That’s what we have been hearing for the past few days, right? Ron Artest will limit Paul Pierce on the offensive end and Artest is a much tougher guard than Vladimir Radmanovic. You know, things that are all true… except when they are not.
Paul Pierce garnered a poor reputation for not being able to score against bigger/more physical players in one series with Cleveland, despite a career that proves otherwise. In six games against the Cavaliers this post season, Paul Pierce averaged 13.5 points all while expending most of his energy guarding a guy who some consider the best player on the planet.
If I know one thing to be true in this world, it is that Ron Artest has never been considered the best player on the planet. Ron Artest has never even been considered the best defensive player on the planet. Ron Artest has been named to the NBA All Defensive First Team and the NBA All Defensive Second team each just twice and won the Defensive Player of the Year Award once.
Those numbers do not scare me. Do you know how many NBA All Defensive First Team awards it would take to scare me? Try 8.
Some of Artest’s numbers that are even less imposing come from the other side of the ball. In this year’s playoffs, Ron Artest is shooting 42% from the field, 27% from deep and 61% from the line (per Basketball-Reference.com). Those are Richard Jefferson post-season numbers (49%, 20%, 76%). So this begs the question: Are you concerned about Richard Jefferson?
These numbers also do not even take into account that to Paul Pierce, Ron Artest is nothing if not a known entity. Many of both Artest and Pierce’s prime years were spent going at each other and in a player on player comparison, Pierce easily got the best of Artest overall. This morning, Zach highlighted Pierce’s recent stats against Ron Artest and they were pretty flattering:
18.8 PPG, 43 percent shooting (46-of-107), 36 percent from three (14-of-39), 52 free throw attempts.
That type of production would be welcomed with open arms regardless of who was guarding Pierce.
This post was not to diminish what Ron Artest is capable of making Pierce do and what he is capable of doing on the offensive end. Artest is a very good player who plays very hard. I just believe calling Ron Artest the key to the series is a bit premature. I think any definitive statement about that must be reduced to an indefinite one.
Despite the hype, Ron Artest has not shown up for the playoffs yet. Limiting the league’s top scorer in Kevin Durant to 35% shooting for the series is nice but this is another case where the Belichikean “Stats are for losers” mantra comes into play. While Durant shot well below his regular season average, C.J. Miles (43% regular season, 44% playoffs), Grant Hill (47% regular season, 48% playoffs), and Jason Richardson (47% regular season, 50% playoffs) all shot better. Did Artest play worse defense on those three players than he did on Durant? Is it possible Durant had a bad series? Is it possible Artest absolutely shut down Durant? The answers to those questions are: No, probably not; Yes, it is possible; and Yes, it is possible.
Finally, this brings us back to the original point. How could I even compare Radmanovic to Artest? Because the Ron Artest from the 2010 playoffs shot just about the same as the Vladimir Radmanovic from the 2008 playoffs (44% from the field, 37% from three, 88% from the line)- only better, of course.
Ron Artest is not Vladimir Radmanovic and will make Paul Pierce’s day immensely tougher. But just remember, he’s not LeBron James either.