For three straight seasons now, I’ve been clamoring for a reduction in Trevor Ariza’s minutes. Ariza was over or near 35 minutes per game in each of his three years since rejoining the Houston Rockets, and though he seemed to handle it fine during the regular season, it resulted in some dead legs that caused Ariza to under-perform in the postseason in two of those three seasons.
And though his minutes were cut a little this season with the arrival of forwards P.J. Tucker and Luc Mbah a Moute, Ariza still played 34 minutes on average each night, and it simply wasn’t enough once again to keep him fresh once the playoffs hit.
Ariza averaged just 8.8 points per game in the postseason, down from his regular season average of 11.7. His shooting was atrocious, as he put in just 36 percent of his shots from the field and was just 28.6 percent from beyond the arc. He infamously went 0-9 from deep in Houston’s Game 7 defeat to the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Finals.
As has often been the case with the Rockets since his return to town, when Ariza plays well, the Rockets usually win. The only problem is, for the fourth consecutive season, he didn’t play well in the playoffs often enough.
Ariza scored double-digit points six times in the 2018 playoffs. The Rockets were 5-1 in those contests. But the Rockets played in 17 postseason games this year, so those double-digit nights came in just over one-third of Houston’s games. Not nearly enough.
Ariza’s just 32 year old, and although that makes him technically past his prime, 32 is far from ancient for a professional athlete these days. But don’t forget, Ariza came out as high schooler, so he’s already played 14 seasons in the Association. He’s also played in 102 playoff games, adding essentially one full season and a quarter onto his legs.
He’s also been mostly an iron man since his return to H-town. Though he did miss 15 games this year, that’s by far his most since the team re-acquired him in a trade in 2014. Prior to this season, he had missed just three total games in the previous three seasons combined. He’s played a ton of basketball.
At the risk of beating a dead horse here, with just a small reduction in minutes to around the 25 to 28-minute range, the Rockets would be able to maximize his effectiveness a little longer into the playoffs should he return to Houston this coming year.
Ariza will be an unrestricted free agent over the summer, and there’s no guarantee he’ll be back with the Rockets. Houston hasn’t been shy about their pursuit of another big name to add to their roster, with Paul George and LeBron James the two biggest fish in the rumor mill at the moment.
They’ll also be looking to re-sign Chris Paul over the summer, who will also be an unrestricted free agent and is reportedly looking for a max contract or something close to it.
They also have the Clint Capela situation to deal with. Capela will be a restricted free agent, and is certain to have numerous suitors after following up a much-improved regular season with a dominant at times playoffs. The Rockets simply may not have anything left to offer Ariza something substantial.
In addition, the rumors about Ariza’s offseason wishes are also starting to pop up. Just a few days ago, ESPN’s Chris Haynes spoke with some Bay Area reporters about potential offseason acquisitions for the Warriors, and Ariza’s name was floated as being willing to take a pay cut to join Golden State for another shot a ring in the back half of his career. Ariza did win one with the Lakers back in 2009, but has gotten no closer than the Western Conference Finals that he played in this year since then.
So with Houston’s roster most likely in flux due to heavy financial demands for returning players and possible incoming free agents, we may have seen the last of the the man they call “Switchblade” in a Rockets uniform. If we have, we’ll always have plenty of cool memories of the quintessential three-and-D guy, including the locker room incident with the Los Angeles Clippers this past season.
If we haven’t seen the last of Ariza, and he somehow finds his way back with the Rockets next season, please Mike D’Antoni and Daryl Morey, if you’re out there, give the guy a break and get him some more help on the wing. I don’t want to see him wear down and crap out for yet another postseason.