Right now, Trevor Ariza is the great expiring contract that so many of us casually throw into the trade machine looking for ways to upgrade our favorite team. One such door, though, appears to have closed. The Milwaukee Bucks are on the verge of acquiring Caron Butler, a similar veteran small forward with an expiring contract, for the rest of their cap space.
Milwaukee was tossed around as a logical place for Ariza, but chose Butler instead in part because of cost. The Suns wanted to get Butler's salary off their books and accepted back two deep bench players in Ish Smith and Slava Kravtsov. The Wizards wouldn't have dumped Ariza's salary like that, so there wasn't really a trade possibility there.
But with one trade suitor down, what are the Wizards actually going to do with Ariza now?
Ariza's place on the team is awkward. He was supposed to be the starting small forward last year, but Martell Webster beat him out fair and square. He adjusted and turned into a useful bench piece, but it always felt like the Wizards were looking to move on from him. They reportedly wanted to trade him for Butler before the Clippers nixed it, and they took Otto Porter in the draft even though he plays Ariza's position. Then, they re-signed Webster. The wing is crowded, no question about it.
Now, the Wizards also aren't in the position where they need to dump Ariza for nothing. He has an expiring contract, which could be valuable, and he was helpful in several ways last season. He shot a career-high 36 percent from three-point range, benefiting greatly from the John Wall Effect on wings, and the Wizards were three points better per 100 possessions defensively with him on the court. Lineups that included both Ariza and Webster were also dynamite, outscoring opponents by nearly 12 points per 100 possessions in 467 minutes.
But how much of what Ariza brings can be replaced? The same things people worry about with Porter are issues Ariza already has. Ariza's lateral quickness defensively is overrated and he gambles too much, which hurt the team in certain situations. He makes up for it with his length and was a positive contributor overall ... but the same can be said for Porter. Also, Ariza's offense could easily fall back to earth given his career shooting percentages. Given Wall's history of lifting the perimeter shooting percentages of his teammates, he should be able to do the same for Porter or any other wing. It's nice to have Ariza around as insurance in case Porter's not ready, but I don't think it's going to take much for Porter to eclipse him.
All that makes Ariza reasonable trade bait. He's valuable in some ways, but how valuable? Can he be replaced easily?
I think he can, unlike fellow former Hornet Emeka Okafor, whose defensive rebounding and rim protection skills cannot be found elsewhere on the roster. Capitalizing on Ariza's value is tricky because his status around the league is tough to gauge right now; if the Bucks really liked him, they wouldn't have jumped on the older Butler in August.
But I don't think the Wizards should freak out about what they'll lose if they move Trevor Ariza. He can be replaced.
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- Who could be the Wizards' free-agent splash? Looking ahead at the summer of 2014