The Washington Wizards this season have lacked plenty of things, but three stand out above all: defense, rebounding and leadership. On Saturday, they made a trade aiming to address all of the above, and they paid a hefty price to do so.
In comes Trevor Ariza, a 33-year-old veteran who needs no introduction in Washington. He returns to the organization four years after leaving in free agency. He already has experience playing alongside John Wall, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter Jr.
Out the door are two key members of the Wizards rotation. They shipped Kelly Oubre Jr. and Austin Rivers to Phoenix, stripping them of their backup shooting guard and small forward and two players averaging over 23 minutes per game this season.
The Wizards are giving up quite a bit. Rivers, though he has struggled this season, was brought in just months ago to solve their problems at backup shooting guard. Now Beal is the only true shooting guard on their roster. That should help Tomas Satoransky earn a more solidified role.
Oubre was a first round pick in 2015 and the Wizards could have made him a restricted free agent this summer. At times over the past two-plus years, he appeared to be one of their most attractive trade assets based on his youth and contract, someone who could net more than an Ariza-type.
But with a desperate need for what Ariza provides, the Wizards had to make a difficult decision. They are banking on him having a similar impact to what he gave them in the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons, when the Wizards were at their best defensively in the Wall era.
Whether he can still be the same player, or something close to it, remains to be seen. Back in his first tenure in D.C., he was playing through his age 27 and 28 seasons. The latter was a contract year and happened to include the best numbers of his career.
Now, he's 33 and arriving in Washington with a 37.9 field goal percentage. He is also making $15 million this season and set to be a free agent next summer.
Even though Oubre and Rivers were on expiring deals, this is a play for the short-term. Ariza is much later in his career than they are and isn't under contract beyond this season. Plus, bringing him in saves the Wizards a bit over $2 million when accounting for the luxury tax.
Their hope is that he will help shore up the perimeter. The Wizards are 27th in the NBA in opponents three-point percentage and Ariza has long been good at disrupting outside shooters.
The Wizards want rebounding and, though Ariza is not a big man, he is adept on the glass. Washington ranks 28th in rebounding and 29th in opponent rebounding. Ariza comes in averaging 5.6 per game.
The Wizards may also see a benefit from a team chemistry perspective. Ariza is familiar with the locker room leadership structure having played in Washington before. He is a respected veteran and can help set a more blue-collar tone on defense.
Ariza, when he's at his best, is a very valuable player. Even with his field goal percentage down, Ariza is shooting a respectable 36 percent from three and averaging 1.5 steals per game.
It's clear the Wizards desperately wanted Ariza by the way this trade went down. Not only did they part with two key rotation members, but they took a deal that didn't involve draft picks. When the reports first broke on Friday night, the Wizards were expected to receive more compensation in the way of second round picks.
The biggest impact of this trade as this season plays out may involve the Wizards' depth. Though they got a nice player in Ariza, they parted with two core members of their second unit and left an open roster spot they have to fill. If the Wizards go with an inexpensive option to fill the 14th spot, like they did with Okaro White and Chasson Randle, their roster will be even more top-heavy.
The disappointing start to the Wizards' season clearly has them weighing their long-term options. Oubre wasn't in the plans, and they want to save their season, along with some money. In comes Ariza, hoping to give the Wizards what they have been desperately be lacking.
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