Trevor Ariza Is the Unsung Hero of Washington Wizards' Playoff Run

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Trevor Ariza Is the Unsung Hero of Washington Wizards' Playoff Run
Ned Dishman/Getty Images

The Washington Wizards backcourt might be the engine that powers this team, but it wouldn't have gotten this far without Trevor Ariza's assistance on the wing. 

What a boost he's given the Wizards. 

After averaging 14.4 points a game during the regular season, he's now averaging 16.7 points and 8.2 rebounds through six playoff games.

And he's shooting the three at a sizzling 55.9 percent clip. That's on 19 of 34 three-point attempts. 

It's amazing how valuable a hot shooting hand can be to a lineup. And John Wall, Bradley Beal and the rest of the Wizards are milking it.  

They're actively looking for Ariza, and he's capitalizing. "I definitely felt that once that ball touched my hands, there was a pretty good chance that the ball was going to go in," Ariza told J. Michael of CSN Washington after Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

Credit his teammates for finding him, but Ariza is getting himself open for looks without having to use the dribble. Transition threes, drive-and-kick threes, corner threes—Ariza, who's coming off his best shooting season of his career by far, has emerged as Washington's go-to long-range threat.

He made all six of his three-pointers in Game 1 against the Indiana Pacers.

You'd be surprised what type of spacing can be created from Ariza just threatening as a shooter. When defenders can't leave him to help out, it certainly makes Wall's job a lot easier as a driver. 

ESPN

Ariza didn't always pose this type of threat—before arriving in Washington, he hadn't finished a season over 33.4 percent from downtown. But with Wall, Beal, Nene Hilario and Marcin Gortat all clicking, Ariza is finding himself with a lot of higher-percentage scoring opportunities.

He's just sticking to his strengths—you won't see Ariza try to create one-on-one or force a shot that's out of his comfort zone. He's keeping it simple by stretching the floor and making plays within the offense, whether it's as a spot-up shooter or even as a passer in the half court. 

Ariza finished with just eight points on eight shots in Game 2 of Round 1 against the Chicago Bulls, but he dished out seven assists on a night where the ball just wasn't finding him in scoring position. 

He's making the most of every touch he gets in the offense. The fact that he's putting up the numbers he is with just a 16.1 percent usage rate in the playoffs speaks to his efficiency (19.7 player efficiency rating through six games, per Basketball-Reference.com).

Ariza actually has a higher plus/minus in the playoffs than both Wall and Beal

And it's not just offense that Ariza has been contributing. 

In their first meeting of the series, Ariza was on point defensively against Paul George, who finished just 4-of-17 shooting from the floor.

His ability to defend the wing is just as important as his ability to stretch the floor.

Ariza has been around for a while now—this is season No. 10 for the former second-round pick out of UCLA. And after three consecutive years shooting below 42 percent from the floor and averaging 11 points or less, Ariza is now playing the best ball of his career. 

Though it seems like a random outburst, it's not. The improvement of Wall and Beal, along with the steady play from Washington's bigs, has given Ariza a platform to make plays opportunistically from his sweets spots on the floor. 

And he's converting them at a blazing rate. 

With Ariza giving Washington another reliable scoring option and a solid wing defender, the Wizards have become one of the baddest teams in the East. 

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