Washington Wizards: Revisiting the Ariza trade after 20 games

Washington Wizards (Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images)
Washington Wizards (Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images) /

A look out how the reacquisition of Trevor Ariza has gone for him and the Washington Wizards after 20 games

It may have happened as originally planned (with the Brooks mixup and all), but when the Washington Wizards traded for Trevor Ariza in December, the hope was the veteran would help the up-and-down squad make a push for the postseason. Twenty game since welcoming him to the nation’s capital for the second time, let’s examine how the trade has gone for Ariza, his teammates, and the franchise as a whole.

Ariza himself has been a bit of a mixed bag. On one hand, he’s putting up career-high numbers in his first 20 games with the squad, or pretty close to them. On the other, he’s nearing the worst that he’s ever performed statistically.

Thus far, he’s averaging a career-high 15.3 points per game and 4.3 assists per game; at 6 rebounds per game, he’s just below his career-high in that department as well (6.2 per game in 2013-2014). All of these are impressive for someone currently in their 14th year in the league and with that kind of mileage.

Where he has slipped, though, is in his shooting. Ariza is shooting among the worst he has throughout his career both on field goals overall (38.1 percent) as well as on three-pointers (31.8 percent). It’s no accident that his shooting numbers are slipping as he’s being relied on more than at any point in his career; he’s never attempted more three-pointers per game, and only has attempted more field goals one other time.

That said, there’s no denying that Ariza has provided the team depth that Kelly Oubre Jr. didn’t. For all of his energy and spunk, Oubre was inconsistent and primarily a scorer while Ariza is reliable and can affect the game on both ends of the court with or without the ball.

Speaking of depth, Ariza’s return has also introduced on a new wrinkle to the organization, which is Otto Porter‘s relegation to the bench. Porter was out with an injury when Ariza joined the team, so Scott Brooks inserted his new acquisition into the starting lineup on Day One. Once Porter returned, Ariza had secured the starting nod for good.

Porter has been a revelation off the bench. As a reserve, he’s playing about the same amount of minutes per game and actually averaging more points (14.8 compared to 11.7) and nearly just as many rebounds (5.5 compared to 5.6). The team is feeling the benefits too: His plus-minus has gone from just +0.2 as a starter to +11.4 as a bench player.

It’s still too early to say anything conclusively, but the Ariza acquisition has allowed the team to experiment with Porter has a top-notch sixth man as it thinks about the team’s long-term construction.

The story of the 2018-2019 Wizards season wouldn’t be complete without accounting for all of the injuries, which is where Ariza’s presence has been welcomed as well. With John Wall out for the year and Markieff Morris missing a significant amount of time, Ariza has helped plug both holes.

As mentioned earlier, Ariza’s playmaking has been on display with his increased assist numbers, giving the team options behind Tomas Satoransky at point guard. Down low, with Morris serving as an all-purpose big man before his injury, Ariza’s toughness and team-first attitude has helped on the boards. Oubre Jr. couldn’t have filled those roles in the same way.

But are the Wizards better with Ariza where it counts?

At the time of the trade, the Wizards were 12-18. The team is 9-11 in his 20 games since joining. Being below .500 might not be much to get excited over, but he has done enough to keep the Wizards in the playoff chase and helped their chances. As of this writing, they’re 3.5 games out.

The catch in all of this is that Ariza may not be someone the organization or fans should get too attached to. His name still mentioned in trade rumors, depending on how the Wizards are faring at any given point. He’s also has a free agent after this season, so his second stint in D.C. could be a short one.

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Regardless of what happens, thus far Ariza has provided the Wizards a sense of stability and veteran leadership. The noise and tension coming out of the locker room has gone away, even amid the stresses of major injuries. Overall, Ariza has been a reliable presence for a hot-and-cold Wizards squad, and given the Wizards reason to believe the playoffs are in reach.