If you had to build the perfect player to log big minutes at the small forward position next to John Wall what would you give him? Low usage, surely. He won’t be creating much offense with Wall initiating almost every set. You’d want him to be a fantastic defender who expends all of his energy on the defensive end. Again, he won’t be expected to do too much offensively. You’d want him to take about as many shots from deep as he does from inside the arc. Wall needs drive-and-kick teammates. Most of all, you’d want him to nail those shots from deep at an impressive percentage. We’re talking like 40% here. Basically, the Wizards need a starting caliber 3-D guy. Basically, you’d like a better version of Trevor Ariza. With that said, what we need to see from him shouldn’t surprise you:
Can he really shoot it from deep?
Ariza hit from deep at a career high rate of 36.4% last year, while attempting the second most threes per minute played of his career. 36% isn’t anything to write home about, but it’s respectable enough to unnerve defenders and it produces league average efficiency. The problem is that there has never been another season in Ariza’s career in which one could consider him a good three-point shooter. You could call it the John Wall Effect, as Ariza hit only 29% with Wall off the court and a blistering 42.2% with him on. But I’m more inclined to call it dumb luck: Ariza only shot 30.3% the season he got to play with the reigning Point God, Chris Paul. Whatever it was that made Ariza start to drill shots from deep does not matter. What matters is that he keeps it up, because the offense will be non-functional without a three point thread from the wing.
Less gambles, more fundamentals
Gambling on defense isn’t always bad, especially if you have Nene and Emeka Okafor behind you. While Marcin Gortat is not a bad defender, he is no Okafor, and gambles like the ones Ariza is apt to make will likely be a net negative this year while they were a slight positive last year. The defense was great in 2013, and can still be good in 2014 but it will require more perimeter intensity. Wall, Bradley Beal, and Ariza could combine to be one of the best perimeter defensive trios in the league, but the gambles will have to stop.
So, uh… what are you worth on the trade market?
Seriously. The biggest thing we need to see from Trevor Ariza is a trade. Trevor has been a true professional for the Wizards, but he was never in the long-term plans. Ernie Grunfeld discharged Okafor with a pick for Gortat, which I certainly didn’t expect. What would he have to do to move Ariza without bringing back too much salary? With the Okafor trade and the option decisions on Jan Vesely and Chris Singleton, the Wizards decided on their future: They will have cap room this summer and it was probably the plan all along. That means an Ariza trade can only bring back a one-year player or a draft pick, and no one’s trading a decent pick for Ariza. So now what? I’m out of ideas.
The most important part of Trevor Ariza’s season will be the day he’s traded. That’s what we need to see.