Will the deal for Ron Artest ever start paying real dividends for the LA Lakers?
Only if they realize they have a Ferrari in their garage that needs to be let out and driven to red-line.
Sure, Ron Artest’s defense has come on strong in the last twenty plus games of the season, but that was to be expected. Naturally, it took Artest some time to find his rhythm on his new team. That’s why Ron Ron started slowly with the Lakers, adjusting both to the Triangle offense as well as a new supporting role.
After years of being one of the main men on each of his teams, Artest with the Lakers is an entirely different role for him. But, he’s delivered on defense. And, I expect him to continue to lock-down opposing scorers, at least making their lives difficult. But, that isn’t enough, not for Artest, and definitely not for the Lakers.
If the Lakers are serious about repeating, they have to use Artest on offense. And, I’m not talking about spot up threes. That was Trevor Ariza’s role last season which he mastered. Sure, Artest can hit the open ones too, but he needs more latitude in the triangle.
Here are the reasons why:
The Lakers are predictable. With a injury plagued and slowed down Kobe Bryant, the Lakers aren’t as dynamic on offense as in the last two years. The flow of the triangle is not there and they now settle for shots that they didn’t take in their title run last year.
On top of the litany of injuries, they are simply out of sync. It is challenging to even view the Lakers in this light, since for the past few years, specifically since the Pau Gasol trade, offense has not been LA’s issue. They were deemed soft, not a great defensive team but offense never was a problem. Until now. They really struggle. This is why they need Artest even more, and not just defensively.
The problem is that the Lakers already have 3 post players in the Triangle. Pau, Andrew Bynum (pretty much healthy unlike last year) and, the other main post threat, Kobe Bryant.
Like Michael Jordan before him with the Chicago Bulls, Kobe is one of the Triangle’s main post threats. You can find him in that spot in the Triangle multiple times during a game. Now, in years past, with shooters surrounding them, this wasn’t a problem. But without a full strength Kobe, his effectiveness has dropped and, the result, so has the Lakers offense.
This is where Artest comes in.
Ron Artest is a beast, and not just on defense. He’s averaged between fifteen and twenty points a game for his career and was actually an over twenty a game guy the last few years leading up to joining the Lakers. Artest’s strength’s are in the post and the mid-range game. His real struggle with the Triangle this season isn’t about him understanding his role.
He knows his role and his spots. It’s just that the open shots he gets in the current Triangle aren’t ones that utilize his skills the best. For Artest to dominate, he needs to be on the block, wrecking havoc.
The Lakers need to move Kobe out of the post spot in the triangle and replace him with Artest. The reason becomes even more apparent when you consider that Artest is usually guarded by the opposing team’s leading scorer. This is because Artest is called upon each game to lock-down the other team’s main player. So, if you put Artest in the post, use him to his fullest in the Triangle, he’ll put pressure on his man and make that player work on both ends of the court.
Currently, Artest’s man can fade off, double team the other Lakers stars, move around, and most importantly, save himself for offense. The Lakers need to exploit the matchup on both ends and use Artest properly.
Let’s take the Lakers current matchup with Oklahoma Thunder as an example of how moving Artest to the post could have massively favorable results. Artest is guarding the NBA’s Scoring Champ, young Kevin Durant. And, through two games, Artest has done a very good job of giving Durant trouble with his solid defense. Durant is still scoring but working harder, and his shooting percentage is down. All of this is to be expected. Artest is one of the most gifted perimeter defenders in league history.
But, think about this. If Artest was allowed to go into the post and go to work on Durant, the Thunder would be in serious trouble. Durant weighs nothing compared to Artest, like a bamboo reed against an oak tree.
Artest can have his way in the post with Durant. There is no chance he can stop Artest down in the paint. Not only will this result in points but the best way to stop a scorer like Durant, is to get him in foul trouble and have him sit on the bench. One on one, Durant can’t stop Artest in the post. That will also force the Thunder to possibly double team Artest (who is a gifted and willing passer) and give Durant some help. Yes, you read that correctly. Can you imagine doubling Artest with an open Kobe and Pau on the floor? Very scary.
It really is simple for Phil Jackson and the Lakers. Run some sets for Artest with him down low in the Triangle. It can only result in huge benefits for the Lakers. They will either score, get Durant in foul trouble, or cause the Thunder to adjust and send help. All positives for the Lakers. And, the final gain for the Lakers, is it will force Durant to expend energy on both ends. That alone will be worth the move.
This is the blueprint for a Lakers repeat.
Using Artest to his full ability on offense, considering he will already be playing amazing defense on the opposing team’s star, will work wonders for the Lakers. Artest is healthy, he’ll score or get that star player in foul trouble. Assuming LA gets by the Thunder, look at what is potentially on the horizon for Artest and the Lakers.
After Durant, this formula would work for Denver’s Carmelo Anthony, and, if the Lakers get past him, same for Dallas and Caron Butler. Take it even further, and Artest could dominate either Cleveland’s Lebron James or Orlando’s Vince Carter in the paint, getting them in foul trouble.
The key: Make that scorer work on both ends. Or, get them on the bench in foul trouble.
This is a winning formula. The sooner the Lakers figure this out, that they have a real Ferrari in their garage, the sooner the Lakers title hopes return. If not, the current Lakers are going to really struggle. I’m not saying they won’t repeat, but wow, what an easier road it would be if they would use Artest properly.
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