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Can Melo Replace Ariza?

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Coming off a season where the Houston Rockets came within one game of the NBA finals, they knew that a decision would have to be made regarding the future of one of their key pieces, Trevor Ariza. The 33-year-old small forward has bounced around the league since his 2004 rookie year with the New York Knicks. He was never an all-star and ironically, didn’t average more than 10 points until his tenth year in the league. However, since that tenth year in the league, Ariza has solidified himself as a nice piece off the bench for a contending team. This gives Ariza that intangible factor when it comes to playoff basketball. His veteran presence will serve to be a nice fit in the very young and upcoming roster of the Phoenix Suns, who signed him to a one-year, $15 million deal.

The bigger question is how the Rockets will fill the shoes of Ariza in order to compete once again next year. The Rockets, behind the star power of James Harden and Chris Paul, need as much help as they can get in order to dethrone the Warriors. With Carmelo Anthony’s departure from the Oklahoma City Thunder (then subsequently being waived by the Atlanta Hawks), all signs point to the Rockets as the favorites to land Anthony.

Anthony is coming off his worst statistical season yet, and has openly stated that the OK3 experiment with Russell Westbrook and Paul George just didn’t work. As a member of the Rockets, Anthony will be asked to shoot at will, and most likely play off the ball. Last season, Anthony was actually ranked 14th among all players in catch-and-shoot percentage with a 42.6% on catch-and-shoot three-pointers. Relatively, Trevor Ariza was ranked 64th with a 35.5%. In other words, if the Rockets can dig up the Carmelo Anthony from even two years ago, they will improve offensively.

On the other hand, Trevor Ariza is often times explained as a perfect “three and d guy.” Anthony on the other hand, is often seen a defensive liability. However, looking deeper into the defensive statistics, they are very similar. Players shooting percentage when guarded by Ariza was 47%, while Anthony’s opponents shot 47.5%. Also, Ariza averaged 1.5 steals per game to Anthony’s 0.6, but Anthony makes up for this in having the edge on Ariza in both rebounding and blocks. For what it’s worth, Ariza posted a defensive rating of 104.3 to Anthony’s 105.7, (the lower the number the better). All this leads me to believe that if Anthony can bounce back from last season, he can serve as a very reliable 4th or 5th option to the Rockets in their quest for a championship.

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