It is safe to say that Ariza, the longest-tenured Rocket except for James Harden, is third on the Rockets’ priority list in their free agency agenda. Chris Paul is an unrestricted free agent seeking a max contract and Clint Capela is a restricted free agent who will likely receive a maximum deal as well.
With CP3 and Capela needing to be taken care of, a lot of money will be thrown their way, leaving less money for Ariza than he desires. Ariza has spent the last four seasons in H-Town and has participated in two Conference Finals runs with the team. And at the age of 32, it is safe to say that Ariza wants to continue playing for a contender, but it is also likely his final chance to cash in on a big money deal.
Finding that balance will be difficult for Ariza since the Rockets, the team who likely has the best chance outside of the Warriors, will likely not be able to offer him the most money, but will offer him one of the best chances to win his second ring. This rumor also contradicts the rumor of the Warriors’ interest in Ariza, because the Warriors will not be able to pay him anywhere near what he wants.
This is not really a matter of Ariza wanting to leave the Rockets. He will definitely consider signing with the Rockets no matter what their offer is, he wants to stay. His tears that he shed after losing Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals showed a desire to want to get back and beyond the Conference Finals. But this is a chance for Ariza to take his first super, major payday of his career, one that is long overdue.
Ariza is stuck in the ‘good’ small forward tier. For majority of the past ten seasons, Ariza has bounced around the league as a starter logging a good chunk of minutes and averaging double digits in scoring. However, Ariza is crowded by superstar small forwards and is simply one step below that tier.
Ariza enters free agency this summer as the third best free agent SF behind LeBron James and Paul George. With both LBJ and PG likely signing with a contender, or attempting to create a contender on their own, it limits Ariza’s options. Those dominoes will have to fall first before Ariza makes his decision if he chooses to sign with a contender as well.
The Rockets will make a pitch to both James and George before reaching out to Ariza, because those two are the only players who resemble an upgrade at the position.
It is very possible that the Rockets can come to a compromise from Ariza’s asking price and be able to return all three of Paul, Capela, and Ariza. If the Warriors were able to ink Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, and Andre Iguodala last year, certainly the Rockets can sign this trio back together again to run it back with the squad that won 65 games last season.
However, if the Rockets want to be able to do that, they are going to have to give Ariza a little more than what they had hoped.