Trevor Ariza Has Figured It Out Again

Published: March 1, 2012

After two seasons of flinging shots with reckless abandon, Trevor Ariza has gotten back to playing the style of game that defined him in Los Angeles.

Last year I was fairly sure that Trevor Ariza had taken up permanent residency in Chucker-ville. Good thing he's back from his vacation.

In his off season player profiles, John Hollinger said Trevor Ariza “may have the league’s worst shot selection”. I’ve said in the past that Plaxico Burress has better judgement on when to pull the trigger. That’s not the case anymore. Ariza has cut way down on his bad long twos and threes, increasing his shooting and three point percentages as a result. He’s done this despite losing one of the game’s greatest distributors.

A common theme the past two years was Trevor getting the ball with 15 seconds or so left on the shot clock, putting his head down for a failed drive, then settling for a fade-away 19 footer despite there being ten seconds or so left on the shot clock. That’s bad basketball, as evidenced by the fact that he hit jumpers between 16 and 23 feet at a remarkably inefficient 29.4% over the past two years. Those shots were assisted only about 35% of the time.

Ariza also fancied himself a three-point shooter. Not the kind who stands in the corner and knocks it down when he’s open, but more of a “even though I’m not a very good long range shooter I’m going to shoot one every time I can see the rim and a defender is not literally molesting me.” He took 5.7 threes per game in Houston, hitting them at a 33% clip, and then took 3.6 last year in NOLA at 30%.

Fast forward to this year and you have a different story.

At first glance you may see that Ariza has actually been taking more long twos this year per game (2.9) than in either year past, but don’t let just that one stat fool you. The selection of shots within that range is way better. To start with, he’s hitting them at 37%. That’s not great, but it’s way better than being sub-30. That one stat alone doesn’t prove anything to us, but it backs up the eye test. He’s increased that percentage while working in an offense this year that doesn’t have a top distributor, and as a result more of Ariza’s shots in this range have come out of necessity, not poor selection

Also, he’s been taking one shot in particular quite a bit– the 17 foot baseline jumper, something I’ve seen him working on over and over and over in just about every practice I’ve been to. According to my memory, he’s hitting that shot at a pretty good clip this year, and he’s asking for the ball when he’s open in that situation. He’s also being assisted on 63% of shots in the 16-23 foot range this year, nearly double the number in his previous two seasons. No longer is he putting his head down, driving, and then throwing up prayers.

Behind the arc he’s seen a slight improvement over the past two years, only taking shots that he’s comfortable with or required to take because of a dwindling shot clock. He’s averaging only 2.5 threes this year so far, but he’s hitting them at a career high 34% clip.

There are other notable improvements in Trevor’s game, such as the career highs he’s averaging in rebounds, blocks, steals, AST/TO ratio, FT%, assist ratio, and many more things that I don’t care to focus on right now, but I just wanted to point out that Trevor really has cut down on his awful shots.

As a result, my FP/G rate (face-palms per game) is WAY down.

One discussion that may be worth having at some point is how much Chris Paul contributed to Ariza’s down year last season. Paul constantly had the ball in his hands, and for a player who seems to thrive on rhythm and movement like Trevor, that may have been a factor in why he never seemed to be able to really get it going offensively in the regular season.

All the numbers in this article come from HoopData (which really enjoys being referred to as “HoopsData”, FYI).


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