‘points’ guard, James Harden.
Unlike his defense, Ariza did not come into the league as a well-known shooter. In fact, his shooting was the weakest part of his game as a rookie.
During his rookie season with the New York Knicks, Ariza shot 23.1 percent from downtown. Fast forward to 2016 to discover he is one of the deadliest three-point shooters in the league.
Perhaps the attention Bryant, Paul, and now Harden commands on offense has helped Ariza to become a better shooter.
Last season Ariza ranked third in the league for most threes made by a small forward. As well as shooting his second highest career percentage from behind the arc at 37.1 percent.
With Harden orchestrating Houston’s offense in Mike D’Antoni‘s system, Ariza could have his best shooting year of his career.
Dec 8, 2015; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Houston Rockets forward Trevor Ariza (1) reacts to an apparent injury during the first quarter against the Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports
Areas to Improve
Consistency on Offensive
Although Ariza’s shot has improved throughout his career, he has to become more consistent. Last season, there were games where Ariza scored 15 or more points. Next game out he would struggle to score five.
In a season where Rockets’ opponents will turn their defensive attention on stopping Harden and Ryan Anderson, Ariza must find a way to become more consistent on offense.
Just imagine how unstoppable the Rockets can become if Ariza consistently averages 12 to 17 points on a nightly basis.
Even though Ariza has established himself as one of the best defenders of his era, he never became a reliable rebounder.
Standing 6’8 and weighing in at 210 pounds, one would think that on average Ariza can pull down eight to nine broads a night. However, it’s the opposite.
Throughout his 13 year NBA career, Ariza has averaged a total of 4.5 rebounds per game. That’s pretty sad when there are point guards that stand 6’4 and under who have averaged more rebounds than Ariza. (Jason Kidd, Rajon Rondo)
With Howard no longer cleaning the glass in Houston, Ariza has to become more aggressive on the boards.
Mar 2, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets forward Trevor Ariza (1) dunks against New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis (23) in the first quarter at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports
2016-17 Season Outlook
Trevor Ariza has had a positive effect on every team he has played on. Yet, this is the first team he is playing a third consecutive season for in his career.
While players in Houston are preparing for new responsibilities, Ariza is the only player returning with the same role. The defensive stopper who can score when in need.
As previously stated, in Mike D’Antnio’s system, expect Ariza to score his most points of his career. With Howard gone, Ariza will have to take his defense to another level this season. If so,I expect him to become a strong contender for Defensive Player of the Year.
Despite having his name in the midst of trade rumors, I expect another great season from 2009 champion Trevor Ariza.
Houston Rockets close their preseason with a trip to San Antonio on Friday, October 12, 2016.