Who’s Better: Grant Hill or Trevor Ariza?

08.27.09 9 years ago 37 Comments

We argue. You decide…

GRANT HILL (by Ben York)
At first glance, admittedly (even as a Suns fan), this discussion seems one-sided in favor of the younger, less-broken Trevor Ariza. Looking deeper, however, it becomes clear that Grant Hill currently functions as a more effective player at a more consistent rate than Ariza has.

Obviously, at this point in their careers, the logical choice is to pick Trevor Ariza for the future of a franchise. But if I had to choose which player I’d want on my team for the ’09-10 season alone, I’d rather have the services of Grant Hill. They really are very similar type of players; other than their comparable physical builds, they both play the swing position very well as a guard/forward for their respective teams, have an innate ability to drive the lane, and are solid jump shooters. In addition, they’re both underrated defenders along the perimeter and can get out on the break with ease.

To be fair, Ariza is still developing as a player and has several question marks hanging over his head regarding what he’s capable of. With Grant Hill, we pretty much know what we’ll get out of him night in and night out: 12-15 points, 5-7 rebounds, and 3-4 assists with little to no turnovers. Hill is also extremely adaptable to multiple styles of play; he’s still able to both run the break successfully and can function very well in a more methodical approach. More importantly, he can fill in a lot of gaps on a team in terms of scoring, energy, and his defense. Grant’s not going to get you a ton of points (neither is Ariza) but he’ll get you solid, invaluable production in limited minutes (20-25) every night, in any type of system he’s playing in.

From an athletic standpoint, Ariza has the edge (though it hasn’t always been that way). On the other hand, Grant Hill has found the proverbial fountain of youth in Phoenix under trainer Aaron Nelson and has surprised many people with the way he’s still able to play the game above the rim at 36. Because of this, the difference in sheer athleticism between the two isn’t as far apart as one would be inclined to think.

I certainly believe that Ariza has the potential (and opportunity) to be a great player in this league for a long time. However, I just can’t get past the fact that he averaged merely 8 points a game for the Lakers during the regular season in ’08/09 and that his fat contract with the Rockets is solely based on his playoff production.

You really can’t go wrong with either player next season, and I’d expect both to have extremely similar numbers in the end. If I’m honest with myself, the only reasons I’d lean towards Ariza are based on pure hypothetical’s such as Hill’s injury plagued career, age catching up to him, or a decreased role in Phoenix’s offense.

Thus, knowing how genuinely good a person Hill is first hand, I’d tend to lean more towards Hill in this battle.

TREVOR ARIZA (by Austin Burton)
Ask Allen Iverson, Gilbert Arenas or Elton Brand — in the NBA, you’re only as good as your last game. Or better yet, your lasting impression.

The last time I saw Grant Hill, he was a senior citizen by League standards, still able to crank out a 20-point game or produce flashes of his former self, still looking for a team on which he’d be the missing ingredient in a championship recipe. The last time I saw Trevor Ariza, he was a key ingredient in a championship recipe (11.3 ppg, 1.6 spg, 47% 3PA in the ’09 playoffs), a budding star surging to get out of his role player’s body.

All due respect to Hill, who was once a deity in the game, a player/personality on track to becoming a Jordan-level international megastar before injuries intervened. But at 36 years old, Hill’s re-signing with the pretend-contender Suns this summer told me something: He’s ready to retire. At a time when most players his age and with his reputation would be chasing a ring, Hill seems content to ride out these last couple years in Phoenix, where an in-progress “transition” effort means nobody is expecting the Suns to challenge for a title.

Ariza, meanwhile, is just getting started. During the Lakers’ 2009 postseason run, Ariza was L.A.’s most opportunistic and one of its most clutch players behind Kobe. Whether it was a dagger three or a crunch-time steal, Ariza consistently made big plays. And while his free agency maybe didn’t go as planned, this new opportunity with Houston allows Ariza to — at least for a year while Yao Ming is out and the Rockets figure out their next moves — show if he’s ready for a bigger role.

While we’re in a new golden era for point guards, the two-guard position is top-heavy, and centers are always in demand, the next “it” position will be the small forward. If teams want to contend with LeBron, Carmelo, Durant, Granger and Rudy Gay over the next decade, they’ll need a star at the three. The position calls for thoroughbreds, which the 24-year-old Ariza is, while Hill is like the old horse in Animal Farm; he can still get the job done here and there, but that glue factory ain’t far off on the horizon. Ariza is ready to run. One of the top perimeter defenders in the League already, his offensive game is developing and his three-point shot is becoming more consistent.

Grant Hill can still produce, but only if he plays within his limitations. With Trevor Ariza, we’re still discovering his limits.

Who do you think is better?

Follow Ben York on Twitter: @bjyork
Follow Austin Burton on Twitter: @AustinatDIMEmag
Follow DIME on Twitter: @DIMEMag

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