Forward Trevor Ariza left Wednesday’s night game against the San Antonio in the second quarter of the Wizards’ 92-79 loss with a strained right hamstring.
Ariza will undergo an MRI to determine how serious the injury is. It does not seem like it will be an injury that will have to cost him serious time, but he did say he felt “a little pop” when talking about the hamstring. Hearing a pop in any injury is not the best of signs. We will know the severity of the injury after the MRI.
The Wizards cannot afford to have Ariza miss a significant amount of time. They are off to another pitiful start and now go into Saturday’s game against the Cleveland Cavaliers without their starting small forward. Ariza has been one of the Wizards most all-around consistent players throughout this year.
Ariza brings a dimension to the Wizards defense that no one else does. He is extremely long and can guard any 3-guard as well as smaller power forwards because of his size. He has been excellent playing defense in the passing lanes to ignite fast breaks as well. Ariza is first on the team in steals as well as 10th in the entire league with 2.1 steals per game. He has been the best Wizards’ perimeter defender and if he has to miss even more time this already weak defensive unit could suffer even more.
His rebounding efforts would also be greatly missed if he is forced to sit out because of the hamstring. The Wizards lack a deep interior presence, which has caused Ariza to have to play bigger then his position. He is the second leading rebounder on this Wizards squad, averaging 6.6 boards per game. The Wizards are already in the bottom third of the league in rebounding and without Ariza, rebounding is another thing that could get even worse.
Defense and rebounding are not the only areas where the Wizards will suffer if Ariza has to miss more than a few games. He has been very good offensively, especially at hitting open shots that point guard John Wall sets up for him. According to NBA.com’s new player tracking stats, Ariza is one of the best catch and shoot players in the league. He is one of only nine players in the league to score more then seven points per game on catch and shoot situations as well as shooting better than 44 percent from the three point line on those catch and shoots. Ariza is also extremely good from the corners as well. The Wizards rely on three pointers as much as any team in the league and love to free up players for corner threes, especially Ariza. He is shooting a cool 14/27 on corner threes, which is the most efficient on the team.
The Wizards’ offense is centered on drive and kicks and because of that, Ariza is a player that has been hurting opposing defenses. He is third on the team in scoring, averaging 14.8 points per game on 40 percent shooting from three. Having a player like him on the court makes Wall and Bradley Beal’s job much easier because he spreads the court.
If Ariza has to miss time then Martell Webster will be entered into the starting lineup. Webster is a very similar player to Ariza offensively. Both guys are excellent catch and shoot players and love to knock down corner threes. So offensively the Wizards will not lose much if they have to insert Webster into the starting lineup. On Wednesday, Webster filled in for Ariza after he went down and scored 21 points. However, he is not as good a rebounder and does not have the same defensive instincts that Ariza possesses.
The gap between Ariza and Webster as players is not very big, but if Ariza’s injury ends up nagging him and keeping him off the court for extended time, having to start Webster makes the Wizards’ depth even more of an issue. The Wizards better have their fingers crossed that Ariza will be back on the court in no time.