The challenges in playing Trevor Ariza

From The Ringer:

Ariza had a minuscule playoff usage rate of 13.5. He can’t take defenders off the dribble, he’s not an effective post scorer, and he doesn’t shoot off of movement. Ariza depends entirely on Harden, Paul, and Eric Gordon to create shots for him, which puts a tremendous amount of pressure on the Rockets’ lead ball handlers when they are playing an elite defense like the Warriors. The math was difficult for Houston in the series, even before Paul went down with a hamstring injury in Game 5, because it had no one else who could create offense.

This was a great piece today from The Ringer diving into the numbers on Trevor Ariza’s offensive inabilities. It’s a topic I’ve gone in on repeatedly in the past, and a sensitive one at that, given the emotional connection cultivated through his longevity. Ariza is in some ways the heart and soul of this team, now the sole holdover on this roster from James Harden’s debut season, aside from Harden himself. It’s hard to imagine this team without Ariza, and that sentiment is more strongly asserted given his defensive efforts in the postseason. He was all-world in the grand scheme of Houston’s defensive scheme, and left everything he had on the hardwood. But it was once unfathomable too to consider life after Patrick Beverley.

Ariza’s problem is that there is very little he does well on offense. He can’t punish smaller defenders inside, he can’t create on his own, and he can’t score in motion; he’s a volume shooter who also isn’t particularly great at attacking close-outs. Maybe none of this matters in a world where Chris Paul is healthy. But I can’t help but imagine the Rockets with another perimeter player with a shred of self-reliance offensively. Maybe that’s odd considering Houston was at one point flirting with the best offensive rating in the league. I guess that sort of self-evaluation is what a matchup with Golden State merits.

About the author: Rahat Huq is a lawyer in real life and the founder and editor-in-chief of Red94.net.

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