NBA Roundtable: Did Lakers make mistake signing Artest over Ariza?
L.A.'s Ron Artest recently admitted that Trevor Ariza is a better role player
LeBron James and Kevin Durant seem poised for breakout postseasons
Other topics: Rookie Rodrigue Beaubois' playing time, Hall of Fame nominees
SI.com's NBA writers analyze the latest news and address hot topics from around the league each week.
(All stats and records are through March 29.)
Ian Thomsen: We can't answer that until we see their impact in the playoffs. Ariza is scoring more for Houston, but he's also getting more shots on his depleted team while shooting a lower percentage (38.8 percent) than Artest (41.8 percent). So the numbers don't give Ariza the advantage because he's playing in an entirely different environment. Artest was hired to make a difference in the postseason and help the Lakers win another championship. The Lakers are slightly better defensively this season -- opponents are shooting 44.3 percent, as opposed to 44.7 percent last year -- but it all comes down to the playoff matchups and how he deals with the likes of Manu Ginobili, Caron Butler or Carmelo Anthony. I'm not going to call his signing a mistake while the Lakers remain the favorite in the West.
Jack McCallum: Going to Ron-Ron for piquant hoops analysis is like going to Provo, Utah, for a night on the town: It just ain't the place. If you read the entire Artest interview -- "[Ariza's] a role player, a great role player. I haven't been a role player ..." -- I'm not even sure the man was serious or even concentrating on the question. (Artest was probably tweeting as he spoke.) I'm on record as saying that I love Ariza's game, but I'm also on record as saying the virtual trade was a good one, and, during the playoffs, Artest's defense will make a positive difference for L.A. As far as how Artest fits in long-term with the Lakers, well, that's another story.
Frank Hughes: I would have gone with Ariza over Artest. He is six years younger than Artest and he has far less baggage. Plus, Ariza's game just seems to fit better with Kobe Bryant's. In addition, you almost feel like Ariza should have been rewarded for making some of the defensive plays that he did during the playoffs last year. So was the trade a mistake? I guess it remains to be seen whether the Lakers repeat before that can be truly answered.
Chris Mannix: You can't judge the Artest-Ariza question until June, because if the Lakers don't win the whole shebang, then yes, they screwed up. No one has ever questioned whether Artest was a better player than Ariza -- just whether he was a better fit as a role player on a stocked squad. If L.A. wins, it worked out. If it doesn't, let the second-guessing begin.
2. Dallas rookie Rodrigue Beaubois' scoring average more than tripled from February to March as he picked up more minutes. After his 40-point showing against the Warriors, it begs the question: Does the kid deserve more playing time?
Thomsen: All credit to anyone who scores 40 in an NBA game, but let's be real: He did it against the Warriors. Beaubois isn't going to displace their guard rotation of Jason Kidd, Butler and Jason Terry (along with J.J. Barea), but the rookie does give Dallas another option. At 6-foot-4, Kidd's ability to defend opposing shooting guards enables Beaubois to play alongside him at times, and the Mavs will benefit from knowing they have an explosive young scorer who is showing confidence at the right time of year. But there's no way he should take minutes from Terry.
McCallum: Well, the 48-25 Mavs are better than almost anyone thought they would be, so coach Rick Carlisle has had a damn good season. He's a conservative, batten-down-the-hatches kind of coach, who, not surprisingly, doesn't much trust rookies. (And Beaubois did get his 40 against the Warriors; Chris Mannix had 37 against them last week.) Having said that, Beaubois has been pretty spectacular, particularly considering that he's not overly turnover-prone. This may not exactly answer the question, but my strong feeling is that Beaubois will get much more playing time in the postseason.
Hughes: Playing time is a tricky thing. Anytime you give minutes to somebody, you are taking them from somebody else. In this case, those minutes would likely come from Terry, and he's a pretty significant piece from which to take time. The Mavs have such a good thing going, I don't think you want to mess with rotations or rhythm just so you can give a promising player a lot more time. Well, let me take that back: It depends on how promising the player is. I think Beaubois is going to have a nice career. Does he demand that Carlisle absolutely put him on the floor? I have not seen that. He should get plenty of opportunity in the coming years to prove his worth.
Mannix: Sure, and I think Carlisle is going to find it. One of the many benefits of having a big point guard like Kidd is that the willowy Beaubois can play minutes at two-guard. That's critical, because as well as Beaubois has played, you don't want him to eat too much into the minutes of Kidd and Barea. I don't know how much of a factor he is going to be in the playoffs -- he's been like a yo-yo all season and I don't know if Carlisle is going to trust him in postseason games -- but he can definitely be a spark down the stretch.
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