The Houston Rockets have defied expectations this year and have quickly become a top team in the West. In the middle of it all, they’ve had bounce-back seasons from a number of players, with Trevor Ariza being chief among them.
If their start to the season is any judge, the Houston Rockets will make plenty of people eat some crow once this year comes to a close.
After their polarizing offseason (that’s a friendly way of putting it, by the way), the Rockets have quickly become a top team in the Western Conference, at 15-7 a little more than a month into the season.
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Considering the number of notable changes made over the summer, the Rockets have learned fast while integrating new additions on the roster as well as a new voice in charge with new head coach Mike D’Antoni.
Led by the ever-talented James Harden, the reason behind the hot start for the Rockets has been their high powered offense.
Although Harden is certainly the engine to it all, the Rockets have gotten plenty of help from a number of contributors, both new and old. Of the latter players, one name stands out, although his game may not.
Now in his third season with the Rockets, Trevor Ariza is currently on pace to have a career year in a number of categories.
At 12.6 points per game, Ariza has been hitting shots at a blistering rate, shooting 38.2 percent from deep as well as averaging an effective field goal percentage of 57.8 percent, which would be a career high.
When you consider 70 percent of his shots come from beyond the three-point line, Ariza’s efficiency as a spot-up three-point shooter puts him in a rare class of players who are at such a volume.
The other area where Ariza excels, the defensive end, has come with a few more flaws than one would think, although the lion’s share is attributed to the Rockets’ mediocre defensive rating.
No matter the circumstances, Ariza’s responsibilities on that end of the floor might not be bigger than they’ve been throughout his 13-year career.
Being the long, rangy defender that he is, Ariza has often handled the tougher defensive assignments for the Rockets, no matter the position of the player.
Being tied for sixth in steals per game (2) along with Kawhi Leonard, Ariza’s knack for intercepting passes has remained intact to start the year and it’s just a sign that he’s still capable of playing a high level defensively, despite his advanced age.
Overall, Ariza’s impact on both ends of the floor has made him vital to the team’s success so far. The biggest indicator of that comes via ESPN.com’s Real Plus-Minus Projection system as Ariza ranks 16th (3.89).
With this being a return to form so far, it’s important for Ariza, and more importantly the Rockets, that he maintains this level of play throughout the rest of the year.
Even with his hot start, there’s still room for improvement, especially defensively and Ariza could/will be a key for the Rockets if that turns out to be the case on that end.
It’s hard to name a player for the Rockets who hasn’t benefited to the system change under D’Antoni and therefore, Ariza’s success so far isn’t out of the ordinary compared to anyone else on the team.