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Blazers Season Review: Ariza Stabilizes the Frontcourt

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A look at how Trevor Ariza’s arrival helped the Trail Blazers avoid a continued slide in the NBA’s standings.

Boston Celtics v Portland Trail Blazers Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

The dust has settled from the Trial Blazers’ exit from postseason competition. Free agency, roster construction and the NBA Draft have crept into everyday conversation in Rip City. Before we turn the page on the longest season in the Blazers’ 50-year history, let’s take another look at the players that populated the roster during that journey.

Our most-recent installment detailed the polarizing impact that Hassan Whiteside had on the 2019-20 season. Today’s post looks at how Trevor Ariza helped transform the Blazers after he arrived in Portland in a pre-deadline trade.

Trevo Ariza

Games: 21 (21 starts) | PTS: 11.0 | REB: 4.8 | STL: 1.6 | FG%: 49.1

Prior to executing a five-player trade with the Kings in the mid-January, the Blazers’ record had receded to 19-26. A full seven games below .500, Portland’s hopes of treading water until Jusuf Nurkic’s return started to fade. Trevor Ariza’s arrival, along with a red-hot run of games from Damian Lillard, did just enough to stabilize the Blazers’ record before the NBA’s hiatus.

Ariza stepped right into the place in the rotation that was originally vacated by Rodney Hood (injury) and later filled by struggling forward Kent Bazemore (traded to the Kings). While the statistical comparisons might paint a murkier picture, the Blazers’ immediate turnaround represented a crystal-clear picture: Portland finally had a veteran forward that had the skills and experience to undertake several important tasks on a nightly basis.

Ariza’s debut was spoiled by a 27-point performance from Luka Doncic that resulted in a win for the Mavericks, but the Blazers would go on to win their next four games—only their second four-game winning streak of the season up to that point. Combined with Lillard’s offensive supernova, Ariza’s presence on both ends of the floor opened up avenues of success that were previously unavailable. Missed a defensive rotation? Ariza was there to slide into position. Need to convert an open three-pointer after the defense collapsed around Lillard? Ariza is open and reliable (a rare combination for most role players on the Blazers).

Make no mistake, Ariza’s presence did not single-handedly solve Portland’s troubles. During his 21-game run, the Blazers amassed a below-500 record of 10-11. As a team, their defensive rating clocked in at a paltry 116.1 (third-worst in the NBA during that span). Still, Ariza’s reliability and experience added value in ways that can’t be counted in box scores. Outside of the numbers, Ariza led by example on both ends of the floor and he gave the Blazers a much-needed edge (just ask Trae Young).

In the forward rotation, Ariza’s arrival allowed Carmelo Anthony to play with more freedom. Ariza’s size and experience often led to the toughest defensive assignments night after night.

Due to personal reasons, Ariza did not join the Blazers in Orlando for the NBA’s restart. While his run with Portland was brief last season, his presence helped the Blazers secure a place in the bubble that was within striking distance of the Grizzlies.