- The Season's Over -

With All Eyes Watching, Three Free Agents-to-Be That are Stepping Up

May 9, 2009

Trevor Ariza Gets UPBy Zachariah Blott

Much like the NCAA Tournament, the NBA Playoffs are often a springboard for certain players to showcase their skills to fans and GM’s alike, hopefully landing themselves a lucrative contract. Here are three soon-to-be free agents who, with the world watching, are making the case for a much larger paycheck next season.

Trevor Ariza, SF,
Los Angeles Lakers

2008-09 Salary: $2.91 million

What He Brings: Ariza’s combination of speed, size (6-foot-8, 210 pounds), and determination allow him to be a great defender. Like Bruce Bowen or Shane Battier, he can guard almost any opponent and is regularly asked to track down guards or bang with the big boys down low.

Playing 24 minutes a game for the season, he had decent pers of 8.9 points, 4.3 boards, 1.8-1.1 assist-turnovers, 1.7 steals, and a .460 FG% which would be much better if he stopped shooting so many 3’s (.319). His combination of size and quickness make him a strong inside finisher (his .625 FG% around the rim ranks ahead of Dwight Howard’s .622, but that does include many fastbreak points). At 23 years of age, he’s also still extremely young.

[Ed. note: Say what you will about Isiah Thomas, he deserves all of it, but he also drafted some diamonds in the rough]

Playoffs: Ariza is starting over Lamar Odom and doing quite well. He is playing 32 minutes a night with 11.4 points, has 27 assists to only 14 turnovers, and has knocked down 15 of 29 triples. His defense is more valuable than his 1.4 steals and 0.5 blocks indicate.

Right Situation: He would do well on a team that needs intensity on defense but is not looking for a scorer. Atlanta and Portland both fit the description and have plenty of money to spend. Good luck finding Ariza in a Blazers’ uniform, though, after he wiped out Rudy Fernandez on a breakaway attempt in a March contest.

Trevor Ariza Photo Credit: Icon SMI

Von Wafer, SG, Houston Rockets

2008-09 Salary: $798,000

What He Brings: Wafer drives into the lane with authority and regularity, has a decent pull-up jumper, and can score in bunches. When he gets a chance to play more than just spot duty in a game, he’ll put up decent numbers; in 11 starts this season, Wafer averaged 16.4 points, .497 FG%, .385 3-pt FG%, and 1.4 steals. His decision making can be so-so when he’s not creating his own shot (1.1-0.9 assists-turnovers), but he’s only 23 years old.

Playoffs: Average NBA fans have suddenly become aware of Wafer’s spurty scoring ability in the playoffs. While sporting what Ron Artest calls a Von-hawk, he has hit his 3’s (7 of 16) and continues to be a menace to opponents by consistently getting into the lane.

Right Situation: Wafer should continue to be paired with other quick guards, creating bad match-ups for larger opponents. A fast-paced squad would like him. Indiana and Phoenix (if they’re actually going into rebuilding mode) could have the cash to add Wafer. I’m sure Houston would love to keep him, but the market may set a price a little higher than they can swing, especially if the Rockets re-sign Artest.

One more 2009 free agent-to-be stepping up, after the jump…

Glen Davis, F-C, Boston Celtics

2008-09 Salary: $712,000

What He Brings: “Big Baby” Davis is deceptively quick at 6-foot-9, 290 pounds, making it very difficult for opponents to move him, defend him, or maneuver around him. He doesn’t put up any big-time stats (7.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, .442 FG%), but you can’t miss his impact when watching him play. He’s the beefy guy in green who will occasionally muscle through centers for tough points, but who is more comfortable on the catch-and-shoot around 10-15 feet (59% of his shots are 2-point jumpers, one of the top-20 figures in the league).

Considering how sparingly Boston has used Davis in his 2 years as a pro, his production would spike significantly if a team increased his role and, subsequently, his learning curve. [Ed. note: teams have to wonder though, would Davis stay in reasonable basketball shape if handed a large contract?]

