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Miami Heat 2020-21 player review: Trevor Ariza

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He provided the necessary 3-and-D production next to Bam Adebayo, but will be he back next year?

2021 NBA Playoffs - Milwaukee Bucks v Miami Heat Photo by Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images

It’s that time of year: Reviewing the previous season!

It’s now officially the offseason for the Miami Heat, who were swept out of the first round in the NBA playoffs by the Milwaukee Bucks — losing their four games by a combined 82 points.

Before we deep dive into everything regarding the future months for this team, let’s discuss the seasons for Heat players that played in the 2020-21 NBA season and finished on the active roster.

This is our third player review, with the first review being Precious Achiuwa and franchise centerpiece Bam Adebayo. These will be conducted in alphabetical order.

Let’s get into it!


Brief overview:

2020-21 stats (30 games):

  • 9.4 PPG
  • 4.8 RPG
  • 1.0 SPG
  • 41.1 field goal percentage
  • 35.0 3-point percentage
  • 54.2 true shooting percentage
  • 11.9 player efficiency rating

Ariza’s bounced around since he departed the Houston Rockets in free agency after the 2017-18 season. He spent the following season with the Phoenix Suns (26 games) before getting dealt to the Washington Wizards for Kelly Oubre and Austin Rivers — playing in 43 of Washington’s final 52 games before entering his second consecutive free agency. Ariza signed a two-year deal with the Kings before getting shipped to Portland in Jan., appearing in just 21 games.

He was dealt around the league multiple times last offseason, ultimately landing with the Oklahoma City Thunder and electing not to suit up with them this season. Pat Riley acquired Ariza on March 17 for Meyers Leonard and a 2027 second-round pick. Ariza unlocked Miami’s 3-and-D flexibility in the frontcourt alongside Adebayo. There were ebbs and flows along the way, but Ariza earned the team’s trust in the “Jae Crowder role” and started in his final 27 games plus four more in the postseason.


Numbers to note:

25.0 - I noted this when I detailed the six matchups I was watching out for prior to the Bucks playoff series, but Trevor Ariza was arguably Miami’s best point-of-attack defender in a season where they didn’t generate much production from that facet. Outside of Avery Bradley — who appeared in just 10 games before getting shipped for Victor Oladipo at the trade deadline — the team lacked the consistent toughness and mobility required to create havoc.

Ariza and his 7-foot wingspan helped mitigate the point-of-attack defensive troubles upon arrival — though it wasn’t always pretty for the 35-year-old. He was oftentimes tasked with defending the team’s best ball-handler — holding his own, respectfully. Ariza held Damian Lillard, Kyrie Irving, Kemba Walker, Terry Rozier, Coby White and Chris Paul to a mere 25 percent shooting on 40 combined attempts when he was their primary defender, per NBA.com. I shouldn’t need to sell you on the level of craftiness and shot making between those six guards — especially the former two; the degree of on-ball juice — whether it be shot making, controlling the flow or playmaking — they combat defenders with on a nightly basis is unmatched. The 25 percent mark could be a bit deceiving, but Ariza showing capability against some of the league’s top guards deserves at least some recognition. Kudos!

50.9 - Ariza’s been a catch-and-shoot threat from 3-point range for much of his entire career. Per NBA.com’s tracking data, which tracks shot dashboards dating back to the 2013-14 season, at least 55 percent of his 3-point shots have been off the catch-and-shoot in four of those eight seasons. His percentages received a marginal dip in South Beach (50.9 percent), but his role didn’t defer. Nearly 85 percent of his 143 3-point attempts were catch-and-shoot opportunities, netting them at a 37.2 percent clip.

With the loss of Crowder — followed by Kelly Olynyk at the deadline — Miami lacked the proper floor-spacing forward it desperately needed to open lanes for Adebayo and Jimmy Butler to operate. Though he sported an adequate 35.0 3-point percentage, Ariza provided just enough respectability to attract gravity. All in all, Miami shot 2.5 percent better from 3 and generated 2.7 more points in the halfcourt with Ariza, per Cleaning the Glass. He played within his role well.


Best game?

April 16 vs. Minnesota Timberwolves

Despite the eight-point loss — where former Timberwolf Jimmy Butler called Miami’s performance “soft” — it was Ariza’s best game of the 2020-21 season. The 6-foot-8 forward tallied 21 points, his only 20-point outing of the season. He shot 8-of-14, including 5-of-7 from 3-point range, with seven rebounds, three assists, one steal and two blocks. Ariza’s five 3-pointers were a season-high — the most he’s had in a single game since hitting five against the Phoenix Suns on March 10, 2020.


What’s next?

It’s difficult to predict whether Ariza, who’s entering free agency, will be back next year. Miami could have up to $21 million in cap space — if it declines Iguodala’s and Dragic’s team options — per ESPN’s Bobby Marks. It could opt into those team options as salary fillers for potential trades, but I digress. With his Early-Bird rights, the maximum Miami could offer would be a little over $20 million in the first year, which is far too out of their ideal price range.

If the Heat want to keep Ariza and still add players elsewhere, cap flexibility is required. If Ariza is brought back to provide a similar role, one would suspect it would be on a much cheaper, team-friendlier contract. Will that happen? Only time will tell.