Before I get into why I think Ron Artest is the Defensive Player of the Year, allow me to throw out this disclaimer: I am biased. Now, before you stop reading, let me explain. I’m not biased because I’m a Lakers fan (necessarily), I’m biased because I’ve seen nearly every minute that Ron Artest has played this season. This is something that I can not say about the other top defensive players in the NBA. So, because that is the case, I’ve seen first hand and game after game the impact that Ron has on the defensive side of the ball. I can not make this same claim about some of the other elite defenders around the NBA. Some may say that fact makes my views distorted or slanted. And that is a solid argument. However, I will also say that this fact makes me informed about the guy that I’m watching. And the guy I’m watching is a fantastic defensive player that is playing some of the best defense, night in and night out, that I’ve seen in a long time from any player.
I understand that there are several other strong candidates for this award. Reigning DPOY Dwight Howard is a fantastic defensive player in his own right and if he took home the hardware, I would applaud with little to no complaint. Besides Howard though, there’s players like Lebron (he of the chase down blocks and low foul rate), Andy Varejao (a great big man in P&R defense, drawer of offensive fouls, and overall defensive pest), and even defensive stalwarts KG (when healthy) and Tim Duncan (no explanation needed). So why do I choose Artest? Take a look at that list of contenders and tell me what you see. That’s right, save for Lebron, that is a list of big men. The guys who get loads of credit for blocked shots and rebounds (and to the more astute watcher hedging/recovering on pick and rolls, backline communication on defense, etc).
But Artest is the all too rare stopper on the defensive wing. He’s a guy that’s tasked with slowing down the premier offensive talents in the NBA – and does quite a good job at it. And because Ron plays on the wing, his effectiveness won’t always be measured by the stats that are found in the box score. Sure, Ron has opportunities to rack up steals – and he does average almost one and a half a game. But Ron is not a player that gambles a lot in the passing lanes. So while he may not rack up the gaudy steal numbers of some other players that shoot through gaps and read passes like a DB breaking on an out route (like Kobe, for example), the steals that Ron does pick up are mostly on the ball, litterally, taking the ball away from the man he’s guarding. Which is just one facet of the smothering on ball defense that he exhibits nightly.
Mainly though, it’s the tenacity and determination that Artest displays that has me recognizing his defense. Really, he just plays hard. He doesn’t take possessions off. He fights through screens, he bodies up his man, he closes out hard, and he helps his teammates. His overall effort is truly astounding when watched within the context of how normal players defend. Before I got to watch Ron on a nightly basis, I just didn’t understand this fact. But now, after watching him in 70+ games, I recognize how much effort he puts into defending. It really is a sight to see.
His defensive versatility is also off the charts. Last night, Ron battled Manu Ginobili (a SG) and bothered him on pretty much every possession that they faced off. Sure, Ginobili ended up with some good numbers, but he worked his tail off to get them and took some punishment from Ron on several plays (including one in which Ron and LO doubled Manu and when Ginobili tried to escape dribble, Ron poked the ball away from behind – trademark Artest move – grabbed the ball, bumped Manu off and then powered up for the layup as Ginobili ducked away). Just over a week ago, Ron did a spendid job on the beastly PG, Tyreke Evans. Then before that, there was the number he did on Carmelo Anthony. Ask Kevin Durant who he thinks is one of the toughest defenders he’s faced. And sure, there will be nights where Ron gets beat – Lebron’s game in January, the first half against Vince Carter a few Sundays ago, or parts of the game that he had against Wade in Miami come to mind – but that happens to even the best defenders. No one pitches a shut out in this league. Especially not when facing the types of players that Ron faces.
If you want to look at this from a statistics perspective (which is limited due to the type of defensive stats that are kept and the ability to properly ananlyze defensive impact), Ron holds players to a 12.7 PER Against. When looking at his on/off floor stats, the Lakers give up less points, opposing teams shoot a lower percentage, and the Lakers rebound better as a team when Ron is in the game. None of these stats are perfect, but they do begin to tell the story of Ron’s impact on the team defensively. They just perform better with him on the court. Not to mention that Ron’s work on defense also means that Kobe doesn’t have to guard the other team’s elite wing player for extended minutes, saving more of his energy for offense, where (if you haven’t noticed) the Lakers have needed him several times this season to make some big shots in the closing seconds.
