Houston’s mistake — or at least the mistake of many fans — was to think that Trevor Ariza was a go-to-guy.
He was a role player in Los Angeles. Sure, he hit big threes in the NBA Finals, but that was because Stan Van Gundy — who had Ariza on his team just a season before and let him go because he was convinced he couldn’t hit a three — let him have wide open looks. Kobe Bryant driving the lane creates wide-open looks. He got easy and spectacular looks in transition.
But Trevor Ariza never had to create offense in Los Angeles. He was simply the beneficiary of those who did.
Then he comes to Houston, a team without the guy supposed to create their offense (Yao Ming), and suddenly Ariza was asked to fill a new role. To be the creator. And he’s not that good at that.
Ariza has come into his own simply because the presence of Kevin Martin has forced down his usage and forced him back into doing the things that earned him his contract.
Because Martin can handle the ball and create off the dribble, he has now assumed the lion’s share of the complementary ballhandling duties. This has allowed Ariza to slash off of Brooks’/Martin’s penetration, spot up for 3’s, and run the floor. The results have been beautiful.
Ariza is a very good role player, and one who has proven he can step up on the biggest stage. The Rockets are loaded with good role players, and now have a couple of guys who can create on the perimeter. If they can get a healthy Yao back next season, watch out. And watch out for Ariza.