In December 2013, the Washington Wizards went 6-5 overall, which included two back-to-back home losses to the Milwaukee Bucks and Denver Nuggets on December 6 and 9 respectively. Bad losses indeed. After a blowout loss to the Los Angeles Clippers, Washington won five of their next six games, four of them on the road.
I was tempted to say that this was a pivotal moment, at least for the month. However, we also began to see Trevor Ariza emerge as one of the most important players for the team, in addition to John Wall and Bradley Beal.
During this month, the 3-and-D extraordinaire averaged 15.7 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 3.2 assists per game while playing all 11 games in that stretch. On top of that, he scored at least 10 points in every game during the month. In fact, he scored in double figures for each of the last four games in November.
I must note that John Wall also scored in double figures for every game in December 2013. He actually averaged 21.7 points and 9.1 assists during this time. But why is this pivotal moment on Ariza instead?
Since the day the Wizards acquired both him in 2012, fans and the media alike were wondering when the man would be traded. After all, there was a logjam of players at the small forward position. Martell Webster signed a multi-year extension worth the mid-level exception after a really nice performance in the 2012-13 season. But he was inconsistent all month, and all season for that matter.
Then the Wizards drafted Otto Porter as the third pick in the 2013 NBA Draft. He made his season debut in the aforementioned loss to the Milwaukee Bucks where he couldn't do much. And it quickly became apparent that Porter was just not ready to play rotation minutes on a team looking to make the playoffs. But that's not all.
Bradley Beal missed much of the latter part of November and the first half of December due to a stress injury in his right fibula. Yeah, things were really not looking good at that time.
And who stepped up during that time?
When other swingmen were either injured or not pulling their weight, he was performing at a consistent level on both the ends of the floor for the entire month. So his performance, injuries, and others' lack of results changed the sentiment that he was merely trade bait for February. As December went on, I then just knew that Ariza was untradeable for the rest of the season. He was just fitting in too well in order to just let him go.
Yes, Ariza's stellar performance was in a contract year. And he ultimately signed a new contract with the Houston Rockets soon after the 2014 free agency period started. However, would he have been as attractive of a free agent if his performance from December and most of the remainder of the season wasn't quite as stellar? And if Ariza didn't play as well in December, could they have still performed the way they did? I'm not so sure.
For previous pivotal moments in the Wizards' 2013-14 season, click here for our StoryStream.