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Rockets, Trevor Ariza should expect some regression

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Trevor Ariza and John Wall made beautiful 3-point music last season. Can the Rockets expect their new small forward to bring his hot hand from Washington to H-Town?

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

There's no question that Chandler Parsons' move to Dallas this past off-season left the Rockets with a few gaps that needed filling.

Parsons' ability to knock down threes created valuable spacing for James Harden. Most casual basketball fans understand the concept of floor spacing, but it bares repeating: When defenders are forced to close out on open shooters, the middle of the floor opens up lanes for slashing players like Harden to cut to the basket. That's good for the Rockets because Harden shot a ridiculous 58.5 percent from five feet or less. He's also especially talented at drawing the foul once he enters that part of the court, attempting 9.1 free throws a game, which was good for second in the league only to Kevin Durant.

Without a small forward that forces defenders to close out to defend the three, the defense is able to sag into the lane and make it difficult for the offense to get quality looks near the basket.

The fix seems simple enough: find a small forward that can knock down the long ball at an above-average rate, and the spacing should remain unaffected by their presence on the floor.

As a replacement at starting small forward, the Rockets signed Trevor Ariza to a four-year deal valued at around $32 million.

At first glance this appears to be a steal based purely off of last season's shooting percentages. Ariza shot 40 percent from behind the arc as opposed to Parsons' "meh" 37 percent (All statistics came from Basketball-Reference and NBA.com's stats database)

Perhaps even more telling, when we look at what percentage of their respective threes were shot from the corners -- the most efficient jump shot on the court -- we see that 39 percent of all of Ariza's threes came from the corner as opposed to 21 percent of Parsons', according to NBA.com's player tracking stats database.

Based on this information, it would seem that spacing might actually improve with Ariza on the wing.

However, if we reach back a bit further in the stats books it becomes obvious that Ariza's performance last year isn't necessarily reflective of his career. Last season was the first time he broke the 37 percent mark on shots behind the arc. In fact, his career average is a mere 34 percent.

So, what gives? Why the sudden production and more importantly, can it be replicated in Houston?

The short answer here is John Wall. Technically Wall and Ariza played together in the 2012-13 season but Wall only managed to play 49 games that season. Ariza only played 56. Last year was really the first and only full season the two had together, and the results were spectacular.

In his only full season playing with Wall, Ariza was in the top six in the league in catch-and-shoot threes made per game, along with elite shooting company like Kyle Korver, Klay Thompson, Ryan Anderson and Kevin Love.

Wall led the league in assists to the corner, and three-point assists overall. Obviously the man has a knack for finding the open shooter and making opposing defenses pay.

So will the Rockets be able to replicate the kind of production the Wizards saw from Trevor "I'ma Get Paid" Ariza last year?

In short: Probably not.

Sure, The Beard is pretty damn good at finding open shooters in the corner when he drives to the rim. Last year he ranked eighth in the league at that very thing with 51 total corner-three assists. But... John Wall had 112.

What we can more likely expect is the Ariza of old. He'll make some of the same shots that Chandler did and there's no question that he'll offer much more active hands on defense than we previously saw at that position.

All things considered, spacing for Harden to drive shouldn't be greatly affected in one direction or the other, but to expect for him to maintain a 40 percent average from three-point land is fairly illogical. And if there's one thing that the Rockets organization isn't...