When the rumors came flying around just two days ago that the Cavaliers were pushing hard after SF Trevor Ariza, I was absolutely ecstatic. Watching Ariza over the past few years, I have taking a liking to his game and I thought he would be the absolutely perfect swingman for Mike Brown’s rotation. He would slide Daniel Gibson a little farther back down the line, enable the Cavs to play big with an all-Defensive team of Delonte, Ariza, LeBron and Andy, and would provide some clutch shooting whenever needed. Considering the fact the Rockets signed him to the same MLE we had to offer, this one stings pretty badly as I know that he will only get better in the years to come.
A one and done player with UCLA, the Knicks made him the 14th selection in the second round of the 2004 Draft, and coming into the league everyone knew that Ariza would be an athletic wingman and he was just filled with offensive potential. In his first season with the Knicks, he found himself plenty of opportunities, playing in 80 games while average 17.3 minutes per contest and starting 12 games as well. But that was before Larry Brown described him as “delusional” in a more than dysfunctional season for the Knickerbockers that led to Ariza playing in only 36 games before being shipped to Orlando along with Penny Hardaway for the once talented Steve Francis.
Over the next two full calendar years with the Magic, Ariza played in only 89 contests while averaging about 19 minutes per game. It was during this time that I finally started noticing his improved play, as per 48 minutes of playing time with Orlando he averaged about 2.2 steals, showing how as a 6-8, 200 pound forward he could defend some of the top guys in the league. The recently turned 24-year-old never got his big break however, until another trade just a year and a half ago to the Los Angeles Lakers in exchange for Brian Cook and Maurice Evans.
He played every single game for the champion Lakers this regular season, as well as 24 games last year. Off the bench or as a starter, he is a rare breed in the NBA: a young wingman with the ability to guard four positions on the court along with his athletic prowess as a dunker. He is arguably most famous for his success this year in the playoffs, and in 35 career playoff games he is now shooting 46.6% from threes along with averaging 8.2 points and 3.3 rebounds a game. The per game numbers throughout his career have not been the most stunning, but he still clearly has the potential to improve his offensive game given more opportunities.
This season, he will join a Houston Rockets team that has Yao Ming out for the season, and Tracy McGrady without a role in the franchise’s long-term plans. Aaron Brooks, Luis Scola, Shane Battier, and Carl Landry will be the main minute-eaters for them this season, meaning that Ariza will have plenty of opportunities to shine in his new role offensively. Unlike Ron Artest, who commonly takes and misses a ton of bad shots, especially from threes, Ariza does not need the ball in his hands in order to be effective. In his time with LA he averaged 8.4 points on 6.6 field goal attempts per game, but now you can expect him to get plenty of more shots for the Rockets as they hope to compete for one of the last playoff spots in the West.
I sincerely think that Ariza will be in the running for the NBA’s Most Improved Player Award in 2009-2010 as he takes on a much larger role with the Rockets. He would have been a perfect signing for the Cavaliers this season, but the aspirations of a starting role on a middle-of-the-order playoff team were obviously just what he was looking for. I hope that Danny Ferry was at least offering Ariza the exact same contract and although he won’t be a Cavalier, here is to you Trevor Ariza in hopes that you prove me right and the others wrong on yourfat payday.