Did the Rockets Upgrade Their Roster With Trevor Ariza?

The Rockets lost a lot of pieces this off-season, but was Trevor Ariza a sneaky-good signing?

The Houston Rockets have been major movers and shakers again this offseason. However, the consensus biggest winners from last year’s July frenzy have (allegedly) been amongst the biggest losers in this one.

The Rockets optioned out of Chandler Parson's paltry one-million dollar contract, only to see him sign with rival Dallas for three years and $46 million.

Houston also sent Omer Asik to the Pelicans. Last year he was the most talented, underutilized and whiniest backup center in the league. Backup point guard Jeremy Lin was also dealt – in conference to the Lakers.

During the Lin/Asik mega-cap dump, Houston went hard after perennial All-Stars Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh, but lost out on both due to the new Collective Bargaining Agreement’s home team bias. Both the Boshtrich and Melo were able to secure much larger max contracts by staying with their current teams. They failed to match the Parsons deal, and settled on…Trevor Ariza?

Hold on…Why?

What was Rockets GM and certified mad scientist Daryl Morey thinking? Parsons is a 6’10” young, athletic small forward with range and the unique ability to finish in the paint. Ariza's a journeyman, “Three and D” guy. No comparison, right? Au contraire – check out last season’s essentials:

Trevor Ariza35.414.
Chandler Parsons37.616.

Yes. Parsons scored more, but Ariza’s definitive defensive edge made him the more valuable player by our nERD metric and by Win Shares. To boot, Ariza was one of only 10 players in the league last season with two or more made threes per game on over 40% shooting.

Player3P3PA3P FG%
Steph Curry3.37.90.424
Ryan Anderson37.50.409
Klay Thompson2.86.60.417
Kyle Korver2.65.50.472
Gerald Green2.56.20.4
Jose Calderon2.45.20.449
Trevor Ariza2.35.70.407
Carmelo Anthony2.25.40.402
Joe Johnson2.15.10.401
Jodie Meeks2.15.20.401

Ariza was an extremely efficient player last season. The Wizards scored 113 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor, and only allowed 104 points per 100 possessions. However, as our own Bryan Mears highlighted here, the vast majority of his floor time was shared with offensive wiz kid (pun intended) John Wall.

Statistically, the most efficient shot in professional basketball is the corner three. Wall led the league in assists resulting in corner threes with 109. Ariza was the main benefactor – he also led the league with 78 made corner threes, 77 of which were assisted.

The Rockets will warmly welcome Ariza’s three-point shooting. They led the league in percentage of shots taken from beyond the arc (33%) and total three-pointers taken (2,179). With that said, the threes the sharpshooter will attempt for Houston will not be as convenient as those created by former running mate John Wall. Washington had over 150 more assists last season than did Houston.

One reason for Houston’s lack of assists was their massive free throw advantage over the rest of the league. They took 2,549 free throws last season – 165 more than the second-place Clippers. James Harden and Dwight Howard were third and fourth league wide in free throw attempts. Those two are notorious ball stoppers in half court sets. They’ll require lots of on ball time, but can command double teams and open up space for shooters to capitalize on.

Houston pushes the rock – the perfect recipe to get Ariza those coveted corner threes. They were fifth in the league in points per 100 possessions last season, and second in points per game. Look for Ariza to take and make a ton of early shot clock corner threes next season.

Ariza will defend the opposing team’s best forward night in and out. To boot, he’ll be asked to lock down the other team’s best player in crunch time so this doesn’t happen.

Some experts have talked down Daryl Morey's off-season. But look at the numbers, an eight-win player for two years and $20 million? That’s quite a bargain in today’s NBA, and something tells me the Rockets offseason isn’t quite complete.