Signing Trevor Ariza last summer would’ve been a solid move, but instead he opted to go to the Phoenix Suns for $15 million and that became a problem quickly. The Kings were able to land Harrison Barnes in a trade for essentially Justin Jackson and now have him locked up for the future, but a hole remained for a backup wing. Now, the Kings filled that hole by signing Ariza on a two-year, $25 million deal a season later.
The 34-year-old Ariza had a peculiar 2018-19 season, playing for two of the worst teams in the league in the Phoenix Suns and eventually the Washington Wizards when he got traded. For both teams, he averaged 12.5 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.7 assists on basically 40 percent shooting and 33.4 percent from deep.
With Washington and all of the injuries that tallied up, Ariza became one of the more significant options when the team wanted a bucket. His 11.8 field goal attempts a game was the third most during his time in Washington, trailing Bradley Beal and Bobby Portis (John Wall was technically up there but he eventually was lost for the season).
His shot chart isn’t the most aesthetically pleasing but it does fit what the Kings ideally needed in a backup forward. He excels from the corner but struggles on above the break threes, despite those areas being the majority of his attempts.
Ariza is generally a catch and shoot guy from the perimeter and the majority of his attempts come with no dribbles. He converts them at a 34 percent clip. I’ve always loved Ariza’s smooth shooting stroke and his fearlessness to let it fly with defenders nearby. What’s strange about his game is that he fares better when a defender is 2-4 feet near him (shooting 44.9 percent on all shots) than when the nearest defender is 4-6 feet from him (32.3 percent on all attempts).
He’s under the league average mark when it comes to finishing at the rim and converts on layups at 49.5 percent which aren’t pleasing numbers.
Ariza also brings a solid rebounding presence, averaging 5.4 a game and having a defensive rebounding percentage of 15.2. Most of his rebounds come uncontested though, with 79.3 percent of his rebounds being grabbed with no defenders challenging. Nonetheless, it’s a nice perk he’ll be bringing with him to Sacramento.
Another improved aspect of his game has been his passing, as his assists jumped to 3.7 a game this season. His assist total per game hasn’t been this high since the 2009-10 season when it was 3.8 a game. Last season, he only averaged 1.6 assists a game but he was playing with James Harden. Ariza also had an assist percentage of 14.8, the third highest total of his career so the Kings are getting someone who is capable of moving the ball with smart passes.
The most important thing that comes to mind when you talk about Ariza is his defense. He’s always been regarded as a great defender but some of his in-depth numbers were really troubling.
For one, Ariza is still a tremendously smart ball stealer. He averaged 1.3 a game this year and has been consistent with his SPG numbers throughout his 15 year career. He still jumps passing lanes with his long arms and goes after 50/50 balls.
Where he fell hard was how opponents fared on shots when Ariza was the primary defender. On overall attempts, opponents shot 54.7 percent with Ariza guarding. It’s a DIFF% of 8.8. On three point attempts, opponents were 40.2 percent with a DIFF% of 4.3. Players benefited massively with Ariza guarding them and that’s not a positive sign.
For comparison, the prior season in Houston, Ariza had difference percentages of 1.0 on overall attempts and a -7.6 percent on three point attempts.
Ariza also posted 1.2 defensive win shares, his lowest total since the 2007-08 season. His defensive box plus minus was a -0.4, the first negative mark in his lengthy career.
There’s two ways I think of when processing this signing. One, Ariza is a 34 year old player on the decline and his inefficient shooting and lower defensive numbers support that. Or secondly, he just played for two bad teams and had to shoulder a bigger load with the Wizards. On a much better roster in Sacramento and a less prominent role, Ariza could have a better year efficiency wise but I wouldn’t bet on him putting up standout numbers.
With a partial guarantee on the second year of his deal, Ariza could fill out his role perfectly and come back for one more season. If he doesn’t work out, it’s basically a one year deal.
Ariza gives the Kings lineup flexibility and his ability to guard multiple positions and switch out will be key for this team. The Kings can put out small ball lineups like Fox-Buddy-Ariza-Barnes-Bagley, go tall with Bogi-Ariza-Barnes-Bagley-Dedmon, I mean there’s numerous options with this addition. The core bench at the moment is Yogi Ferrell, Nemanja Bjelica, Harry Giles, Bogi and Ariza. It’s a much better bench situation than last year.
If the Kings get the Ariza from before this past season, they’re getting a solid signing off the bench that gives this team a definite upgrade at the backup forward spot.