What is Trevor Ariza's fantasy value with his new team in New Orleans?
As fantasy hoops owners, we naturally have different philosophies about building our teams and evaluating players. Still, there's ample common ground in our game. For instance, I believe we can all agree with these two statements:
1. Steals are hard to come by.
2. Players who shoot less than 40 percent from the floor are next to impossible to live with.
So, let's talk about Trevor Ariza.
Observing Ariza's one season with the Houston Rockets was oddly engrossing, like that "Inception" flick. And, as with the movie, by the end of Ariza's 2009-10 campaign, you may have walked away wondering if what you saw made any sense at all.
Remember, Ariza thrived as a complementary component of the Los Angeles Lakers' 2009 NBA championship squad. But in signing with the Rockets, he had to move to a new team, play a new position (shooting guard) and take on a new role (scorer). While Ariza's 14.9 points, 5.6 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.9 3-pointers were all career highs, for fantasy owners, that mostly took a back seat to his ghastly .394 shooting percentage. And if anything, the shooting numbers are misleadingly good. As the misses piled up in the early going, Ariza's confidence eroded. In one 21-game stretch through December and January, he shot an appalling 37.1 percent.
As it became obvious that Ariza wasn't suited to be a go-to scorer, Rockets head coach Rick Adelman eased off. In 23 games after the All-Star break, Ariza took only 11.1 shots per night, compared with 15.2 attempts during his first 49 games. Less turned out to be more, because Ariza played well down the stretch, shooting 44.0 percent with 13.6 points per game. And, intriguingly, the career 32.1 percent 3-point shooter was 41.0 percent from downtown in the second half, averaging 2.1 treys per game.
I'd like to say that Ariza could give fantasy owners those numbers for a full season with the New Orleans Hornets, but I can't see him being quite that consistent with his shot. However, that's about the worst thing I can say about his prospects for this season. Because as out of place as he was in Houston, Ariza seems to fit New Orleans like blues music and bead-throwing.
With the Hornets, the 25-year-old fills both a glaring hole at small forward and an urgent need to upgrade the talent and athleticism around Chris Paul and David West. Ariza can only benefit from playing with an elite assist man like Paul, who likewise will benefit from having such an athletic running mate, particularly on the break. He can again be a defense-first player for a Hornets team that was just 22nd in defensive efficiency a season ago.
And because Ariza fits so well with the Hornets, he should be a much more efficient player in fantasy this season. What was I saying about steals? They are indeed hard to come by. Only Rajon Rondo, Stephen Curry and Dwyane Wade bettered Ariza's 1.8 steals in 2009-10.
It's also tough to find steals and 3-pointers in the same package. LeBron James, Danny Granger, Jason Kidd, Stephen Jackson and Curry were the only players other than Ariza to average at least 1.5 steals and 1.5 3s last season.
When Ariza is allowed to play in his comfort zone, his game is fantasy-friendly. We'll see that again. I believe Ariza can approach what he did post-break last season. How about 12-13 points, 5-6 boards, close to 2.0 steals, 1.5 3s and 42-43 percent shooting? That should easily justify his current ADP of 75.2 on ESPN.com.
Neil Tardy is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.