One of the statistics that disturbed me most about the Washington Wizards loss to the Charlotte Bobcats yesterday was the number six in the turnover column next to Trevor Ariza's name. To his credit, Ariza said he needs to improve, telling reporters that he "can't turn the ball over six times a game." But I'm concerned not because of Ariza's own sloppiness, but rather because I'm not sure any exceptional effort by Ariza himself can fix it.
The problem is that, with John Wall sidelined and Nene's status still up in the air, Ariza may be forced into situations where he will inevitably turn the ball over. It's the unfortunate effect of someone getting hurt.
By his own admission, Ariza is not a good ball-handler. A couple years ago, the Houston Rockets tried to get more out of him by making him a playmaker, and it went poorly. It was only last season when Ariza started to dial it back and return to the spot-up role he occupied well with the Lakers. That's clearly the Ariza the Wizards wanted; as Randy Wittman implied yesterday, he played beyond his means against the Bobcats.
But with Wall out and Nene hobbled, someone has to create offense. Eventually, as you go down the pecking order, you get to Ariza. The more Wall and Nene sit out, the higher Ariza vaults up that pecking order and the more he is put in a position to struggle. That's the domino effect of injuries.
To be fair, there are ways to mitigate this in the short term to some degree. When Matt Moore asked me about Ariza on this podcast, I suggested running Ariza off slice cuts (here's an example) or other baseline motion to get him the ball in the post closer to the basket. He isn't an especially good post player, but at least this way he's not dribbling as much and he's closer to the basket. That's something the Wizards should look at doing, especially in conjunction with more high-post action.
But no matter what the Wizards do from a coaching standpoint, their dwindling offensive options is forcing Ariza into a role he's not suited to fill. He shouldn't commit six turnovers, of course, but the more he has to handle the ball, the more often his ball-handling limitations will show.