Get to Know: Trevor Ariza
The ‘3-and-D' description fits few players better than Trevor Ariza, whose stifling defense on one end and stellar three-point shooting on the other have made him an instrumental and undervalued piece on numerous title-contending teams.
A career 35.1-percent shooter from long range, the UCLA alum has balanced quantity with quality, finishing in the top-25 in made threes in each of the last six seasons, including a personal-best 194 triples in 2014-15 (seventh in the NBA).
At his best when spotting up from the corners, he’s converted on 39 percent or better from below the break in eight straight years, eclipsing the 60th percentile among wings in seven of those seasons, per Cleaning the Glass. Although 2018-19 was the lone exception (58th percentile), Ariza was still lights-out from the left corner (24-of-52; 46.2 percent), the ninth-best mark among players with as many attempts.
Much like during his Rockets tenure, when frequent open corner opportunities resulted from penetration to the rim by James Harden and Chris Paul, No. 0 will benefit from De’Aaron Fox drawing multiple defenders in the paint and Sacramento’s ensuing ball movement.
In 2017-18, his final season in Houston, Ariza launched 5.6 catch-and-shoot threes per game – tied for the sixth-most in the League – and converted on 39.9 percent, per NBA.com. When no defender was within six feet, he drilled 41.7 percent of his 3.3 attempts, good for ninth-best among high-volume shooters.
Although his efficiency in 2018-19 dipped slightly below his career norms, Ariza had a positive impact in Washington, accumulating the fourth-most offensive win shares (1.1) on the team in only 43 games, per basketball-reference.com.
The injury-riddled Wizards scored 4.8 more points per 100 possessions when he was on the floor, according to NBA.com – the second-best net rating on the team among regulars – thanks in large part to his improved playmaking. He was not only the team’s third-leading scorer (14.1 points per game), but also ranked fourth with 3.8 assists, his highest average since 2009-10.
Fulfilling the other component of the ‘3-and-D’ equation, the player nicknamed “Switchblade” has proven capable of guarding nearly any position on the court, demonstrating his versatility by locking down perimeter scorers and switching onto bigs. Taking on the toughest defensive assignments and using his long arms to disrupt pick-and-rolls, Ariza held Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry to 31.3 and 33.3 percent shooting, respectively – and a combined 3-of-20 from deep – in the 2018 Western Conference Finals.
That season, the Florida native placed ninth in Real Plus/Minus (1.66) and 11th in DRPM (1.15) among small forwards (min. 50 games played), according to ESPN.com, and racked up the fourth-most defensive win shares (2.8) on the 65-win Rockets.
His 1.5 steals-per-game career average is the 15th-best among active players and his steal rate has graded between the 83rd and 96th percentile each season, per Cleaning the Glass. Adept at jumping passing lanes and denying the ball on entry passes, Ariza generated 2.6 deflections per 36 minutes last season, after notching 3.1 the year prior.
A solid defensive rebounder at his position, he’s pulled down at least five per game in four of his last six years, ranking in the upper third among wing players during that span. His five double-doubles in 2018-19 were his most in a single season since 2013-14, and he came one rebound shy of notching his second career triple-double with 23 points, 10 assists and nine boards on Jan. 13.
That combination of defensive intensity and offensive output has made the 16th-year veteran so invaluable in each of his stops and led to 102 Playoff appearances with five teams. During the 2008-09 Lakers’ championship run, Ariza – a teammate of Kings Head Coach Luke Walton – shot 47.6 percent from three and averaged 1.6 steals per outing.
The 34-year-old is expected to enter the season as the primary backup to Harrison Barnes at small forward, while, at times, due to his ability to space the floor and a decade-and-a-half worth of experience, shifting to guard or power forward. Having a player who can effectively play as many as three positions – and potentially defend four – will afford Sacramento the luxury of additional lineup flexibility.
In Washington, Ariza served as a mentor to Wizards All-Stars Bradley Beal and John Wall, and will fill that vital role on a young Kings team by helping Sacramento’s up-and-comers maximize their talent and fulfill their potential.
With Ariza serving as a three-point threat, willing passer and strong defender on the floor – and quintessential leader off it – a deep, well-balanced squad will reap the benefits and move one step closer to fulfilling its collective goal of reaching the postseason.