14.4 ppg | 2.5 apg | 6.2 rpg | .456 FG% | .407 3P%
Impact on the Team
During the 2012-13 season, Ariza was a solid contributor, coming off the bench behind Webster to play solid defense and to chip in on the offensive end. Coming into the 2013-14 campaign, there were a lot of questions as to how the crowded small forward position would shake out with Webster coming off of his best season yet and the addition of highly touted prospect Otto Porter. Ariza answered that question by turning in arguably the best season of his career, improving in almost every facet of the game. He started all 77 games in which he played during the regular season, averaging 35.4 minutes a night, good for 22nd in the NBA. Compared to the previous season, he scored five more points per game (9.5 to 14.4), and shot the ball significantly better while taking three more shots per game. He finished the year as the #19 three point shooter in the league in terms of percentage, and #14 for made threes. Ariza's defense did not suffer as he took on more offensive responsibility either; instead he was consistently the team's best defender. In a contract year, he put himself in the discussion as one of the best '3 and D' players in the league and therefore in line for a big contract at age 28.
Often this year, the Wizards won or lost based on how their triumvirate of three point shooters (Ariza, Beal and Webster) shot the ball. When the Wizards were shooting well from long distance, their offense became very difficult to stop, but when they struggled from outside, it seemed to lose its rhythm. The name of Ariza's game on offense was efficiency, as he took almost no mid-range jumpers, doing everything either from beyond three point range or at the rim. Even from three point range, he shot most of his threes from the corner. In fact, he hit more corner threes than any other player in the NBA, with 78. Wall and Ariza had good chemistry between them, on their way to combining for more corner threes produced (53 from Wall to Ariza) than any other tandem in the NBA. Finally, Ariza had the highest eFG% of any Wizard for the 2013-14 season.
Ariza's breakout offensive season came with some memorable games, highlighted first and foremost by a new career-high of 40 points on March 1st against Philadelphia. Also, on February 12th against Houston, he hit 10 threes which set a new Wizards' franchise record. He was 7-7 in the third quarter, which included somehow hitting three of them in just 32 seconds. Finally, the most impressive single moment of the season for Ariza was almost certainly his 70 footer in Atlanta on February 19th.
When the playoffs came around, Ariza stepped up to the occasion. He had a 30 point night in game 2 against Chicago during an overtime victory, and was a perfect 6/6 from three for 22 points in game 1 against Indiana. The Pacers eventually started drawing up specific defensive schemes to neutralize Ariza, a big compliment to a player who at the start of the season was almost certainly the #5 option in the Wizards' starting lineup.
As good as Ariza was at shooting the rock this year, he was even better on the defensive end. Tasked with guarding the opponent’s best scorer almost every night, Ariza did an admirable job. The Wizards finished the year allowing 3.7 points less per 100 possessions when Ariza was on the floor. He also finished 12th in the league in steals per game with 1.64, and 14th in the league in steals per turnover with 0.95. He had some truly standout defensive performances, including holding Carmelo Anthony to his lowest scoring game of the year, forcing Kevin Durant into an 8/21 shooting night, and holding Paul George to a couple of horrific shooting nights during the regular season. Then during the playoffs, he locked down DJ Augustin after he gave the Wizards fits, and held down George for much of the Pacers series. Ariza wasn't given many all-defensive team votes this year, but that's probably short-shrifting him considering the impact he had.
Who knows? Ariza is an unrestricted free agent and after the year he had, he will be hotly pursued on the free agent market. Without Ariza, the Wizards have plenty of potential at the wing position, but it would be a question mark. Webster is coming off of an up and down year but has shown he can be a quality '3 and D' guy. Porter is an unknown entity at this point, but the Wizards invested a lot in him with the #3 overall pick last year and have high hopes. With Webster and Porter, the Wizards have already committed a lot to the wing position, and Ariza is going to command a nice contract. If Ariza does comes back though, it's unclear how Webster and Porter's minutes would work but one thing is certain. So long as Ariza continues to play at the level to which we've all become accustomed, he would receive all the minutes he can handle. Ariza has been on record as saying that Washington is an ideal place for free agents to come to so we'll just have to wait and see if that applies to him.