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Trevor Ariza: Houston Rockets’ Quiet Leader

Dec 27, 2016; Dallas, TX, USA; Houston Rockets forward Trevor Ariza (1) reacts after scoring during the first half against the Dallas Mavericks at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 27, 2016; Dallas, TX, USA; Houston Rockets forward Trevor Ariza (1) reacts after scoring during the first half against the Dallas Mavericks at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
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Several members of the Houston Rockets have been in the headlines lately, none of whom being Trevor Ariza. However, the veteran swingman does more for the team than some may realize.

The first round is over for the Houston Rockets while Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder are headed home. Throughout the playoffs, the media has given credit to all of Houston’s protagonists who helped get the series win.

James Harden gets most of the headlines and deservedly so, but Eric Gordon and Lou Williams are finally catching media attention with their outstanding play off the bench. Even Nene has been noticed for holding the paint together when everyone else struggled to do so. And of course, Patrick Beverley has turned into everybody’s favorite pit bull.

That leaves one guy that, for most of his career, has gone on without the mentions he deserves. So with a about half a week left to talk about first round contributions, let’s give Trevor Ariza the spotlight.

He doesn’t ask for it, want it, or need it, but he sure does earn it. Ariza has built a pattern of simply making teams better. The trend started when he landed in L.A. in 2007 and became a instrumental part of the Lakers’ 2009 championship.

After getting his ring, Trevor signed with the Houston Rockets where, without Tracy McGrady or Yao Ming playing much anymore, he took on his first leadership and scoring role and handled it well. His 2009-10 season in Houston was his highest scoring campaign of his career thus far.

After one season in H-town, the Rockets decided to rebuild, sending Trevor to the New Orleans Hornets (now Pelicans). Alongside an emerging Chris Paul, they returned to the playoffs in 2011 and gave the Lakers a tough fight.

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After his stint in New Orleans, Ariza moved on to the Washington Wizards. There, once again, he helped the team go from the lottery to the playoffs.

In a 2014 trade, he came back to Houston where he immediately became the team’s go-to wing defender and most consistent spot-up threat. He was a vitally important factor in pushing the Rockets to the Western Conference Finals in 2015, their deepest playoff run in 20 years.

Some may call it a coincidence, some may call it luck, but I call it underrated. Naysayers may be quick to point out that Ariza has played alongside the likes of Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul, John Wall, and James Harden throughout his career. Sure, he hasn’t ever been a go-to scoring option. But his leadership and determination to never quit has helped him be the missing piece on nearly every team he’s played on over the past ten years.

Ariza’s career can be compared to that of Jalen Rose, Toni Kukoc, Mike Bibby, etc. Read: guys who weren’t superstars or even All-Stars, but whose teams greatly depended on them for the majority of their careers. That’s exactly who Trevor Ariza is to the Rockets.

Mike D’Antoni can tell Trev to guard Taj Gibson on the block or have him attempt to stay in front of Russell Westbrook. His defensive versatility allows him the possibility to be the most important player in a game without even scoring double-digit points.

Ariza can line up against the opposition’s best player on a nightly basis with almost no praise and still decide to post an article advocating his teammate for MVP on The Players’ Tribune. What else could you possibly want from a player? That kind of loyalty and team-mindedness doesn’t come around often.

Next: Patrick Beverley's Great Defense on Russell Westbrook

Can Trevor Ariza win a game on his own? Probably not, but it would be whole lot harder to try to win a championship without him.

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