But bringing this back full circle, Ron is my guy. I know there are other worthy candidates and the likelihood that Ron wins are pretty slim anyway. And while I’ve hinted at it before now and mentioned that he should be considered for the award, I’m now fully on board. If I had a vote, he’d get it. This doesn’t mean I’m right, but I trust what I see. And what I see is a player that is facing some of the best scorers in the entire league, night in and night out and either shutting them down, severly limiting them, or making them work as hard as possible to have effective nights. One night it’s Durant, then it’s Granger, then it’s ‘Melo, then Paul Pierce, Caron Butler, Vince Carter, Ginobili, Wade, Lebron, Joe Johnson, Brandon Roy, Iguodala, and on and on. So today, I thought I’d just give the man his due and put in my two cents on his defensive performance this season. To me, it’s award worthy.
Any idea how much lower that PER is than the PER for those same players when someone else is guarding them?
j. d. hastings says
He won’t win because it doesn’t fit the meme the media chose for him. They decided the swap of him for ariza was a mistake before the season, and if they can swing his offensive number to try to prove themselves right, they will. Exhibit A was the asinine Plaschke article. Exhibit B was Simmons somehow using the asinine Plaschke article as proof that he was right about Artest being a mistake.
I was also skeptical of the move when it happened, but getting to watch Artest, its been just as Darius mentioned. He’s been a beast.
But the voters won’t bother to acknowledge it.
If the Lakers win the title he will get and should get many votes. Watch them give to King James because that is the cool thing to do.
The voting is done before the playoffs.
James winning DPOY would be an absolute joke considering his defense consists of ambushing passing lanes, weakside blocks, and favorable treatment from the refs.
Do you realize he only averages 1.5 fouls per game? Does that sound like a DPOY? If you’re actually playing solid defense, racking up fouls would part of the equation.
So if Lebron wins DPOY, the NBA refs would have to share the award with him. (Dwight Howard, as a point of comparison, averages 3.6 per game).
Artest won’t win the DPOY, because as JD Hastings said, it doesn’t fit what the media wants.
I think we all should have realized once Steve Nash won back to back MVP’s that these media voted awards are a joke.
Not only is it so subjective, it’s ridiculous…but most of the voters only watch the guys in their home state, so they don’t even have a platform on which to base their decision.
Theoretically, any time a player wins for ROY, DPOY, MVP, etc, you should at least nod your head and say “that makes sense” even if you don’t entirely agree.
How many winners over the past few years have made you say, “Seriously?”
It’s like the Oscars – it’s all about who likes who, who can we stick it to (Kobe), what did the guy next to me say, and whose name is the most recognizeable?
Kathryn Bigalow winning for Best Director was all about sticking to James Cameron and finally giving the award to a woman for the voters. It had nothing to do with whether or not she was the ACTUAL best director (though, she did a fine job).
The NBA Awards are similar. Even Kobe was shocked he won the MVP a few years back saying something like, “I didn’t think I’d ever win one of these, because the media hates me.” Even during the season when he was the clear choice, media members were coming up with convoluted reasons not to vote for him…then they finally did through gritted teeth.”
LBJ will win the award for the next two or three years, then the media will get bored and vote for someone else.
James is no where near the defender that Artest is. Sure James has the flashy chase down blocks, but he is not even close to being the on ball defender that Artest is. I too think he deserves consideration for the award, though is Dwight Howard won again, it would be hard to argue.
Wow! It seems that it was only some months ago (offseason) that i was on here ardently defending Artest to no end…how did everyone all of a sudden become an Artest fan? During the offseason, only a few of us were saying that Artest is better than Ariza, but now it seems that all are on board, lol.
haha yeah kaveh, i dont comment too much here but i went dancing around my neighborhood when we signed artest he makes us so much better i dont get the doubters, so it only makes sense people are going to jump on our side
That is not a stat that I could find. I do think it would be useful in a conversation like this though. For comparison’s sake, Lebron (as a SF) has a PER Against of 15.5 and Howard’s is at 13.7. And considering the talent on the wing in comparison to that in the pivot, I think Artest compares favorably to these two guys. PER Against has its limitations – as do most defensive metrics.
