Based on the 2014 free-agent pool, which isn't that special, and the way Trevor Ariza is playing for the Wizards he's going to heavily sought after in the offseason. Trust, the Wizards realize it, and barring an unforeseen circumstance they're going to do their best to retain the 6-8 forward.
Ariza, still their best one-on-one defender, has put up some impressive games recently, the latest coming against Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder in a 96-81 win on Saturday that ended their 10-game winning streak. Durant, who had scored 30 or more points in 12 of his last 13 games, led all scorers with 26 points but it took him 21 shots. The NBA's top scorer at 31.2 points per game coming in, he missed all six of his shots from three-point range and had five turnovers.
"I get the job of guarding the tough guy every night so I just try to bring the same energy every night with whoever it is that I'm facing," said Ariza, who is making $7.7 million in the final year of his deal. "Whether it be Durant, LeBron (James), Carmelo (Anthony) or Kobe (Bryant). I just try to make them work for whatever they get.
"Stay in his grill. Try to make him take tough shots. Try not to give him easy, easy looks. That's about it."
When the Heat came to Verizon Center on Jan. 15, the Wizards jumped out to a 43-18 lead in the first quarter before winning 114-97. Ariza, playing with a 102-degree temperature, gutted it out. James had 25 points but only made 8 of 18 shots, missing all four threes he attempted.
Plus, Ariza's ability to consistently stretch the floor with his three-point range (38.8%) increases his value. He's averaging 14.1 points, 6.1 rebounds and 2.8 assists. He countered with a team-high 18 points, made 3 of 7 three-pointers, six rebounds, two steals and two assists against Durant.
"Trevor did a tremendous job on Kevin Durant," Wizards center Marcin Gortat said.
With the slowed development of rookie Otto Porter, a 6-8 forward drafted No. 3 overall, keeping Ariza around longer is more crucial. Ideally, Porter could fill that role of a versatile two-way player but he's not ready for that responsibility.
Winning will have a lot to do with Ariza's outlook. He's in his 10th season and likely entering the final long-term contract of his career. It's probably going to take more than money to keep him.