Don’t get me wrong—Artest is a very good player. I love how he plays the game. I really do. Had he ended up with the Cavs, I would have been thrilled, because he’s exactly what they’re missing.
However, the Lakers weren’t missing that piece. They already had it in 24-year-old Trevor Ariza. They just weren’t willing to show him the necessary love.
Like Artest, Ariza is a shutdown perimeter defender, and definitely better at this point in their respective careers. Let’s not forget that Artest wasn’t even the best defensive player on the Rockets, although Shane Battier is a terrific defender.
That being said, Artest can still D up, but he’s certainly not the on-ball defender he once was. Regardless, Artest will still fit in nice defensively with the Lakers and be able to take pressure off Kobe (like Ariza already did).
But Artest isn’t really a great complement for Kobe Bryant and the Lakers triangle offense.
Ariza knew how to defer and not force the issue, and he shows signs of great offensive potential. During the 2009 postseason, the super-athletic Ariza displayed his ability to get to the rim and finish. Not to mention, he shot a ridiculous 47.6 percent from three-point range.
I understand that’s significantly up from his regular season average (31.9 percent) and career average (29.9 percent), but Ariza has definitely improved his stroke. He should be very confident with his shot heading into next season.
If his shot stays true, Ariza needs only to develop a mid-range game, and then he’s a very dangerous offensive weapon on the perimeter.
No doubt, Artest can put the ball in the hoop. But he’s also going to jack up terrible shots, which really isn’t an ideal thing when you already have guys like Kobe, Pau Gasol, and Lamar Odom.
He’s also never shot the ball well during his postseason career, shooting just 38.0 percent from the floor in 44 career postseason games, including 31.4 percent from deep.
Then, there’s the fact that Artest is a ticking time bomb, due for some sort of explosion. I mean, is a guy who “hoodilized” Sportscenter while wearing a hat that said “So Gutta” going to be able to take criticism from the notoriously harsh and demanding Kobe Bryant?
Or is he going beat him with a broken chair leg? You just don’t know.
All things considered, the Lakers are still going to be a very good team next season, and they definitely could repeat—but this could also blow up in their faces.
With Ron Artest, you just can’t be sure of what you’re going to get—and that’s pretty scary.
Keeping Ariza would have been, at the very least, the safest move for the purple and gold. I think they’ve taken a step backwards this offseason, which isn’t the right direction to move if you’re thinking dynasty.
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