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Blazers, Trevor Ariza

How Trevor Ariza opting out of NBA restart changes Blazers’ playoff chances

The Portland Trailblazers are already facing an uphill battle in trying to make the NBA Playoffs this year. Their odds aren’t getting any better with the news that Trevor Ariza will opt-out from playing once the NBA restarts in Orlando.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Trevor Ariza has been involved in a legal custody battle for his twelve year old son. With the court-ordered visitation window overlap with the NBA’s return date, Ariza made the tough decision to choose family over an on-court return.

The news is a major blow to Portland, who already find themselves shorthanded at the wing position.

Blazers wing Rodney Hood was declared out for the season with a torn left Achilles. That left a gaping hole at the small forward position – a hole that Ariza was beginning to cover he arrived in Portland.

Ariza has filled in admirably since being traded from Sacramento in January. He’s served as an outlet shooter for Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum.

He’s started in all 21 games he has appeared in for the Blazers, putting up 11 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 1.6 steals per game.

More importantly for their offense, he took four threes per contest and made them at an efficient 40% clip.

On the other side of the floor, Trevor Ariza was expected to provide a veteran defensive presence to guard some of the tougher wing matchups.

Portland’s options to replace him aren’t very encouraging.

The Blazer’s Wing Options to Replace Trevor Ariza

First, there’s their 19 year old rookie out of UNC – Nasir Little. While Little has the size and wingspan to defend some tough assignments, he’ll definitely be an offensive liability for them in late-game situations.

Nasir averaged a downright gruesome 23.7% from downtown.

A better option might be Gary Trent Jr. The sophomore was starting to ramp it up before the league shut down. In 10 games since the All-Star break, Trent Jr. played in 29.3 minutes per contest. He even put up a respectable 11.2 points per game.

However, he’s a little undersized to be able to defend some of the bigger wings that some teams might throw at him.

Would they even consider him to defend LeBron James or Kawhi Leonard? I don’t think so.

That leaves the Blazers with just one more possible option – Carmelo Anthony.

Melo has actually started in every game he’s played since joining the Blazers. But he’s done so at the power forward position, playing more of a stretch 4 role for the club.

One wrinkle that will actually benefit the Blazers thanks to the shut down is the return from injury of their original starting forward – Zach Collins.

They could opt to start Melo and Collins together at the forward spots. Anthony could play more as a wing player on offense. This would leave Collins to track the tougher defensive assignments with his length and shot-blocking ability.

Admittedly, no solution would be perfect. But with the Blazers out of options, they’ll probably be willing to try anything at this point to replace Trevor Ariza.