Horace Junior Grant
Career averages: 50.9% FG, 69.2% FT, 11.2 Pts, 8.1 Reb, 2.2 Ast, 1.0 Stl, 1.0 Blk, 1.1 TO
This is yet another big splash made by a championship-contending team this off-season and further clarifies a trend of the strong getting stronger in the NBA. The Lakers, though losing Trevor Ariza, who was invaluable to their championship run, gain a tough, rough player in Artest, who gives them the physical and personality edge that they have been lacking the past two seasons. Chemistry concerns are obviously a concern with the volatile Artest, but given his friendship with Kobe Bryant and Lamar Odom and his eagerness to win, it’s more likely than not that his presence on the Lakers will be a net gain for both he and the team.
- Artest will see his fantasy value decline. He is not going to get the 15 shots per game he saw in Houston last season, and if Lamar Odom re-signs with the Lakers, it’s unlikely that Artest will see 35:30 per game either. Expect his 17.1 points per game to decrease to somewhere in the 14 to 15 range, his rebounds to to remain steady at around 5 per game and his field goal percentage to rise from 40.1 percent last year. He’ll be asked to focus more on the defensive end, which could mean more steals and blocks. Phil Jackson’s decision to return as the head coach of the Lakers bodes well for the management of Artest’s personality. Jackson’s experience with Dennis Rodman should prove quite useful this season with Artest on board.
- Bryant may see a boost in production thanks to Artest’s presence on the floor. The reigning Finals MVP will spend less time and energy covering opposing teams’ star players, like LeBron James, and will be able to be more efficient on the offensive end, which spells trouble for other teams. Expect his points and rebounds to remain steady, and his assists to rise.
- If Odom re-signs, he’ll have even stronger competition for playing time, which means his frustrating inconsistency will most likely continue. There is a chance that Odom will be able to focus more of his energy on the offensive end with Artest handling more of the defensive grunt work against opposing small forwards and power forwards, so all hope is not lost for Odom’s value just yet.
- Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum might have more competition for rebounds, but their values should remain intact. Artest’s signing could prove particularly helpful for Bynum, who was prone to getting into foul trouble early and often. With Artest there to do a better job of preventing opposing players from getting into the lane as easily, Bynum may find himself with less opportunities for blocks but more time on the floor, which should even things out.