Trevor Ariza did not re-sign with the Houston Rockets, nor did he make a Kevin Durant-like move and leave the Rockets for the Warriors team that eliminated him from the Western Conference Finals. Instead, he chose the money and signed a one-year, $15 million deal with the Phoenix Suns.
Ariza was reportedly seeking a longer-term deal worth $50-60 million in free agency. But he got a bubble deal that pays him twice his previous salary for one season while giving the Suns a quality veteran for a budding, young team.
But it also hurts the Rockets’ championship hopes
Ariza was integral in Houston’s near championship run last season. He averaged 11.7 points per game as a three-and-D wing who shot 37 percent from three. He, P.J. Tucker and Luc Mbah a Moute split those minutes on the wing and transformed Houston’s defense into one that could switch over virtually any screen. It was a defense that nearly eliminated the Warriors from the playoffs in the Western Conference Finals.
But Houston fell short. Chris Paul suffered a hamstring injury in Game 5 and everything went downhill from there. The Warriors won the series in seven games before sweeping the Cavaliers for their second straight NBA championship. And with Ariza now leaving Houston for Phoenix, one can only continue to wonder what could have been had CP3 never gotten hurt in the first place.
The Rockets may also find it difficult to replace Ariza. They could have re-signed him using his Bird Rights, which would have allowed them to exceed the salary cap to sign him to a raise. Now, they can only offer the taxpayer’s midlevel exception or a minimum contract to prospective free agents.
This is a good signing for Phoenix, though
The Suns had nearly $20 million in cap space to sign free agents, but they weren’t landing any star talent this summer. Instead, Phoenix knew it had budding stars to develop; they just needed the right pieces to fit around them.
After all, the Suns drafted Deandre Ayton No. 1 overall in this year’s draft, adding to a core of talented young players including standout guard Devin Booker and top-5 pick from last year’s draft, Josh Jackson. Phoenix needed a veteran who can still contribute on both ends of the floor while providing veteran leadership and mentorship in such a young locker room.
Ariza is just that kind of player. He won a championship back in 2009 with the Los Angeles Lakers and has played for six different teams in his career. He’s been a reliable corner three-point shooter virtually his entire career while doubling as a wing defender who can guard multiple position. And now, he’s leaving Houston to take his talents to Phoenix.
If there were $15 million waiting for you out in Arizona, you’d probably go get it, too.