OFFICIAL: The Miami HEAT have acquired forward Trevor Ariza in exchange for Meyers Leonard and a 2027 second round draft selection. https://t.co/UrHONxbn58— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) March 17, 2021
Ariza, 35, has not played a single minute with the Thunder this season. He spent time with both the Sacramento Kings and the Portland Trail Blazers last season — averaging 8.0 points, 4.6 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.3 steals in 28.2 minutes per game.
His first 32 games last year came with Sacramento, before a January trade shipped him to Portland with Wenyen Gabriel and Caleb Swanigan for Kent Bazemore, Anthony Tolliver and two second-round picks. In 21 games with the Blazers, he averaged 11.0 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.6 steals in 33.4 minutes per game.
Ariza’s last game was just over a year ago on March 10, 2020. He did not travel with Portland to the NBA bubble, opting out to spend more time with his 12-year-old son.
The savvy veteran will likely not receive that degree of playing time in Miami with Jimmy Butler at the top of the mountain, along with Duncan Robinson, Tyler Herro, Kelly Olynyk and Andre Iguodala cementing their spots in the wing rotation.
But what could Ariza could bring to the surging Heat, who have won 11 of their last 12 and 15 of their last 19? Let’s explore:
The Heat have undergone a decline in 3-point shooting from last year (37.9 percent; 2nd in NBA) to this year (34.9 percent; 25th in NBA). Miami has ranked top-10 in 3-point attempts per game and 3-point rate in each of the last two seasons. Ariza fits into that bill perfectly.
After getting drafted No. 43 overall in the 2004 NBA Draft by the New York Knicks, Ariza attempted just 43 3-pointers in his first four years (229 games) at a 20.9 percent clip; 3.8 percent of his shot attempts came from beyond the arc in that span.
That number underwent a substantial uptick since the start of 2008-09 — nearly 52 percent of his shots from outside at a 35.3 percent clip in those 12 seasons.
In the last three seasons, Ariza has knocked down 35.5 percent of his 3-point attempts on 5.8 attempts per game, including 37.2 percent from deep (on 3.8 attempts per game) and 40.0 percent (on four attempts) in his final 21 games with Portland.
Per Cleaning the Glass, the 6-foot-8 forward netted 46 percent of his corner 3-point attempts with Portland — ranking in the 74th percentile — and 37.3 percent on the season. Since the 2010-11 season, Ariza has knocked down at least 39 percent of his corner 3-pointers each season. That could bode well for his fit into Erik Spoelstra’s offense, which shoot 10.2 percent of its shots from that area — sixth-most in the association.
Ariza’s floor spacing capabilities opens up driving and cutting lanes for Butler, Dragic, Robinson, Herro and Nunn, among others, to operate when they’re on the floor.
A catch-and-shoot threat
With that said, if defenses pinch off those actions, Ariza is a more-than-qualified catch-and-shoot threat to make defenses pay.
In the limited sample last season, 84.7 percent of his 3-point shots were off the catch-and-shoot — hitting them at a 38.4 percent clip per NBA.com. When he paired with James Harden in Houston from 2014-18, Ariza had a bevy of catch-and-shoot opportunities; likewise to plenty of his teammates then, shooting off the catch was a large part of his role offensively.
Spoelstra’s offense features is a more equal opportunity balance than the few Ariza has played with in recent memory. But Miami’s different actions — a few being dribble handoffs through the Chicago series, split cuts, flare screens and double drags — coupled with several willing playmakers will prompt defensive movement to award Ariza with a wealth of catch-and-shoot — and slashing — opportunities.
In Miami’s first 21 games of the season, it went 7-14 and was playing like one of the worst teams in the league. Per NBA.com, its defense ranked as the 20th-best with a 111.2 defensive rating in that stretch.
Since then, the Heat are 15-4 and boast the league’s best defensive rating: Surrendering just 105.5 points per 100 possessions, two fewer than the league’s second-best mark (Lakers - 107.5). Miami also ranks in the top-10 in the Association in deflections per game (15.2).
Ariza only adds to that. Though he hasn’t played in over a year, the 3-and-D forward can still guard multiple positions and features a 7-foot-2 wingspan to compensate for his declining mobility. He has averaged 1.4 steals over the last three seasons, including 1.3 per game last year. Ariza is another lengthy, switchable forward that adds versatility to Miami’s defensive scheme — spearheaded by Butler, Iguodala and Bam Adebayo, their three defensive stalwarts.
Active Leaders in Steal %— NBA Central (@TheNBACentral) March 17, 2021
6) Trevor Ariza - 2.54%
7) Jimmy Butler - 2.47%
15) Andre Iguodala - 2.3%
Pat Riley is loading up on perimeter defense pic.twitter.com/MqvBM67rqr
Ariza could be trusted to take pressure off the three to guard top assignments on a nightly basis, as well as creating havoc at the point-of-attack at the top of its zone.
In the end, minutes could be cut from forwards KZ Okpala, along with Andre Iguodala and Kelly Olynyk in order to give Ariza between 10-20 minutes per night. There could be other players whose minutes get cut slightly, too.
The trade deadline is on March 25 at 3 p.m. EST. Even after Wednesday’s acquisition, Miami could be still be looking to add another piece to the mix as well.
Eastern Conference GM: "I would bet that Miami isn't done dealing."— Tim Reynolds (@ByTimReynolds) March 17, 2021
The Thunder will create a $3.4M trade exception as part of the deal.— Bobby Marks (@BobbyMarks42) March 17, 2021
The Heat are $5.4M below the luxury tax/$10.6M below the hard cap and have until Monday to use a $7.53M trade exception. https://t.co/2szMwesEJi
What do you think about Ariza’s fit with the Miami Heat? Comment below.