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July 2, 2009

Artest to the Lakers

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin Pelton @ 8:32 pm

The success of the Los Angeles Lakers’ signing of Ron Artest, first reported in a major coup by’s Ken Berger, all comes down to possessions. As in, will Artest be willing and able to use fewer of them? Artest was essentially dealt for incumbent small forward Trevor Ariza, which may be formalized if Ariza ends up signing with the Rockets to replace Artest. Last year, Ariza used 16.7 percent of the Lakers’ possessions while on the floor. Artest used 24.7 percent of Houston’s possessions, and has been over 23 percent every year since 2002-03.

If Artest plays to his tendencies, it’s hard to see where those possessions would come from, especially when he is on the floor alongside the high-possession Bryant. I’m of the belief that possession usage is in many ways as much a skill as anything else, not something that can be largely dictated by coaches. Using a ton of possessions is in Artest’s DNA just as much as physical defense or crazy quotes.

This would be OK if Artest was more efficient with said possessions, but his 51.2 percent True Shooting is well below average (and below Ariza’s 54.4 percent mark from last season, which he upped in the playoffs when he improbably developed into a lights-out three-point shooter). The Lakers are trading more efficient possessions from Ariza and other players for less efficient ones.

Artest is a good passer when motivated, but that willingness has long been in question. The worst thing that can happen in the triangle is for the ball to stop in one place. That’s justified for Bryant, but not for Artest. Optimistically, Bryant and Phil Jackson will be able to keep Artest’s worst tendencies in check, but pessimistically he could work against much of what the Lakers are trying to do on offense.

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