A month ago, the Houston Rockets let Chandler Parsons go to the Dallas Mavericks as a restricted free agent, not bothering to match the offer the Mavericks gave Parsons and instead opting to try and lure Chris Bosh over to Houston. After Bosh spurned the Rockets, general manager Daryl Morey did what he could to salvage the situation by signing Trevor Ariza to a four-year, $32 million contract.
While the deal is much more affordable than Parsons’ new three-year, $46 million contract, the Rockets presumably settled for a worse player to fill in the small forward starting slot. But is that really the case? Let’s compare:
As we can see, Parsons was a better scorer than Ariza, scoring more points per game while maintaining a higher field goal percentage. Parsons was also more dynamic than Ariza, being able to distribute to his teammates and put the ball on the floor in a way Ariza will never be able to. In fact, Parsons finished sixth in assists per game by a small forward. The players ahead of him were: LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Nicolas Batum, Tyreke Evans and Andre Iguodala.
By comparison, Ariza was tied for 13th with Gerald Wallace. Offensively, Parsons trumps Ariza in almost every facet, except for three-point shooting and rebounding, though Parsons’ 37 percent from deep is definitely not anything to be ashamed of. Defensively, Ariza averaged more steals per game than Parsons, but also less blocks and could only play on the perimeter, while Parsons could spot some time at power forward if the Rockets wanted to go with a small ball lineup.
On the surface, it looks like Parsons is the better player, specifically based on his offense.Well, that’s not entirely the case. Here are their respective advanced metrics:
This tells a different tale. For one, the offensively superior Parsons is only just slightly better than Ariza in Player Efficiency Rating (PER) and Offensive Rating (ORtg). You would think that Parsons would have easily outclassed Ariza in these categories, seeing how he beat Ariza in multiple offensive categories, and yet, Ariza is right there with him.
Due to his excellent long range shooting, Ariza trumps Parsons in True Shooting percentage (TS%) and effective Field Goal percentage (eFG%). It’s a bit of a surprise that both of them were merely above average in PER, considering they were pretty effective on the offensive end. The real surprise, however, comes in the form of Win Shares (WS) and Win Shares per 48 minutes (WS/48).
Win Shares is a cumulative statistic, meaning the more a player gets minutes, the higher his Win Shares can get. The more wins a team accumulates, the higher a player’s Win Shares will be. It’s the reason why we see good players on bad teams have low Win Shares. Ariza played 60 less minutes than Parsons and his team, the Washington Wizards, had a 44-38 record, 10 whole wins less than the Rockets’ 54-28 record, yet he still somehow beats him out in Win Shares, easily outclassing him in Defensive Win Shares (DWS). This is what will make Ariza so valuable to the Rockets going forward: his defense on the perimeter, and his ability to stretch the floor for James Harden and Dwight Howard, not to mention his affordable contract making him easily movable should the Rockets want to move him next offseason in an attempt to target a big free agent.
Losing Parsons seemed like a big blow for the Rockets, and it will definitely change how the team plays since Ariza is not as dynamic on the offensive end as Parsons. It will force Harden and Howard to pull even more of Houston’s weight offensively because they lost two important offensive players in Parsons and Jeremy Lin. However, the spacing on the court for Harden’s drives to the rim and Howard’s post play should be pretty wide open, lest teams get burned by Ariza’s elite three-point shooting.
In reality, Trevor Ariza more than holds his own when compared to Parsons and was actually better than him according to more than a few advanced metrics. The Rockets also got him on a much more affordable deal than what Parsons was signed to. What they got in return was a player who will contribute a lot more on the defensive end and on the glass, which could seriously help Houston cover up Harden’s non-existent defense. Coupled with Patrick Beverley being the unquestioned starting point guard, Houston’s defense could get a whole lot better next year.
What do you think? Who will have a better 2014-2015 season?