Trevor Ariza: Debunking Myth #2

2010 March 23
by rahat huq

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 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: we look to be set at the wings for the next few years with Martin and Ariza.

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  • "The words ’small forward’ and ’shooting guard’ are simply interchangeable..."

    I agree, except - Isn't the practical distinction that the SF is nearly always the taller of the two wings? This make sense, because you usually don't want a big height difference when assigning guarding duties.

    The other duties should be assigned acoording to skill, as you write.

    Tall wings usually guard tall wings.
  • rahat_huq
    that's just a case of it usually working out that way rather than being set by definition. shooting guards/small forwards often cross matchup defensively. also recall that mario elie was 6'5 and listed at small forward, while clyde at 6'7 was our shooting guard.

    small forwards are definitely usually taller than shooting guards. similarly, shooting guards usually handle the ball more than small forwards. but its not a case of the coach saying, "oh, trevor, you're at the 3. ok, don't dribble it as much."
  • Lars
    I just wish Ariza could keep the opponents under 70 points in a half (unlike Battier)
  • Easy
    This is why the all-star game categorizing players as "centers" "forwards" and "guards" are so senselessly archaic. PFs are way more like Cs than SFs. And SGs are way more like SFs than PGs.

    I would much rather them do PGs, Wings, and Bigs. Or, even simpler, Perimeter players and Interior players. In a lot of systems, PGs and SGs aren't that much different anyway.
  • Christopher
    Rahat, as usual, you're right-on. In each of these last two posts, I agree so utterly that I don't have anything to add!
  • clos4life
    But he still can't defend his man "on the ball" worth one lick (unlike Battier).

    I've majorly like what I've seen from him since the trade though. Seeing him shows he is a good role player which is all he should ever bee.
  • jcogz43
    who are you talking about right now?
  • jcogz43
    how is aaron brooks worse than rafer alston??? am i the only one on this website who has faith in the fact the daryl morey is the smartest and most stat- savy gm in the league?? look at the last trade

    4 games played - JOEY DORSEY - although potential and well liked no real value
    clutch 4th quarter -CARL LANDRY-yes it was sad to see him go, but give some get ALOT
    40 min played all year, washed up-TRACY MCGRADY-NO VALUE!!!!

    in return
    KEVIN MARTIN- maked our backcourt just about best in league
    JARED JEFFRIES-solid backup defender
    Hilton Armstrong-extraaaa
    JORDAN HILL - difference maker
    (question, why would dantoni draft hill if he said pf/c was too full for him to get a chance. WTF?!?!)

    we essentially traded 1 player for 2, maybe 3 difference makers
    this combo, combined with yao ming and some more XP, the rockets can be a very solid team next year

    btw, can u guys please stop knocking aaron brooks, he is the only reason why we are relevant this year, and i bet my brooks jersey he will get most improved player of the year
  • Aussie_Ric
    Awesome point Rahat. I've always been peeved by the notion that different positions have different roles based on arbitrary names. A load of poppycock.

    Anyway, my first post, thought I'd take the chance to let you know that you're doing an awesome job with this blog. I've been a Rockets fan since the early 90's, but there's a massive lack of info here in Australia. I've only just managed to get interested in the league again, and this blog is my main source of post game info. Cheers for the effort, keep it up ;)
  • rahat_huq
    thanks a lot ric, glad you're enjoying it.
  • rahat_huq
    Agreed on Rafer - he ran this team very smoothly and never made mistakes as a point guard. I disagree on Brooks. He has a completely different role in this offense as did Rafer in that he's not really a point guard. This offense doesn't really have a point guard. His role is just as the primary scorer.
  • mainsworth
    Yup, basically have two shooting guards with AB and Martin. AB is like 80% shooting guard, 20% point guard.
  • Kevin
    Aaron Brooks needs to understand that he is the team's point guard. Say what you want about Rafer, but he ran the offense. There were times when the Rockets were playing extremely well and you didn't even notice he was on the court. AB is a ball hog. I'm really getting sick of him sprinting to the arc and jacking up shots with 5 ticks off the shotclock and getting owned inside without one pass. He runs iso way too much. When we beat Denver he easily could have passed it back to Martin.
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