Has Ron Artest finally earned his paycheck with the Los Angeles Lakers?
Before this NBA regular season began a lot of the best teams around the league started wheeling and dealing in an attempt to upgrade their rosters. Amongst the best of the best teams, five stood out ahead of the rest as they added some All-Star caliber talent to their rosters.
Even though they have been considered a great team on the decline, the San Antonio Spurs tried their best this past offseason to add some key pieces to the puzzle in order to contend with the defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference once again.
With the big three still intact in perennial All-Star Tim Duncan, superstar import Manu Ginobili and lightening quick point guard Tony Parker, the Spurs still had a great shot of at least going deep in the playoffs, but seeing all the other moves made by the best teams in the league forced their hands.
As a way to counter other moves that were made, the Spurs drafted forward DeJuan Blair out of Pittsburgh and traded for Richard Jefferson and veteran Antonio McDyess. Even though these are all very talented additions to the squad, Jefferson turned out to be somewhat of a bust and McDyess was nothing more than an aging veteran. The one player that surprised the Spurs was Blair who will be a star in this league sooner rather than later.
The other moves made by some of the prominent teams in the NBA were the Cleveland Cavaliers adding Shaquille O’Neal, the Orlando Magic bringing in high flying Vince Carter, the Boston Celtics signing versatile forward Rasheed Wallace and finally the Los Angeles Lakers taking a chance on the controversial Ron Artest.
Although Shaq, Vinsanity and Wallace were welcome additions to these great teams and showed their impact throughout the season and in the playoffs, the defending champs may have topped them all by bringing Artest.
Over the last few years, the Lakers have been noticeably soft in on the defensive end of the floor and many people believe that is why they weren’t able to win an NBA title in 2008. With the addition of Artest though, the defending champs have gotten that much needed toughness on the defensive end of the floor as he took the pressure off Kobe Bryant to defend the best offensive player on the opposing team.
With not having to use all of his energy on both sides of the basketball floor, especially in the playoffs, the Los Angeles Lakers have flourished once again and will be headed to their third straight NBA Finals appearance.
Even though Ron Artest has played well at times throughout the NBA regular season, the former Defensive Player of the Year has struggled in the playoffs and a lot of people have really started to question whether or not signing in the offseason instead of Trevor Ariza was the right move.
The one thing that has continued to happen to Ron Artest during the playoffs has been the opposing team leaving him wide open to take any shot that comes his way. Even though Artest can get hot at times, he is not a dominant offensive player and any opposing team would love to see Ron Artest shoot opposed to Kobe Bryant.
Despite Artest really struggling with his shooting, especially from beyond the arc, the versatile small forward was able to officially earn his paycheck recently by hitting the game-winning shot in game five and adding a season-high 25 points (4 of 7 from deep) in clinching game of the Western Conference Finals against the Phoenix Suns.
The true test for Artest will come in the NBA Finals against the Boston Celtics where he will probably be guarding Paul Pierce throughout the series. If Artest can contain Pierce and get some production on the offensive end of the floor, it could be argued that he was the biggest addition of any team this season.