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Trevor Ariza signs 4-year, $32 million deal with Houston Rockets

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The Wizards' starting small forward is gone for much less than expected.

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Trevor Ariza bet that the market would yield him a bigger contract than the Wizards were willing to pay, and he bet right. He's off to Houston, signing a four-year, $32 million contract, according to USA Today's Sam Amick.

Ariza later made it official on Twitter.

The deal declines each year. Plus, Texas has no state income tax, which adds to the money Ariza pockets.

The early replacement front-runner appears to be Luol Deng, but it's unclear how the Wizards get him with only the mid-level exception to offer.

The Wizards seemingly wanted Ariza back, but after giving Marcin Gortat a five-year, $60 million deal, they were unwilling to commit similar money to Ariza because they were worried about pushing too close to the luxury tax. The Wizards reportedly weren't willing to go higher than $9 million a season, but the fact that Ariza signed for only $8 million a year is curious. Was the Wizards' limit really smaller than reported?

Ariza had a career season last year, hitting 41 percent of his threes and emerging as one of the league's top perimeter defenders. He initially didn't love his situation, but grew to enjoy it in his final year and wanted to stay. But he also saw teams with money to spend that lost out on Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James and he bet that he'd receive a big offer from one of those clubs. In Houston, he found a team that did just that after Chris Bosh stayed in Miami and Chandler Parsons received a massive offer sheet from Dallas.

It's nevertheless interesting that Ariza chose the Rockets, who also gave him his last big contract five years ago. Ariza struggled after signing that deal, taking on a featured role that he wasn't suited to fill. Houston dealt him to New Orleans, who then moved him to Washington two years ago. The Rockets' hope is that Ariza can duplicate his career year playing without John Wall.

As for the Wizards ... this is disappointing, but not devastating. I've long contended that Ariza would not be worth the price he received, though the price he did receive was much lower than most suggested he'd get. While the Wizards may take a step back, they won't need Ariza as much as they think. Now, there's more breathing room under the luxury tax to add frontcourt help, for example. There's also more future flexibility in the out years, which'll help when a certain D.C.-area superstar is a free agent.

Still, with Martell Webster injured, it's sink or swim time for Otto Porter. He must make a major leap, because any wing remaining on the free-agent market isn't going to be starter-quality. Time to step up.