I imagine the first meeting that takes place before the beginning of an NBA series usually touches base on what player of the opposing team poses the biggest threat. His name will be written in big red letters on a whiteboard with some sort of verb phrase written around it. Perhaps if it was a team of bloggers, the board would say “STOP HOOP DISTRICT!” Or it would say “WE WON’T BE ABLE TO STOP ZAIN ZAIDI, BUT WE MOST CONTAIN HIM.” They must need a pretty big ass board in the Brooklyn and Miami series.
“MUST LIMIT DERON WILLIAMS, PAUL PIERCE, JOE JOHNSON, AND JIGGA MAN.”
“WHO WILL GUARD LEBRON? AND WADE? And Bosh…And Ray Allen…And Shane Battier.”
Last series it was Joakim Noah. If you evaluated the makeup of the Chicago Bulls roster a few years ago, you’d never imagine that he’d be that guy…the guy that a coach and team would have to somehow game-plan for on offense and defense. Granted, if Derrick Rose was playing he would clearly be that guy (at least on offense). However, that isn’t a knock against Joakim Noah. He advanced his game so much in the last couple seasons en route to a Defensive Player Of The Year award and a decent offensive repertoire.
If every round gets tougher, so does the main individual task at hand. This series, there is nobody else even in the discussion. Paul George is a rising star. In spite of his uneven performances and occasionally poor shooting percentages, PG24 has one of the highest ceilings in the NBA. He needs to work on his passing and raise his FG% by scoring better in the flow of an offense, but he has elite level physical tools and a propensity to show up clutch in big moments. 6’9. 220. Jumps out the gym. Fiery. Drives to the hole and has displayed unlimited range. Who can stop this guy but himself? Who can limit someone who does this.
I think I know somebody. He’s a pretty good defender. I’ve seen him do this…
6’8. 210. Swift. Lanky. A calm and cool demeanor with ice water running through his veins.
Ariza might not be considered an elite level defender in the same group as Tony Allen or Lebron James, but he’s in the next best category. He has historically shown a strong ability to guard players coming off of screens and he is one of the best at shutting down spot-up shooters. He used to lack in his isolation defense but he has really stepped that up in the last year. In 2012-2013 he flashed that ability as the best perimeter defender on a Wizards team that had the fifth best defense in the league. Somewhat inefficient shooters like Paul George and Carmelo Anthony are the types that Ariza savors matching up against. The two aforementioned scorers love to shoot 3’s and midrange jumpers. Ariza has the length to contest those kind of shots, and he also used to practice a guy named Kobe Bryant who did the same two things at a much higher level.
Here’s a video of him contesting shots from behind the arc:
Watch him get behind the screen on this play before he gets called for a foul after a ridiculous flop by James Harden:
For those Wizards haters who will say that Ariza isn’t that great of a defender because perhaps they haven’t watched him play this season… *Long Ace Ventura-like inhale*
Against the Thunder, Ariza took on Kevin Durant and held him to 8-for-21 shooting.
While battling a fever over 100, he defended Lebron James and forced him into missing 10 of his 18 shots in a Wizards victory over the Heat.
In a win against Golden State, Ariza defended Stephen Curry into taking what was regarded as a horrible attempt at a game-tying shot. The miss sealed the victory for the Wizards, 88-85.
In a 90-89 win against the Knicks, Ariza, battling the flu, limited Carmelo Anthony to 5-for-14 shooting and nine turnovers. After the game, Carmelo Anthony blamed it on a shoulder injury. Yeah, sure. And when my last girlfriend broke up with me, she really meant it when she said “it’s not you, it’s me.” False on both accounts.
According to SportVU data, Ariza matched up on Paul George for 27 combined minutes in the three regular season matchups. Ariza held Paul George to 8-for-26 shooting and only fouled George four times.
Men lie, women lie, but the numbers don’t. A great rapper said it, a bunch of idiots I know foolishly repeat it, but in this case it rings true. Ariza forces great scorers to shoot a high volume of shots to get the numbers they usually get. He’s also shown a precedent of being able to limit Paul George. Just ask the best player on the team who he thinks is the most important piece of this years team.
“That’s the biggest key to our team, in my opinion,” Wall said of Ariza. “The way he’s shooting the ball and playing this season. but what he does defensively, he takes the challenge of guarding the best offensive player on any given night. He doesn’t complain about it. He goes out and does it and he’s one of the best at that position, of playing defense and he’s done a great job on most of the people we’ve played this season.”
(via Michael Lee of the Washington Post)