Though a mere formality by now, the Rockets officially finalized the signing of swingman Trevor Ariza in an odd sign-and-trade deal with the Wizards and Pelicans on Tuesday.
The move was first reported over the weekend but officially approved by the league office today. Given this offseason’s volatitly, the Rockets are probably happy to have this one in writing.
Rather than merely signing Ariza via free agency, the Rockets salvaged both a protected 2015 first-round pick from New Orleans as well as reserve small forward Alonzo Gee and D-League wingman Scotty Hopson in the three-team swap.
Houston sent Omer Asik to New Orleans along with Omri Casspi, while Washington got an $8.5 million trade exception and Melvin Ely’s unguaranteed contract to make room for the recently signed Paul Pierce.
Ariza’s contract is reportedly worth four years and $32 million, with his yearly cap hit decreasing each season. After agreeing to terms with Ariza following a swing and a miss to sign Chris Bosh, the Rockets decided not to match Chandler Parson’s offer sheet in restricted free agency, letting him walk to the Mavericks. Houston also moved Jeremy Lin to the Lakers last Friday in anticipation of signing Bosh.
The main advantage to acquiring Ariza via trade instead of free agency comes from Houston’s own $8.5 million trade exception, which could allow the Rockets to add an expensive contributor — or they could renounce it and get back under the salary cap for this season. Either way, Gee and Hopson’s contracts are both non-guaranteed, so they will likely be waived soon.
Ariza spent a year with the franchise already back in 2009-10, averaging nearly 15 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.8 steals per game that season. Though his stats last season with the resurgent Wizards were about the same, his shooting numbers have improved considerably since his last stint in Houston, and his perimeter defense will be a welcome addition alongside James Harden and Patrick Beverly.
His three-point shooting in 2014 was up by more than 70 percentage points from his first Rockets stint, his two-point shooting was up from .394 to .456, and his playoff runs with the Lakers and Wizards adds postseason experience to a season starting five.