The Trevor Ariza experiment in Houston is finished as ESPN’s Chad Ford reports the Rockets finalized a four-team trade. I don’t know what to think of it quite yet. Ariza is already a very solid role player in this league. His offensive numbers have steadily improved over the last two years. Last season, in particular, he saw a huge development from the year before with the Lakers, and I see him going nowhere but up. He improved his points per game by +6, rebounds per game by +1.3, assists per game by +2, three pointers per game by +1.2, and turnovers by +1.1. The only categories he had drop offs in were field goal percentage and free throw percentage, albeit two important categories.
Also, having an Ariza/Battier combination at small forward gives the Rockets a huge plus on the defensive side of the ball. As I have written before, the Rockets most pressing concern comes on the defensive end. Getting rid of your second best defender doesn’t help a team improve this statistic. Ariza/Battier is the only combination aside from Kobe/Ron Ron who could match up against the two-headed monster that is LeBron and Wade. It really shows the faith Morey and staff have in Chase Budinger, who will most likely take over the back-up SF role.
Ariza had the keys to the Rockets franchise. Morey saw a future franchise player in him, and gave him the green light to take this team to the playoffs. But TA quickly learned he is best used as a utility guy. Even when Martin came in, Ariza took a back seat by taking less shots. He showed great potential at times, but constant inconsistency shut down any talks of a franchise player. That being said, it is a shame Rockets fans won’t ever see how he and Yao would have meshed together offensively.
On the plus side, the deal will save Houston close to $10 million in luxury tax and salary. They also get a solid player in Courtney Lee, who will be K-Mart’s back up (sorry Jermaine Taylor). Lee is another character guy (Morey loves these type of players) with a great jump shot. His offensive mindset is similar to Battier in that he has trouble taking a shot off the dribble. When left open though…he is dangerous. In two NBA seasons, Lee has averaged 10.3 points on 44.2 percent shooting. Last year, he averaged 12.5 points with the Nets. On the defensive end, he is proven but doesn’t have the frame Ariza has and often gets caught watching the ball. Overall he has nice intangibles for an Adelman system, but the question is: will be a good fit. To read full details on the trade click here.