Matt Barnes: Lakers Pseudo-Starter?

With the acquisition of Matt Barnes, the Lakers now have two defensive specialists to throw onto opposing wing players. When I heard this deal went through my initial thoughts were do the Lakers start Ron Artest every game? Do they look at the matchups and decide from there? Is there an open competition?
 Last year during the regular season, Ron Artest injured his feet (it’s been suggested by Phil that the culprits were his choice of footwear) and began to have trouble guarding quicker 2’s and 3’s. Even after he recovered, those same players kept giving him fits. Artest, at this point in his career, is more suited to play bulkier players who like to score their points in the paint. While his strength allows him to push shooters and slashers further away from the basket than they’d like to be, athletic players can still take him off the dribble. Shooters such as Hamilton, Korver and Turkoglu will run him through screens for space. While he is rarely caught in a bad position, his low foot speed can cause problems when forced to switch on defense. As a result players can drive and pull up on him off the dribble while Artest can only slap at the ball on the way up.
Enter Matt Barnes. He is longer and can follow players through screens better than Ron can at this point. His on the ball defense is as sticky as anyone’s in the league and he is a good rebounder for the position. As he showed last year he can also lock down on players of Kobe’s caliber as well. For comparison’s sake, I feel Barnes can guard D-Wade type players better while Ron Ron is physically suited to guard ‘Melo and Paul Pierce. While I feel both can guard the aforementioned players competently, why not start with the stronger match-up from the start to prevent opposing player from getting in a rhythm. As we’ve seen, it’s harder to put the fire out than to keep it from getting lit.
 The one major roadblock is the ego of one Ron Artest. How would he respond to being benched? No one knows for sure, maybe not even Artest himself. Could it be beneficial to go this route? Perhaps, but is it more important than having Artest on an even keel? We’ve seen in Houston and Sacramento what he can do when not stable. He shot them out of countless games and blew up and took himself out of others. His respect for Kobe seemingly kept him out of trouble this past season but a move like this could shatter his confidence.
Even without the dual starters, the Lake show made a great move by picking up Barnes. This move almost eliminates the foul trouble worry completely since they now have three great perimeter defenders (Kobe included). This also gives the Lakers the option of going really big with Kobe at the 1, Barnes at the 2, Artest at the 3 with Pau and Bynum in the post. To say this would give opposing teams problem would be the biggest understatement in NBA history. While the Heat may have a legendary offense this year, Barnes makes the Lakers one of the, if not the, best defensive teams in the league.  Who knows, maybe Artest will be receptive to the idea of coming off the bench for the good of the team. Perhaps his psychiatrist will make this all work out.

~ by Prodigy on July 23, 2010.

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