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Trevor Ariza can’t fix the Wizards’ defense by himself

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Atlanta Hawks v Washington Wizards Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

Daily Digits is a new daily feature we’re doing at Bullets Forever this year where we take a look at stats about the Wizards. We’ll dive into the numbers, add some context, and discuss how they affect the product on the court.

Today’s stat is the number of points the Wizards have allowed per 100 possessions with Trevor Ariza on the floor this season, which is...

113.7

It isn’t reasonable to expect a mid-season acquisition to have a serious impact right away. Players need time to get a feel for their new coaches and teammates. You can’t expect chemistry to develop overnight. That said, given Ariza’s defensive prowess and the Wizards’ struggles on that end this season, you’d figure it wouldn’t take long for his presence to show in the numbers.

Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case yet. The Wizards gave up 112.3 points per 100 possessions before Ariza joined the team. In the eight games since the trade, they’re allowing 112.5 per 100 possessions. Even odder still, the Wizards have a worse defensive rating with Ariza on the floor (113.7) than they do when he’s not on the floor (105.4). That’s not what you want to see from the guy who was brought in to fix the defense.

Ariza’s inability to turn things around is less of an indictment on him than it is about the goal the team had in mind when they brought him back to Washington. As defenses have to get more switch-happy to counteract modern NBA offenses, teams can’t rely on just one defender to carry the load. In the same way that teams can target the weak link in a strong defense to get favorable matchups, teams can also run their offense specifically to avoid unfavorable matchups. It doesn’t really matter how well Ariza can shut down another team’s best player if they can easily go through the other four players to get quality shots.

On the bright side, at least Ariza is making a difference on the offensive end. The jump from Austin Rivers and Kelly Oubre Jr. to Ariza has helped the Wizards score much more effectively since his arrival. The Wizards are posting a 110.7 offensive rating with him on the floor, which would be good enough to make the team a top-ten offense. Sadly, even at that clip they’re still not scoring enough to overcome the league’s fourth-worst defense.