It's the dawning of a new era in New Orleans basketball, and with so much attention paid to matters off the court this season, I believe it's time to evaluate how our franchise performed during its time on the court. As a result, I want to begin an evaluation of the front office, the roster and the coaching staff and see how they performed, what could happen going forward, and whether or not you approve of their job this season. Without further adieu, the next player we're going to look at is Trevor Ariza.
Eight season in the league (second with the Hornets) out of University of California, Los Angeles (1 Year, $7.3 Million left on Contract; $7.7 Million Player Option for 2014)
41 Games, 41 Starts, 10.8 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 3.3 APG, 1.7 SPG, 77.5 FT Pctg., 33.3 3PT FG Pctg., 41.7 FG Pctg., 14.2 PER, 100 Offensive Rating, 103 Defensive Rating
Best Game this Season: February 4th at Detroit (26 Points, 7 Rebounds, 4 Assists, 3 Steals in 42 Minutes during an 89-87 loss)
Ariza has been a mixed bag in New Orleans since being acquired for Darren Collison and James Posey back in the 2010 off season. He was brought in as someone who could defend very well, knock down the occasional three point shot and who had championship experience; winning a ring with the Lakers in 2009. But after winning that championship, Ariza signed a big deal with Houston and underperformed before he was traded to New Orleans. Then, last season, he was asked to do too much offensively (for the second consecutive year) and turned in what our fearless leader Rohan considers to be one of the worst offensive seasons in the history of the league. Shooting as often as he did and putting up the poor percentages that he did, it's a fair argument. And with the subtraction of Chris Paul, there were legitimate reasons to believe Ariza would struggle more this season. However, he actually improved.
Ariza, outside of his shooting (or outside of his outside shooting), is actually a pretty darn good player. He's the perfect complimentary piece. He does everything well without excelling in any one area. Ariza even played great as a facilitator this year, finishing with the highest assist% of his career and playing a role of point forward often for the Hornets. He reads the floor very well and although he does things that make you shake your head at times, he's not afraid of big moments and the added responsibility. Also, Ariza scaled down big time on how many three point shots he attempted a game, taking an average of 2.1 a game (compared to 5.7 in 2010 and 3.6 in 2011) and his 33.3 shooting percentage was the highest in that time. An improved shot selection did wonders for Ariza's true shooting percentage; which was the highest since his time with the Lakers.
Of course, Ariza has always been known for his defense and this year was no different. He regularly draws the other team's best wing player and that probably has a lot to do with his mediocre offensive numbers. His defensive rating was the second lowest of his career and Ariza is turning 27 in June, indicating that he's just reaching his physical peak as a player. There's reason to believe the best is yet to come for Ariza as a player in this league.
Ariza was regularly recognized as the most outwardly disappointed at the results of this season. Monty mentioned that losing took the biggest toll on him and he, himself, looked defeated after each loss. It was a frustrating season for Ariza. To make matters worse, he was benched for the last three weeks of the regular season so that Monty could give Al-Farouq Aminu an expanded role in the line-up to be more fairly evaluated. Because of that, it's led to speculation that Ariza could be on the market this off season. While I won't say for certain that he won't be traded, I do believe Ariza's spot on the team is safe for the start of next season. He fills a major need in a system that really needs it. He's also, even for his young age, a veteran who knows what's required to win in this league and that can't be ignored. Ariza, all things considered, could be even better for the Hornets next season.