Why Ron Artest to the Lakers Makes Sense
It has been a busy off-season so far for the NBA, to put it mildly.
With All-Stars like Shaq, Richard Jefferson, and Vince Carter changing addresses before the draft, you knew the dominoes were going to fall.
For the champions, the Los Angeles Lakers, their biggest challenge was bringing back their team with key contributors Trevor Ariza and Lamar Odom hitting free agency.
Even Shannon Brown, who was previously considered to be no more than salary filler, has done enough to earn himself an offer.
Yesterday, the Internet was rife with rumblings that Trevor Ariza and his agent David Lee (yes, the same one who fleeced Kupchak for the Bynum deal) was reportedly headed in different directions from the Lakers on contract negotiations and it was likely Ariza would leave.
At that juncture, two names came to my mind: Shane Battier (Morrison's expiring plus Jordan Farmar to help the Rockets rebuild) and Ron Artest.
The latest reports that have mushroomed has Ron Artest going to the Lakers for the full Mid-Level Exception, effectively killing the likelihood of Ariza returning.
I love Trevor Ariza, and he is one of the major reasons why the Lakers hoisted the Larry O'Brien trophy. No doubt about it. Having said that, I actually like this deal immensely.
Essentially, this has become an Ariza vs. Artest debate.
Here is why you would argue for Ariza over Artest:
1) Ariza is younger
Five years younger, Artest is pretty much who he is going to be, while Ariza can still improve, no argument there.
However, considering the core of the Lakers, Kobe, Gasol and Odom (assuming he returns) are already at their peak and they probably have a three- to five-year window left, depending on how long Kobe has maintain his peak performance.
Even if Ariza is still onboard after Kobe and Odom retires, do you see a core of Ariza and Bynum being the future? You might, but you probably wouldn't put your money on it.
2) Ariza is already familiar with the Lakers system
No argument here. Although it must be said it was not until the playoffs that Ariza really found his groove, making the most of the open looks defenders were giving him to knock down the open three or drive to the hoop.
3) Artest is an, um,...headcase
Ron Artest may have a colorful history with well documented mental lapses (to put it mildly), but his one-year stint with the Rockets has shown that on a contender and playing for a coach he respects, Ron can actually stay out of trouble.
In Kobe and Fish, he would have veteran leaders to keep him in check. In LO, he has a buddy to keep him grounded.
In PJ (assuming he returns), he has the one coach who actually contained the one player 'crazier' than Artest in the immortal Dennis Rodman.
Not to mention the fact that Artest has a definite shot at getting a ring. Put it this way, if his stint with the Lakers bombs, Artest would probably run out of teams that would take him.
Here is why I love this move:
1) Artest is an upgrade over Ariza
The flurry of trades means while the list of contenders dwindled, those remaining got stronger. From having a Big Three, the Spurs have now gotten a Fantastic Four. LeBron got Shaq while Dwight got Vinsanity.
If the Lakers bring back both Ariza and Odom, their hands are tied, standing pat while the rest got better.
Unless Bynum FINALLY has his breakout season, the Lakers have to rely on their Big 3 (Kobe, Gasol, Odom) while the Spurs, Magic and Celtics (assuming Danny Ainge doesn't screw up) can throw four potent offensive options at them.
In Artest, the Lakers get a legitimate third or fourth scoring option, albeit one with questionable shot selection but when he does not need to carry the offensive load, he will benefit from the lack of attention on defense.
With Artest, at any time (other than garbage time), the Lakers can field any combination of Kobe, Gasol, Odom, and Artest to keep the offensive pressure on their opponents.
This will help their second unit, who really struggled once Bynum went down and Odom started.
Defensively, Artest currently has the edge with his experience and strength. His size will enable him to guard LeBron and Carmelo and allow Kobe to channel his energy on offense.
Although he loses a bit of speed compared to Ariza, his experience helps close the gap.
2) Signing Artest instead of Ariza opens the door for Lamar Odom to return
Much has been made about Ariza versus Odom on the net, but the stark reality is that Ariza is more easily replaceable compared to Odom.
As already mentioned, Artest, Battier, and even Bowen comes to mind, before less-heralded options like Dahntay Jones, Mikael Pietrus, and Ronnie Brewer.
As for LO, he is a unique talent and a match-up nightmare. He handles like a guard in a quick 6-10 body with amazing wingspan.
As Orlando proved against Cleveland in the Conference Finals, matchups are paramount in the playoffs.
Simply put, when he is on his game, Lamar Odom is the guy that coaches don't know what to do with. He can post up, clean the glass, run the break and shoot the three.
With more than $75 million committed to 11 players, the Lakers cannot afford to pay both Ariza and Odom more than the MLE. Of the two, Odom might be the more instrumental to their continued title runs with his skillset, especially if Artest is available.
Further, LO has proved he is a team player, coming off the bench in a contract year. Surely he deserves to be rewarded for that.
There is also the fact that Artest and LO are old Queens buddies. The chance of contending for a ring together may swing LO to take a bigger pay-cut.
3) The Lakers avoid overpaying another role player
It is not Ariza's fault that Sasha and Walton got inked to their overvalued deals. In all fairness, no one anticipated the state of the economy.
Unfortunately, current financial conditions do not allow the Lakers to pay $7 million to another rotation player, especially when Kobe, Gasol, and Bynum combine for nearly $52 million.
With the Artest signing and hopefully the re-signing of Odom, the Lakers took a step closer to retaining their trophy.
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