In the end, I hope that one day stats like deflections, shots altered, shots contested, good close outs, forced turnovers (eg when defensive ball pressure leads to a bad pass or turnover) so that folks can obtain a clearer picture as to who is really strong on defense vs those guys have a reputation based off the spectacular play.
I think what struck me immediately about Ron, and still does today, is just that effort that Darius mentioned. It’s especially striking for Lakers fans, because all last year we watched players take possessions off during the regular season. Artest is more skilled than a Varejao or Noah so he doesn’t get credit for his motor (which is often used as a backhanded compliment for players without a deep skill set), but he fights just as hard on every possession.
The Dude Abides says
Agree about Ron-Ron. Plaschke’s article was utterly stupid, but that’s to be expected from the guy who used Jeff Kent as a source for years in his articles denigrating the young LA Dodger stars.
Right now I’m watching the MIA-CHI game on TNT, and Ernie, Kenny, and Charles are doing the announcing at courtside. It’s been hilarious so far. The Chuckster jumped in front of Craig Sager and did the coach’s interview himself at the end of the first quarter:
Ernie: that was a wonderful interview of Erik Spoelstra, Charles. You know that thing in your hand? It’s called a microphone. You’re supposed to point it at your interview subject when he speaks.
Chuck: Y’all couldn’t hear him? Maybe he should talk louder.
Ernie: You’re also only supposed to ask two questions. That’s the rule.
Chuck: Who came up with that rule?
Ernie: David Stern and the NBA executive committee.
Chuck: What the hell do they know?
Ernie: It’s so the coach can get back to the huddle for the start of the next quarter.
Kenny: This isn’t Oprah, Chuck!
I don’t think anyone thought Ariza was a better player than Artest. Some unintelligent fans just thought Ariza was a better “fit” on this Lakers team. What they didn’t know is that most of the time the better player is the better fit. What they didn’t know is that Ariza is a bad 3 point shooter sans the playoffs last season. What they didn’t know is that Ariza can’t guard SF’s one on one so the Lakers had to shade over to help last year or have Kobe try and guard bigger players. What they didn’t know is that Trevor could not dribble or pass.
I remember writing here during last years playoffs as everyone was saying what a star Ariza has become that overall he wasn’t a starting caliber SF in this league on most teams. The reason everyone fell in love with him was they were comparing him to Vlade and Walton (guys who barley are NBA players). Ariza could finish on the break and play great team defense. He can’t do anymore or any less.
If you would like to know how Ariza and Artest really compare listen to Doug Collins in this clip right before Artest drives by Trevor and dunks over Lamar and Gasol. “This is the matchup you really have to be worried about if you are the Lakers (speaking of Artest versus Ariza).”
Ladies and Gentleman, Ron ArBEST
PER against definitely has it’s limitations. It’s worth noting that the team page for the Lakers has Artest’s listed at 12.4 instead of the 12.7 you cited using his player page… I don’t know which is more recently updated but I would guess it’s the team page which makes Artest look even better.
Also worth noting is that Kobe has the best defensive stats on the team according to that page… but he plays against a lot more scrubbish players so that he can play free safety by design. He only goes into “doberman mode” when he feels the flow of the game dictates it. Ron is in doberman mode all the time. And because he is, Kobe goes into it more often too. That is how transformative Ron Artest has been on this team.
Not that I’m crediting all of the Lakers’ defensive improvement to Artest (Ariza was pretty good too– the difference between the guys is there but not a chasm), a lot of it has to do with Andrew Bynum learning to contest shots instead of going for blocks, and not fouling.
Ron has definitely picked it up on D after he lost weight, but he was not a dominant defender imo the first half of the season. Otherwise I would give him my vote.
