Rebuking Some Trade Criticisms

The backlash against the Hornets' latest trade has (expectedly) begun to flow in. I'm not too surprised, given that my own initial reaction to the deal was lukewarm at best. But many of the criticisms of the deal are a little off the mark. I'll take Kelly Dwyer's latest Yahoo! Sports story as a representative piece, since it covers most of the negativity quite thoroughly. 

Let us all be jumping now.

I don't mean this to be FJMish (ie, mockery), but it's laid out FJMly to best critique KD's points. 

Ariza just isn't as nearly as good as teams keep making him out to be. There's a reason Houston was ready to dump the guy with only the suddenly-looking-much-older Shane Battier(notes) in reserve at small forward along with Chase Budinger(notes), only picking up a shooting guard that will have to find spot minutes behind Kevin Martin(notes).

The reason Houston decided to dump the guy is pretty well-known. In Los Angeles, Ariza was a role-playing small forward who made for a great fit, given all the open looks he had created for him. His playoff three point shooting was highly flukey, but the rest of his game was not. He used his athleticism to get to open spaces on the floor and score. A 121 ORtg in 2007 with L.A. (24) games and a 112 ORtg over a full season in 2008 reflect this. 

When, during summer 2008, Ariza hit the open market, many surmised that Ariza might be given too much money for his services. The midlevel exception that he received, though, was not too much of an overestimation his value- used properly, a terrific asset to any offense, and a very capable defender. What did come as a surprise is the role Houston decided to employ him in. In L.A., Ariza very rarely created his own shot. He was never the greatest dribbler or shooter off the dribble.

For whatever reason (and it's even more surprising, given that this was the much vaunted D. Morey), Houston decided that he would be great at these things. His usage rate shot up from 16.7% in Los Angeles to 21.2% in Houston. In L.A., 55.5% of his shots were assisted. In Houston, that figure dwindled to 48.8%. Most stunningly, Ariza was assisted on 54.5% of shots within 10 feet in L.A. In Houston, that number dropped to 16.7%. From 16-23 feet, Ariza was assisted on 59% of all shots. In Houston? Try 27.7%. The Rockets inexplicably tried to make him into a go-to scoring option. Basically everyone that knew anything about Trevor Ariza knew this wasn't going to work. And it didn't. The "reason Houston was ready to dump the guy" isn't because Ariza was bad. It's because they made a terrible initial evaluation of the player, and Ariza didn't fit their offense one iota. 

There's a reason Mitch Kupchak told Ariza to stick it, following his agent's laughable attempt at playing hardball with the Lakers last summer.

I find it pretty questionable to use rejection by Mitch Kupchak as an argument against Ariza, especially when Kupchak's subsequent pick up (R. Artest) proved to be a considerably worse signing than Ariza by various evaluations, and one I'm relatively certain K. Dwyer even bashed at some point.

He's a great defender and purely a spot-up shooter that has shot 32 percent from long range over his career, 33 percent last year, 32 percent the year before that, and (wait for it) 47. 6 percent from behind the three-point during the 2009 playoffs; the lasting image before his free agent turn.

Yes, it's true Ariza is a vastly overrated shooter. The Hornets aren't going to use him in that role; the fact that they traded for a near ~40% career three point shooter a few hours after trading for Ariza should indicate.. something.

Ariza is a fantastic athlete that can finish on the break, but he can't dribble, can't set up a good shot from inside the arc, and didn't really seem to understand this last season.

I would (a) contend that this wasn't a case of Ariza "understanding" or failing to "understand" anything. It was a function of Houston stuffing a dodecahedronal peg into a square hole. And (b), Ariza won't need to "dribble" or "set up good shots" in New Orleans because in the team's employ happens to be the league's preeminent performer in both those disciplines.

***

Again, I'm still disappointed that New Orleans lost Collison. But as we've said here many times, it's questionable that the team was ever going to get "fair value" back. Dell Demps made the decision to move him this summer, despite that fact (and that's a decision that maybe more intelligently critiqued). The above condemnations of Trevor Ariza, though, are pretty absurd.

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