Wizards free agent Trevor Ariza would be a good fit for the Miami Heat


(AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

The Washington Wizards could lose forward Trevor Ariza to free agency, as the 29-year-old swingman is expected to have more than a few high-profile suitors.

Luckily for the Wizards, it appears they have the inside track.

“The organization has been great,” Ariza said in May. “My teammates, we hang out all the time, so I think this is a really good destination. Free agents would be crazy not to want to come here.”

Free agents would also be crazy not to want to go to Miami, especially if the Big Three keeps their talents in South Beach.

A little over a week ago, Heat President Pat Riley made it clear he would like to see his nucleus of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh stay and give the team some flexibility to retool the roster for another run at a championship.

“This stuff is hard,” Riley said. “And you got to stay together, if you got the guts. And you don’t find the first door and run out of it if you have an opportunity. This is four years into this era, this team, four Finals, [has] only been done three other times before. And two championships. We don’t need to rebuild. We need to retool. And that’s what we’re gonna do.”

A few days later, James opted out of his deal. As did Wade and Bosh.

Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports that James is seeking a max contract, which means Bosh and Wade would have to take pay cuts to give the team the flexibility it needs to sign the impact players for their third championship in four years. With an expected salary cap of $63.2 million, here is how the math would work:

James’ max contract would start at about $20.8 million. Since his cap hold (1.05 x last year’s salary) is a little less than that, the Heat would use that number until the other pieces are signed. Then they can go over the salary cap to re-sign James.

If Bosh and Wade both accept five-year deals worth $75 million ($15 million per year), those contracts would have starting salaries of just over $13 million.

ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reports that the Heat are looking to unload Norris Cole. If they do that (and don’t get another player in return), his $2.0 million would be replaced by another rookie minimum cap hold (see 7-11) and they’d have an additional $1.5 million of cap space.

The Heat could renounce the rights to Chris Andersen, but he has just a vet’s minimum cap hold. Keeping that would allow them to sign him for much more after they’re back over the salary cap.

The Heat can pay Shabazz Napier 120 percent of the rookie scale for the No. 24 pick. As with James, better to keep the cap hold number until the other pieces are signed.

If you don’t have 12 guys on your roster, there is a rookie minimum cap hold ($507,336) for every slot that takes you up to 12. So, if we’re talking about James, Bosh, Wade, Cole, Andersen, Napier and one free agent, we need five minimum cap holds.

The above capology acrobatics mean Miami could offer one free agent $11.3 million per year over four years. And this is where Ariza, who made $7.7 million last year, fits in.

Ariza will no doubt be looking for a raise, but if Bosh and Wade accept salaries in the ballpark of $13 million, then Ariza could slot in around $8 million to $10 million. And for that price, Miami gets a role player with championship experience who doesn’t need to be an alpha dog.

Ariza averaged 14.4 points, 6.2 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.6 steals per game last season. He set a career high in effective field goal percentage, which adjusts for the fact that a three-point field goal is worth one more point than a two-point field goal, at 56.2 percent and hit 40.7 percent of his shots from beyond the three-point arc (another career high).


Trevor Ariza Field Goal Percentage during 2013-14 Regular Season

Plus, Ariza is a good fit for Miami’s offense. Last season, Miami was the fourth-best team in the league at creating points in transition, scoring 1.2 points per play during the regular season. Ariza scored 1.3 transition points per play for Washington.

But offense isn’t what kept the Heat from a three-peat, their defense did, and Ariza can defend well, especially on the perimeter. Below is his adjusted defensive impact graph during the regular season. Warm colors (red and orange) indicate that offensive players shoot better when Ariza is on the court. Blue colors indicate the opposite, and as you can see, there aren’t many spots beyond the arc where the opposing team has the advantage.


Source: austinclemens.com

The Wizards have some tough choices to make, but if they decide they can’t or won’t match an offer for Ariza, Miami could be a great fit.

The Post Sports Live crew talks about Carmelo Anthony, the Heat's big three and other NBA free agency storylines to watch. (Post Sports Live/The Washington Post)
Neil Greenberg analyzes advanced sports statistics for the Fancy Stats blog and prefers to be called a geek rather than a nerd.
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