Thinking Ariza was a better fit doesn’t make anyone unintelligent. There were plenty of reasons to think that at the time of acquisition as there were several question marks with Artest. There were also several reasons to think Artest would do fine and there was a lot of balanced perspective here at FB&G on this topic when Ron was first signed. There was also the contrasting perspectives of pure questioning and unbridled optimism on this site – as there was almost everywhere. I’ve admitted that Ron has played his role quite well when I was person that was at first questioning how things would play out. That said, there is still room for improvement, especially on offense – though I think that improvement will come over time as well. Anyways, I just think that you’re opinion that because people wondered aloud if Ariza was a better fit makes them unintelligent is off base.
When Artest first signed with LA, most fans were negative about his mental state and how he would take being a role player instead of the go to guy in LA. His hustle and determination was never a question of concern, so based off of how he has performed so far this year. I would say he has won some fans over.
Artest is definitely the most aggressive Laker defender since Michael Cooper – while acknowledging that Kobe has had some great defensive stretches over the years. Coop was just about the most amazing athlete I’ve ever seen – the guy could shut down speedy point guards AND Larry Bird – but the strength of Artest, especially his hands, is just unreal.
When you consider the Lakers could win 60 this year with injuries to Kobe, Pau, Andrew and Walton you have to consider them as good or better then last year.
Thrown in the massive decline in Fisher’s game and I suggest Ron has helped to improve the team this year.
Houston without Ron not only won’t make the playoffs but lost at home to the Nets of the West, the Clippers.
Houston with Ariza will not make the playoffs this year. And they just lost at home to the Nets of the West. The Clippers!
Dwight Howard or Ron Ron should win it. Can’t believe Hollinger said Floppy Varejao. FAIL.
Sure, award worthy indeed. But is he sponge worthy? That’s the real question.
lol can never go wrong with a seinfeld reference
Artest holding opponents to a 12.7 (12.4) PER is pretty amazing, especially considering the vast majority of those he defends are in the low to upper 20s in PER.
I have been very happy with Artest. Let’s hope that he continues his high levels of energy, control and play during the Lakers playoff run.
What’s so great about this Laker team is, I only seem improving in the upcoming years.. Kobe is going to give the Lakers an advantage at the SG position until he retires.
Team chemistry, Bynum and the PG situation are only going to improve in the future.
Here’s hoping for great future health.
Signing Artest was a calculated risk. And calculated risks have reasonable arguments on both sides.
I was on the side who thought it was a good move, though, so I’m a basketball genius.
MVPs and DPOYs are part-skill, part-charisma and hint of highlight heels.
Look at lebron last year, he finished second on DPOY, even though he was a defensive liability.(whether it was to save energy or to hide him, the fact he was often guarding 2s and leaving 3s for delonte west remains) He had a lot of weak-side blocks, but still, he should never have finished 2nd.
The MVP race was finished before it even started: 3 months into the season people were already claiming lakers were too good so Kobe didn’t deserve it, Heat sucked too much to put Wade in the conversation and they kept arguing Cleveland would be a high lottery team if it wasn’t for lebron.(maybe in the west, but in the east I still think they would fight for the 8th seed) That, coupled with the lack of guidelines as to what a MVP is, makes me sad at this award
Great post, Darius. I loved it. Go Ron-Ron!
I hereby give my vote to Darius for best poster of the season in the NBA-fan blogosphere.
Lebron dramatically dedicated himself on the defensive end last season and I don’t think his d consisted of only weakside blocks. He was excellent in rotations and guarded the opponents beat SF for stretches. Pierce struggles against one on one d from lebron. He uses his athletic tools to great avail and does a great job of not fouling (and don’t tell me that is all the ref bias)
The other thing is there just aren’t that many great defenders anymore. Who else could’ve been second last year? You’re right about this year tho I would take our Spaniard or the queens bros over mr varejao.
lebron did picked up his defense since last year.
and guess what, who taught him that.. it’s kobe!
I have to admit that lebron is the best player in NBA right now.
but it’s more because he has been given a ‘freak’ athleticism which basically without much of an effort, he should be at least an average NBA player (similar with Shaq)
i’m not saying lebron’s lazy like shaq.
but comparing to what kobe has to go through, i would say kobe has to fight harder to reach where he is right now.
kobe doesn’t have the kind of athleticism lebron has.
anyway, back to the original discussion.
artest should be at least considered as one of the candidate for DOPY.
dave in hillsboro says
Interesting that Josh Smith has been left out of this discussion. I know Atlanta is lobbying for him for this award–it was in an article I read somewhere some weeks back. I haven’t watched enough Hawks games to have an opinion on whether Smith should be in the running for DPOY, but it has been discussed elsewhere.
