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.

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In the aftermath of Game 7

  • It dawned on me this morning that last night’s result was the first time in my adult life that I became crushed emotionally from a loss by one of the Houston sports teams. The Texans have never been good enough to warrant anything but ridicule, even if some around these parts seem to think they would have been on their way to a Super Bowl had Matt Schaub not been stepped on at the line of scrimmage; they would have found a way to mess it up anyways because that’s what they do. Albert Pujols’ shot off Brad Lidge didn’t end the series and a sweep (like the one the Astros suffered at the hands of the White Sox) isn’t crushing so much as it is merciful to finally be put out of one’s misery. And the Rockets, for as good as they’ve been, and they’ve been very good, since the Stockton shot, have never quite fit the bill as a true bonafide contender or anything more than a team that maybe could put together a run if things went their way. Until this year.

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Sort of a rambling Game 7 preview

It\’s not hyperbole to refer to tonight as the biggest game in Rockets history since 1995. You could argue that only Game 7 in 1994 against the Knicks was bigger. The two Game 7\’s against Phoenix were in the semifinals, and Houston never faced elimination in the Finals against Orlando or in the conference finals either year. Game 6 in 1997–the Stockton game–also was not for all the chips, though before today it probably stood up there in second place. Nothing that has happened ever since has been even remotely close in significance. The Game 7 Houston played against Kobe\’s Lakers, without either Yao or McGrady, never even felt like the good guys had a chance.

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