This needs to be nipped in the bud before it gains legs. I’m having flashbacks to the first half of this year when the ‘go-to guy’ myth was put into circulation and perpetuated to the point of acceptance as fact.
Trevor’s resurgence has absolutely nothing to do with him now playing small forward. The ’2′ and the ’3′ are the exact same position. The words ‘small forward’ and ‘shooting guard’ are simply interchangeable, meaningless labels for the two wings that flank the point guard on the perimeter. A player’s duties on the court aren’t somehow delegated by title of position; they accord to his capabilities. The small forward doesn’t by definition handle the ball less than the shooting guard – that’s absurd. It just usually works out that way as most guys with the assigned title of ‘shooting guard’ have better handles than their small forward teammates. Tracy McGrady played small forward for the Houston Rockets after the David Wesley trade in ’05 and handled the ball even more than our point guards. Lebron James is a small forward. Paul Pierce is a small forward. The titles are meaningless and aren’t definitively reflective of roles.
Ariza has come into his own simply because the presence of Kevin Martin has forced down his usage and forced him back into doing the things that earned him his contract.
Because Martin can handle the ball and create off the dribble, he has now assumed the lion’s share of the complementary ballhandling duties. This has allowed Ariza to slash off of Brooks’/Martin’s penetration, spot up for 3′s, and run the floor. The results have been beautiful.
Last night, Trevor filled up the stat sheet, scoring 18 points (on 6-14 shooting), grabbing 9 boards, and dishing out 5 assists. Since the acquisition of Kevin Martin, he’s looked exactly like the player we thought we were getting.
I still don’t feel too comfortable with Ariza’s defense as he tends to gamble far too often for my liking, but the offense couldn’t be more encouraging. Almost every team in the league has a utility man in its starting lineup. In most cases, this player is almost completely unskilled. For us, in years past, this was typically an offensively incompetent big man like Kelvin Cato or a flat footed spot up shooter such as Shane Battier. What’s exciting about Ariza is that while he isn’t anywhere near skilled enough to take on the role of ‘star go-to player’ (as he was forced into doing in the 1st half), he’s about as good as it gets as a utility guy. His handles were too poor for him to create against pressure, but they are good enough to let him bring the ball up the court on the break (unlike Battier), create against light pressure (unlike Battier), and weave his way through traffic off the catch (unlike Battier.)
There’s much debate regarding Aaron Brooks’ and Luis Scola’s future status with this team. One thing is pretty clear though: the Houston Rockets look to be set at the wings for the next few years with Martin and Ariza.