Houston isn’t making the playoffs this year because Y.Ming is hurt.
It doesn’t make one unintelligent but it does make one a somewhat unintelligent basketball fan in my opinion. Its just my opinion though. But I am more sure about this than I am that Derek Fisher shouldn’t be starting as I think there is a chance (albeit a small one) that Fisher is the best option at PG. I think there is a zero percent chance that Trevor Ariza is a better “fit” in the Lakers lineup than Ron Artest. We aren’t comparing Kobe and Lebron here. Or Artest and Corey Maggette. Or Gasol and Bosh. Its not a debate in my eyes. You have a player in Artest who can do everything on the basketball court and has been a starting NBA player, an all star, a defensive player of the year award winner, and an all league defender for 8 years now… and is only 30. Trevor Ariza is 25 years old and hasn’t started for an NBA team until this season. He is a very limited basketball player and as Phil Jackson said this year “he isn’t a 35 minute a game guy.” Meaning he isn’t a starting SF in this league. Trevor Ariza had a great playoffs shooting wide open threes and disrupting the passing lanes. The ladder is something he can do very well. But that is all the good basketball he will ever play in the NBA. He is a liability on defense guarding SF’s (who he would have to defend on the Lakers) causing LA to have to zone up on his man last year which is the kind of thing that really compromises a defense. I don’t think Ariza is a bad player… but he is a bad starting SF in the National Basketball Association. And anyone who could ever think Trevor Ariza is a better fit on the Lakers either is just trying to start a debate or has limited basketball knowledge. Again… just my opinion. I could be wrong… but it hasn’t happened before.
#33. I’m with exhelodrvr on this one (#26).
Also, Phillip has a new post up. Morning links and much, much more.
Trevor Ariza got the Larry Brown treatment. A sub par player that had an amazing post season (superbowl) by being in the right place at the right time on the glamor team in the league and got a big contract and much credibility and praise. Soon after people remembered he was the same player that he was before the playoffs began (lackluster).
We can disagree on this as we do from time to time. I just don’t see the argument that there is an argument. Ariza was the back up SG/Sf behind Martin and Battier before Shane hurt himself. That is who he is in the NBA. That is who he was before the Lakers put him in the lineup late last season… and that is who he will be for the rest of his career, A awful starting Sf or a solid backup.
I’d say it is part ref bias, part skill. But don’t get me wrong, it isn’t a lebron ref bias, it is a superstar bias. Lebron, Kobe, Wade, they all get away with something that, for example, Sasha would be called 10/10.
You are right, he is good on 3s when he is actually defending one but if you watched cleveland often last season, you would notice a lot of times delonte was on the 3. One could argue it’s not his fault cleveland doesn’t have someone who can guard 2s AND 3s, but nevertheless, I still think he shouldn’t let a mismatch like that happen. Last season, he wasn’t as aware as this one on when to apply help defense and often let his man have an open look. Your comment seems a lot more fitting on this season than on the last one.
As for who could be the second place instead of lebron, I would have chosen either chris paul or shane battier. Chris Paul’s on the ball defense is great, and battier is an underrated defender.
John Morris says
“I think we all should have realized once Steve Nash won back to back MVP’s that these media voted awards are a joke.”
Wise words Burgundy.
All I can say is award or no award I’m happy to have a guy that can out-muscle Carmello Anthony one night and make thing difficult for Dewayne Wade on another. He can guard three positions very competitively.
Let us please get the Lakeshow rolling in to these playoffs.
great post. If Ron-Ron doesn’t get it, the guy should get some kind of mention for his effort to blend into the team and still be a force on the floor (or maybe we should give props to his shrink!). I have to imagine that every star player mutters “oh sh*t” when they see that Ron-Ron is gonna be guarding him that night. As Darius said, the guy never gives up. You can see this more clearly when you’re at a game. I imagine Ron-Ron will turn it up a couple notches once the playoffs start. Can’t wait!