It's not technically midseason, but with this being the all-star break, we could think of no better time than to issue midseason report cards. In this edition: Trevor Ariza, who is showing us the value of defense
STATS: 8 points, 4.5 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 39.5 FG%, 31.1 3PT%, 13 PER, 49.3 TS%, 13.7 TO%, 17.6 USG%
When word broke that the Washington Wizards had traded Rashard Lewis for Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza, the reaction from fans and the media was lukewarm at best. Even if you subscribe to the belief that the franchise would have been unable to take advantage of the cap space that Lewis could have given it, the general consensus seemed to be that Ariza was overpaid and overrated. Even if he meshed perfectly with John Wall, Ariza just didn't seem to be worth 15 million dollars over two seasons.
Ariza made his name as a lockdown defender, transition finisher and corner three point specialist during the Lakers' 2009 championship run. Looking to take on a more prominent offensive role, he left in free agency for the Houston Rockets and started jacking up bad shots left and right while playing less than inspired defense. What have we seen with Washington this year?
Defensively, Ariza has been absolutely brilliant. Seriously. MySynergySports rates him the NBA's 28th best defender overall, he's picking up more than two steals per 36 minutes of playing time, almost always defends the other team's best player and Washington's fourth(!) ranked defense is 2.6 points per one hundred possessions better with him on the court. He may come across as lacking intensity at times, but Ariza is getting the job done on defense.
As he did in New Orleans, Ariza has continued to struggle with his shot selection this year. The above-the-break threes in transition that we all hate have unfortunately been a part of his repertoire this year. He's also not finishing plays at the basket (57% according to Hoopdata) or in transition (41% according to MySynergySports). But he's getting better on this from past year, and while his accuracy still leaves a lot to be desired, he's using fewer plays than he has at any point since leaving Los Angeles while serving as one of his team's better passers.
EXPECTATIONS FOR THE SECOND HALF
Let's hope for more of the same from Ariza during the second half of the season. After a slow start, he's slowly but surely improved his offensive game while playing some of the best defense we've seen in DC in years. More of the same would be good enough, but if he can cut back on the above the break threes, he could re-emerge as one of the NBA's best glue guys.
Ariza has been a disappointment offensively and really shouldn't shoot a three unless he's in the corner, but his defensive output has more than made up for this. Is he worth 15 million dollars over two years? Probably not, but it sounds at least a little bit less ridiculous than it did a year ago.
How would you rate Ariza's season on a scale of 1-10, and what would you like to see from him in the second half of the season?