The decisions Washington needs to make this offseason won't be easy, nor will they likely be cheap. And one guy who the Wizards need to consider as a key part of their current and future success is swingman Trevor Ariza.
We've talked about Ariza at length this season - a season where we all assumed he'd be trade bait after drafting Otto Porter. Instead, the veteran forward has turned himself into a key piece of the Wizards success this season. On most nights, he's the second-best player on the floor. On others, he's the best.
Tonight before the Celtics-Wizards game, Boston head coach Brad Stevens let us know that Washington fans aren't alone in recognizing how big of a piece Ariza's been this season:
The guy who probably hasn't gotten enough talk - maybe he is in the Washington market, but he's not that I hear of - is Ariza. And Ariza's gone up since we played them last time in most statistical categories. He's averaging close to 15 [points per] game now. He's shot the [three-pointer] great all year.
Stevens also acknowledged that Ariza has been a big reason the Wizards have been so competitive against the Celtics this year:
He killed us in the first game there [in Boston]. He can turn it up defensively and be a great defender, and he really had a huge impact on our game here [in Washington] last time, where we had a great big lead, and they came back. And his defense was a big reason why.
Ariza will garner a lot of attention this offseason as he enters free agency. And if he's as vital to the Wizards future playoff aspirations as he was to theirs this year, then Washington will likely need to think about a competitive offer for him so the team doesn't become uncompetitive without him.