June 20, 2012, is turning out to be on of the finer moments during Ernie Grunfeld‘s woeful tenure as the Washington Wizards general manager. On that day, the Wizards acquired Trevor Ariza and Emeka Okafor from the New Orleans Hornets while giving up Rashard Lewis, his contract ($13 million), and a second round pick. Okafor was later flipped for current center Marcin Gortat (12.7 ppg and 9 rpg this season), but Ariza has remained with the team and is playing at the highest level of his nine-year career.
Ariza is averaging career highs in nearly every major statistical this season for the 33-29 Wizards. He is averaging 15.2 points per game. His previous career high was 14.9 points per game during the 2009-10 season, where he spent one year in Houston. He is averaging a career best 6.4 rebounds per game, shooting a career best from beyond the arc (43.7 percent), and is tied with his career high for steals per game at 1.8. He has had nice seasons throughout his career, but it really seems like it all came together for him this season.
The biggest reason for Ariza’s monster year is because of his lethal shooting ability this season. He has been one of the best shooters in the league this season. Ariza’s true shooting percentage is 60.9 so far this season. True shooting percentage is a measure of shooting efficiency that takes into account two-point field goals, three-point field goals, and free throws. Ariza’s 60.9 percent mark ranks 21st in the league, but Ryan Hollins leads the category at 72.1 percent so take that with a grain of salt. However, to put it in better perspective, Ariza is one of only seven players to have a true shooting percentage better than 60 percent while taking 11 or more shots a game. This eliminates guys like Hollins, who only takes 1.3 shots per game. Some of the other players on the exclusive list with Ariza are LeBron James, James harden, Kevin Durant, and Goran Dragic. Not bad company.
Ariza does most of his damage from the three-point line. He makes 2.6 three-pointers per game, fourth best in the league. His 43.7 percent from deep is ninth best in the league, but he is only one of four players in the NBA who has attempted more then 250 threes while still shooting better than 40 percent. His shooting has been nothing short of elite this season.
While Ariza deserves a ton of credit for working on his jump shot (previous career high from three was 36.4 percent), John Wall has had a supreme impact on Ariza’s career year. Ariza knows it, I know it, anyone that turns on a Wizards game will notice it pretty quickly, Trevor Ariza does not want to put the ball on the floor. He is player who is at his best when he is catching and shooting. And that is exactly what he has been doing this year and Wall deserves most of the credit for him to be able to do this.
Wall has been finding players at an elite level this season. He has the most assists in the league (555) and is one of only four players to have an assist percentage of better than 40 percent while playing in 40 or more games. Assist percentage is an estimate of percentage of teammate field goals a player assisted on when he was on the floor. No one has benefitted greater from Wall’s superb vision and drive and kick skills more than Ariza. He has made 149 threes this season and 94.6 percent of those were assisted on. Wall was on the end of plenty of those. Over half of his points are off catch and shoot jump shots (7.5 per game) and he is shooting the second-most catch and shoot threes in the league with 5.1 per game, according to NBA.com Stats. He shoots six three pointers per game so more than 80 percent of his three-point attempts require no dribble at all. That has to be nice!
Just take the Memphis game last week for example. Wall was part of all four threes Ariza knocked down. Wall assisted on three of the three-pointers and had a hockey assist on the other. They have developed a great chemistry together. Wall seems to always know where Ariza is on the court and Ariza is always ready to shoot. It is a gamble for opposing teams defending them because Wall can blitz any defense with his blazing speed, which collapses the defense leading to kick outs for open threes or a driving lane for Wall if the defense stays out on shooters. The Wizards have been able to base their offense around this because of how good Wall is and how Ariza, Bradley Beal, and Martell Webester can shoot the basketball.
Ariza doesn’t just play offense either. He is a very solid defender. He averages nearly two steals a game and can disrupt offenses with his length. The Wizards allow 104.7 points per 100 possessions, which is ninth best in the league and Ariza’s perimeter play is one of the reasons why they have been this solid. The Wizards allow 3.7 points less per 100 possessions when he is on the court. He is also a very good rebounder for a small forward and defense isn’t over until someone secures the rebound so his 5.1 defensive rebounds per game are crucial as well.
While Ariza’s season has been a career one, his numbers post All-Star break are All-Star worthy. He is averaging 19.1 points per game along with 6.4 rebounds per game while shooting 62.1 percent from three-point land and boasting a 75.3 true shooting percentage. Step aside, Ryan Hollins. His offensive rating since the break is an absurd 136. This recent hot streak includes a game against the 76ers in which he dropped 40 points, a career high, including eight three-pointers.
OK, well I guess I will bring it up, Ariza is in a contract year. A lot of people believe players are always on top of their game during a contract year so they can gat paid the following year. This may be a factor in why he is having his best year yet, but he has other contract years in his career and has not been this good. He is in his prime as a player, on a playoff team, and is playing alongside one of the best point guards in the league, claiming this is just another “contract year” seems like a cop out to me.
This is a career year.