Our 2012-13 player evaluations continue. This time, we profile Trevor Ariza.
Basic stats: 9.8 points per game, 4.8 rebounds per game, 14.0 PER, 53.8 true shooting percentage.
Contract status: Ariza has one year and $7.8 million left on his deal with no stated intention of exercising his early termination option.
Preseason expections: There wasn't a ton of optimism where Ariza was concerned at the beginning of the season. After a great playoff run as a role player with the Lakers, Ariza signed a long-term deal and looked to become more than just a three and d type. Ariza lacked the handle or jumper to be anything more than a fourth option, though, and his increased usage, lowered efficiency and declining defense torpedoed his value. Things started to turn around once he made it to New Orleans and the general vibe coming out of the Washington was one of tempered optimism. No one thought Ariza would be a star, but he seemed like he'd be able to plug a hole on the wing that had been filled by journeymen and scrubs since Caron Butler left town.
Offense: Ariza looked like a bit of a chucker at the start of the season, but by the time he returned from a knee injury - which coincided almost perfectly with John Wall's return to the team - things began to click. After a ghastly start, Ariza shot 45 percent from the floor and 42 percent from deep after the All-Star break, leading to a very respectable 54 percent true shooting percentage on the year. He also did a good job of moving the ball, averaging 2.8 assists per 36 minutes, an impressive feat considering how rarely he initiated set plays. This passing touch added a new wrinkle to Washington's offense and worked well when mixed in with Nene and Bradley Beal's ability to move without the ball.
Ariza was particularly good at making three pointers from the corner and making the extra pass. Ariza made more than 40 percent of his corner threes, a shot that becomes far more common with John Wall running the point as opposed to A.J. Price. Along with his 62 percent shooting at the rim, this was the main reason Ariza was able to be a reasonably effective scorer despite his lack of ball skills.
Defense: Defensive impact is impossible to sum up in one nice clean number. That said, all signs point to Ariza being among the best defensive wings in the NBA. As the primary perimeter stopper on the fifth best rated defense in the NBA, Ariza was both disruptive in the passing lanes and a capable one on one stopper. He nabbed 1.8 steals per 36 minutes last year and, when he was paired with Emeka Okafor and Nene, the Wizards' defensive rating of 91.8 would have led the league. While Martell Webster wasn't the worst defensive player in the world, Washington's was a full two points better per one hundred possessions with Ariza on the court, even more so when he was paired with Okafor and Nene.
Data courtesy of NBA.com/stats
Other stuff: Ariza was penciled in as the team's starter at the beginning of the season but was eventually replaced by Martell Webster. In a situation where a clash of egos could have disrupted team chemistry, both players managed to get through it without incident and there were never even rumors of a conflict. Considering how everything played out with Jordan Crawford, Ariza deserves props for this.
Did he meet, exceed or fall short of expectations? At the very least he met expectations and, depending on your opinion of his defensive value, possibly exceeded them. No one expected Washington to post the fifth best defense in the NBA last year, and Ariza played a large part in this.
Overall: It's not Ariza's fault that Webster overshadowed him this year. Ariza performed well enough that, even if the team is unable to retain Webster, they'll have a very solid small forward next year. Sure, he's probably overpaid, but with his contract set to expire next year, that might even be a good thing should Washington try to flip him for a someone who fills a more pressing need.
How would you rate Trevor Ariza's season on a scale of 1 - 10? Vote below.