Playoffs: Davis is starting in place of the injured Kevin Garnett and doing just fine. Although the series was played at a fast pace and there were several overtimes, he put up 18.1 points and 6.7 rebounds against Chicago. He showed good fitness in that series, spending at least 40 minutes on the floor in 5 of the games, including 53 in the epic, 3-overtime Game 6. Predictably, his numbers have dropped in the second round versus Dwight Howard.

Right Situation: Boston will pay their Big 3 $55 million next season, so the ideal situation of Davis staying put may not be available. Oklahoma City would love his youthful spirit, are in need of a powerful big man, and are only on the books for $42 million (so far) next year.

Zachariah Blott is an English teacher in Portland, not an Amish Charles Dickens character.

8 Comments »Posted by ETB Contributor on May. 9, 2009 at 1:00 pm in NBA

8 Responses

1. Ariza did not “wipe out” Rudy. Portland was up big late in the fourth and were looking to add insult to injury, so when Rudy went for a breakaway dunk, he simply committed a hard foul. It didn’t look like anything personal; I don’t see how this would stop him from playing for Portland next season.

2. Von Wafer will most likely get payed too much for what he does if he gets a new deal (although I do think he’s worth more than his current salary). He lacks consistency.

3. Davis, similar to Chris Andersen, gives his team great bang for its buck.

Posted by: r.i.p_petrovic on May 9th, 2009 at 11:52 pm

About this Ariza-Fernandez incident:
1) It was in the THIRD quarter.
2) Ariza is significantly larger than Fernandez.
3) Fernandez was in the air after sprinting the court at full speed. He was also directly in front of Ariza, so there was no way for him to see that his head and elbow were about to be swiped by the larger defender, resulting in a crash landing on his side. He was defenseless.
4) Regardless of Ariza’s intentions, the play was incredibly dangerous and reckless. The results speak for themselves.
5) Ariza immediately started flexing/taunting/whatever you want to call it.
6) Fernandez is loved in Portland. There is NO WAY Blazers fans would accept Ariza.

Posted by: Zachariah Blott on May 10th, 2009 at 4:24 am

Correct; it was in fact late in the third, and not the fourth. Ariza didnt start flexing and taunting Fernandez, he was yelling back and forth with Roy. I guess you do have a point about Blazers fans not wanting him there though.

You might also find that if Portland doesn’t improve in the playoffs next year, some roster shuffling may be required. It will be interesting to see if the Blazers management also shares that love for Fernandez by locking him down. What are his current contract details?

Posted by: r.i.p_petrovic on May 10th, 2009 at 6:35 am

Portland fans and media are expecting a much better post-season next year, especially since 3 of their top-8 are rookies. Fernandez’s contract, like pretty much every Blazer’s, is only guaranteed for next year. However, the team has a very cheap option on his deal through 2012, so he should be in Portland for a while.


Posted by: Zachariah Blott on May 10th, 2009 at 12:17 pm

What about Ariza to the Jazz? Could definitely use help defensively. And not looking for a scorer, but I’m pretty sure he’s more reliable offensively than CJ Miles.

Posted by: UtesFan89 on May 10th, 2009 at 9:28 pm

What’s interesting is that all three of those guys were McDonald’s All Americans and all were chosen much lower than they were projected in the 2004, 2005 and 2007 NBA Drafts.

Trevor Ariza was a STUD in L.A. as a high school kid, came out a little early and was scooped up by Isiah; New York had to trade him to clear salary, as did Orlando, though no team really wanted to part with him.

Vakeaton Wafer was the same way in the 2003 high school class and was probably underscouted and a bit immature coming out; he’s now coming into his own.

Baby was just underappreciated, and now he’s making people look silly for not taking him higher in the Draft. Glen was always good, but he’s really proving that he’s worth the future investment.

Posted by: SD on May 10th, 2009 at 11:10 pm

Great points, SD… we have another piece on a few of this summer’s unrestricted (and second tier) free agents coming up this week. Safe to say that after tonight’s game-winner, Big Baby’s asking price took another leap.

Posted by: Brian Spencer on May 10th, 2009 at 11:58 pm

I’m not sure the Jazz can afford Ariza. They already have $71m on the books next year, and that’s split between only 9 guys. Also, Paul Millsap is a free agent and will demand well over $800k.

Posted by: Zachariah Blott on May 11th, 2009 at 6:45 pm

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