Stat Pack: Belinelli and Ariza

Published: August 12, 2010

So the Hornets are the proud owners of two snazzy new acquisitions; Marco Belinelli and Trevor Ariza.  As always, I turned to the numbers and this is what I found:

Marco Belinelli

Marco entered the NBA with a bang, scoring 37 points in a Golden State Warrior summer league game and on the strength of that game, was regularly mentioned as a rookie with great potential.  Unfortunately, that game proved to be a bit of a fluke, and Belinelli has struggled to get extended minutes on poor teams in Golden State and Toronto.

As a scorer, Belinelli has one real talent – knocking down three point shots.  He recognizes this, taking about 40% of his shots from deep, and converting them at an above average rate for a guard.   Sadly, his scoring abilities elsewhere are lacking.  He shoots below the league average at the rim, from mid-range, and more importantly, from a step or two inside the three point line, showing that once he puts the ball on the floor, the results are likely to be suboptimal.

As a Raptor, Belinelli contributed to some of their best lineups, as his ability to stretch the floor made him a favorite target of both Jose Calderon and Chris Bosh when they needed an outlet.  He also improved their defense by 3 points per posession every time he stepped on the floor.  Unfortunately, that may be damning him with faint praise.  The Raptors were historically bad last year on defense, so his presence made them go from “cover-your-eyes” awful to “wow, they actually needed two passes to get a layup that time” bad.

All that said, Belinelli is a fine 2-guard off the bench.    He may be a lousy rebounder(and boy is he), but he turns the ball over and assists at an average rate, and has a clearly defined role as a shooter in which he can help the team.  He’s still 24, so if he follows the standard career arc of an NBA player, he may improve over this year and the next.

My take on the trade?  I’ll take a player with a clear, defined role over what Julian has unfortunately “developed” into.  And I hope Julian Wright takes this change of scenery to Toronto and does something with it.  I always pulled for him.

Marco Belinelli General Stat Pack

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Trevor Ariza

Ariza entered the league with the New York Knicks, and in five seasons traveled from there to Orlando, Los Angeles, and Houston before landing in New Orleans this off-season.  I know there is a lot of optimism about this trade, and a feeling that it greatly upgraded our small forward position, but I have a hard time getting behind that feeling.  Yes, Peja, Posey and Wright weren’t cutting it.  Ariza, however, is NOT an impact player.

First, we need to address what happened in Houston last season.  Up to that point, Ariza had always been a solid roleplayer.  He defended a bit, rebounded a bit, and knocked down the open shot.  Then, last season, the Rockets lost Yao and dumped McGrady, and had few players that could create their own shot reliably.  Ariza stepped into that void – and the results were disastruous.  In one season he went from an average scorer to the 16th least efficient scorer in the entire league.  Among small forwards, he was the 4th worst.

Now, we can assume that Ariza will step back into his role as a third or fourth option on a team in New Orleans,(actually, maybe we should hope and pray, not assume) but even if he does, we really need to recognize that Ariza isn’t a savior who is going to make CP3 stick around.  He’s an average player, with a mid-level salary.(which, by the way, is the league average)  Still, let’s hit the high and low points.

First, he has never been a shooter.  He has a career average of 33% from behind the three-point stripe, and he’s a career 66% shooter from the free throw line.  For years, he made his living finishing at the rim – and we’ll have to hope he starts doing that again, because he used to be great at it, finishing 68% of the time.(last year, he was even below the league average at this, with a 56%.  What the hell?)

As a rebounder he’s average again.  The league’s small forwards grab 9.2% of available rebounds.  He grabed 8.8%.  Still, it is nice to have a small forward that rebounds at all.  The Hornets haven’t had one since Jamal Mashburn.  As a passer, he’s fairly good.  He has an assist rate of 18%, which is well above the league average for small forwards of 13%, and that’s been consistent across the board, regardless of where he’s played.  His turnover rate is slightly below average for his career, and even doing too much in Houston last year caused him to fall only slightly worse than the league average.

Lastly, defensively is where Ariza has made his reputation, and he is clearly better than average.  He’s decent as a ballhawk, grabbing about 50% more than the normal rate of steals for a small forward, but he’s exactly average as a shotblocker and won’t be caught dead drawing charges.(averaging one charge every 9 games.)  As a Laker, the team’s defense declined slightly(-.6 per 100 posessions) when Ariza stepped on the floor, and again, as a Rocket, the same thing happened.  However, in both of those situations, he’s spelling noted defenders Shane Battier, Kobe Bryant and Lamar Odom, so it’s not surprising there’s a decline.  The fact that he matches those players defensively is something to be pleased with.

Do I feel Ariza is a better option than Stojakovic/Posey/Wright at the three?  Sure.  Slightly better than average is better than awful.  Is this move going to push the Hornets firmly into the playoffs?  That’s where I’m skeptical.

Trevor Ariza General Stat Pack

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Last thoughts

There is one under-rated possibility for this trade.  Trevor Ariza is actually a very versatile player – and capable of playing either wing position, or even was used in Houston at times to bring up the ball.  The Hornets may not have selected Ariza with the intent of starting him at Small Forward.  if they start him next to Peja Stojakovic, that allows them to use Marcus Thornton as an explosive scorer off the bench, give Pondexter more time at the three, and then use Belinelli, who really is a fourth guard who should only get 10 minutes per game or so, in the role best suited for him.  I’m thinking of a rotation like this:

  • PG: Paul(38 min)/Thornton(10 min)/Belinelli
  • SG: Ariza(18 Min)/Thornton(20 Min)/Belinelli(10 Min)
  • SF: Peja(20 Min)/Ariza(16 min)/Pondexter(12 Min)
  • PF: West(36 Min)/Brackins or Songaila(12 Min)
  • C: Okafor(32 Min)/Gray(10 Min)/Songaila(6 Min)

That lessens the pressure on the rookies, gets Thornton big minutes in his most effective role, always keeps at least one skilled shooter from the wing on the floor, and only leaves me squirming with discomfort behind Okafor.

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