For weeks now, Trevor Ariza has been killing me. But he also fascinates me.
I drafted Ariza in one head-to-head league this year. I can't say I was targeting him, but I get to the seventh round in this 14-team draft and realize I need a small forward-eligible player. So with pick No. 88, I spring for Ariza.
Sure, I've made better choices (oh Chris Kaman, what might have been). However, in my defense, I do own the top record in this league. I mention this not to boast, but because Ariza played a big part in my torrid start to the season. (Oh heck, I'll boast: I'm 80-22-2 and rolling.)
Anyway, of the 118 players who qualify, Ariza is dead last in the NBA in field goal percentage (.378). Here's another way to look at it: Through his first 44 games, Ariza managed to top 45 percent shooting just nine times. So poor shooting has been an issue from the start. But the thing is, in November and early December, fantasy owners could happily put up with it. Check out Ariza's splits in his first 21 games and his most recent 21 games, then I'll tell you something interesting about the dividing line I used.
First 21 games: 18.6 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 3.7 apg, 2.3 spg, 2.5 3-pointers, 17.9 FGA, .392 field goal percentage
Past 21 games: 13.9 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 3.9 apg, 1.3 spg, 1.4 3-pointers, 13.6 FGA, .371 field goal percentage
The 24-year-old was really, really productive early on. Think about 2.5 3s and 2.3 steals. No one can approach that combination. The only players other than Ariza to average at least 1.5 3s and 1.5 steals this season are Danny Granger (2.8 3s, 1.5 steals), Jason Kidd (1.9 3s, 1.7 steals) and Stephen Curry (1.6 3s, 1.9 steals). On top of that, Ariza was helping you in points, rebounds and assists. Sub-40 percent shooting wasn't a problem.
Now, about that dividing line: The Houston Rockets played their 22nd game on Dec. 13 in Toronto. By any measure, it was a low point for Ariza. He went 0-for-9 with one point and four turnovers in 26 minutes before getting ejected for taking a swing at the Raptors' DeMar DeRozan. Ariza was suspended for the next game. The bottom row represents his stats since the suspension.
Coincidence? Probably. Ariza did have one of his best efforts on Dec. 19, going for 31 points and five triples against the Oklahoma City Thunder. But what the splits make clear is that, through the season, Ariza has lost his aggressiveness. He's still solid in rebounds and assists, but his shot attempts are way down, and the drop-off in steals is astounding. Long story short, Ariza is killing me and you. He's become a liability in fantasy.
Houston Rockets head coach Rick Adelman says Ariza has lost confidence, but adds that he'll stick with him. Maybe the vote of confidence made a difference. The day after Adelman spoke, Ariza had his best performance in awhile: 19 points, 10 boards, a couple of 3s and a couple of steals against the Denver Nuggets. Of course, he was only 8-of-21 from the floor, but for what it's worth, it was the most shots he'd attempted since that huge game against the Thunder.
So maybe it gets better from here. Ariza owners can at least look to a favorable schedule in Week 15. More on that in a bit.
Week 15 at a glance
Believe it or not, this is the final full week of play before the All-Star break. The season will be roughly 60 percent complete. Talk about your lousy percentages.
While the action slows some, you should have little difficulty finding games in Week 15. Thirteen NBA teams play four times, while the Minnesota Timberwolves are the only team with two games. Among the 16 teams with three games, the Dallas Mavericks get to host both the Golden State Warriors and the Wolves (after visiting the Utah Jazz). While the Mavs are a pretty straight forward group for fantasy purposes, deep-leaguers could get something out of Drew Gooden. Erick Dampier is playing with knee problems, plus he generally doesn't see much time against small, quick lineups like the Warriors'.
"O" (offense) and "D" (defense) matchup ratings are based upon a scale from 1 (poor matchup) to 10 (excellent matchup), and are calculated using a formula that evaluates the team's year-to-date and past 10 games' statistics, their performance in home/road games depending on where the game is to be played, as well as their opponents' numbers in those categories. The Games T / H column lists the team's total number of games played as well as home games (T / H), and lists the cumulative rating from 1-10 of that week's matchups.
The Forecast: It's their week
Trevor Ariza, SG/SF, Houston Rockets (GS, @MEM, PHI): Be forewarned, Ariza is a particularly tough player to evaluate against the schedule. Some of his best nights from the field have come against strong defensive units like the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Thunder. Even if he does well overall, the percentages probably won't be pretty. Still, this three-game set has bounce-back written all over it. Warriors, Memphis Grizzlies and Philadelphia 76ers opponents are each in the NBA's top six in field goal percentage. In addition, Sixers opponents are second in 3s, while Warriors and Grizzlies opponents are third and 10th, respectively, in steals.
Kris Humphries, PF, New Jersey Nets (DET, @TOR, @BOS, @DET): As bad as it's been for the Nets, they may have found something in Humphries. In seven games with the team, he's averaging 14.0 points and 6.9 rebounds on 51.5 percent shooting. Humphries is virtually unrostered in ESPN.com leagues, but with four games he's a decent H2H plug-in for leagues of at least 12 teams. Not a lot to go on with this schedule, but Detroit Pistons opponents are seventh in field goal percentage.
Marcus Thornton, SG, New Orleans Hornets (PHO, OKC, PHI, @CHA): The Hornets recently dealt Devin Brown to the Chicago Bulls, opening up the starting shooting guard position for Thornton. So far, so good for the rookie. He had 19 points with three 3s in Portland on Jan. 25, and followed that up with 18 points and a couple of steals at Golden State on Jan. 27. Thornton's available in 98 percent of ESPN.com leagues and could get you a bunch of treys in Week 15. Sixers, Charlotte Bobcats and Phoenix Suns opponents are each in the top six in 3s.
Ben Wallace, PF/C, Detroit Pistons (@NJ, @IND, NJ): Why should you care that the 35-year-old Wallace is averaging 8.7 points in January? For one thing, that's a lot of offense for someone who was scoring fewer than 5.0 points per game previously. But more significantly, Wallace's 9.4 boards, 1.3 steals and 1.1 blocks can do you some good in leagues of at least 12 teams. The numbers suggest that Big Ben can be, um, big in Week 15. Indiana Pacers and Nets opponents are second and third in total rebounds, and they're second and fourth in steals.
The Forecast: They're weak
George Hill, PG, San Antonio Spurs (@SAC, @POR, @LAC): Hill has been rock steady while starting recently, and now Tony Parker is injured. In Hill's past five games, he's averaged 15.0 points while scoring between 12 and 16 points in each contest. Hill is worth rostering in leagues of at least 12 teams while Parker remains sidelined, though he won't give you much in assists (Hill averages just 2.7 dimes as a starter). And with this schedule, Hill could also be hard-pressed to maintain his recent success from beyond the arc (he's 40 percent from distance in January). Sacramento Kings, Portland Trail Blazers and Los Angeles Clippers opponents are each in the bottom eight in 3-pointers made.
Neil Tardy is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.