I for one don't need this statistical breakdown to prove to me how great a defender Ronnie is, but even I am a bit staggered by the results.
However I don't think that is the most significant thing. The fact that Rick Carlisle would set out to prove that Ronnie is defensive player of the year shows that Rick will go to bat for his players. Ronnie might not say anything publically about how much he appreciates what Rick did, heck knowing Ron he may not really care, but Ron's teammates will appreciate their coach going out of his way to highlight one of his players.
Rick will talk this up. While he was coach of the Pistons, he worked the phone to help get awards for his players. Players appreciate that.
As far as the actual stats this project produced, I agree with Rick, Ronnie keeps the best offensive player from even getting the ball, and isn't that really the best way to defend the great scorers at the small forward and shooting guard spot.
By the numbers: Artest is tenacious defender
By Mark Montieth
March 28, 2004
Ron Artest's defensive impact has been so significant for the Indiana Pacers that even his coach, Rick Carlisle, was having difficulty finding words to measure its value. So Carlisle devised a way to let numbers tell the story.
Carlisle assigned two members of the Pacers' video staff, Rob Cleveland and intern Mike Mannix, to review, through computer technology and DVDs, each one of Artest's defensive possessions in the team's first 71 games.
What they discovered, after 50-60 combined hours of research, was recorded on seven spreadsheet pages and confirmed every notion Carlisle had about Artest's defensive ability.
The bottom line: The players Artest has defended have combined to average just 9.4 shots and 8.4 points per game, while shooting slightly better than 40 percent.
That doesn't just include Artest's primary defensive assignment, which is always the opponent's best perimeter scoring threat, but any player he might have switched to during the course of a possession.
"In my mind, that's the most staggering defensive statistic I've ever heard in my life," said Carlisle, whose team plays Miami today at Conseco Fieldhouse. "[size=18:c54b7ca0e5]Not only are you going to have trouble scoring on Ron Artest and not only are you going to have trouble getting good shots, you're going to have trouble catching the ball.[/size] It's the strongest statistical case I've ever seen for a perimeter player for Defensive Player of the Year."
Carlisle now has endless data to support his argument, and will proudly offer it in promoting Artest for the award.
In the Pacers' third game of the season at Atlanta, for example, the players Artest defended combined to hit 3-of-10 shots. His primary assignment, Stephen Jackson, was 2-of-8. In the following game against Denver at the fieldhouse, Artest's matchups hit 4-of-17 shots.
When LeBron James scored 26 points on 12-of-22 shots in Cleveland's win over the Pacers on March 14, the box score indicated Artest might have met his match that day. The video review, however, showed that James hit just 2-of-5 shots against Artest, who was in foul trouble in the first half.
Pick a game, almost any game, and Artest wreaked havoc for the opposing team's offense.
Artest's teammates don't need highly nuanced statistical evidence of his defense. They see it almost every game, every practice.
"Defensive Player of the Year. Period," Reggie Miller blurted following Friday's win at Orlando, when Artest scored a career-high 35 points and held Magic forward Drew Gooden to six. "If they screw him on this one, the league has a different agenda."
Actually, the honor is determined by a vote of writers and broadcasters. Artest was runner-up to Ben Wallace last season, and got more respect from that group than from the league's coaches, who vote for the all-defensive team. They relegated Artest to second-team status, apparently taking into consideration his suspensions and flagrant fouls.
Wallace remains Artest's primary challenger for the honor. He won it the past two seasons while playing for Carlisle in Detroit, and has numbers to support his cause again. He ranks second in blocks (3.14), third in defensive rebounds (8.7) and eighth in steals (1.8).
Artest's lone argument among the conventional defensive-oriented statistics is that he's fourth in steals (2.11 per game). Carlisle, however, believes his team defensive concept has limited Artest in that area. Beyond that, he didn't believe any of the conventional stats would begin to reflect Artest's overall ability, which is why he sent Cleveland and Mannix into solitary confinement.
Wallace is an effective weak-side defender because of his quickness and shot-blocking ability, but he's not widely regarded as a stopper.
The Pistons, in fact, usually assigned Cliff Robinson to Jermaine O'Neal while Carlisle coached there. And in the Pacers' three games against Detroit this season, with Robinson safely tucked away on Golden State's roster, O'Neal has averaged 23 points.
Artest, meanwhile, has the versatility to defend any position, including center if the player isn't too much taller than him. At 6-7 and 245 pounds, his strength, foot-speed, reach, agility and will make for an uncommon package that enables him to deal with almost any scoring threat.
"It's freakish for a guy his size to have his quickness and his strength," Miller said. "No disrespect to Ben Wallace, but Ron's guarding different guys."
Pacers forward Austin Croshere also is impressed by Artest's instinct -- and grateful not to have to play against him.
"He just has a higher level of hand-eye coordination and ability to react to what he sees than anybody I've ever played with," Croshere said. "He's the last person I would want in the entire NBA to guard me."
Artest was surprised to hear of the statistical mother lode the Pacers uncovered on his behalf but offered no particular reaction. Nor has he given much thought to his chances for winning Defensive Player of the Year. He admits to keeping track of Wallace last season but hasn't bothered this time around.
"The season's not over, and I know they pick when the season is over," he said. "I'll wait and evaluate after the season -- for maybe an hour, because then we have to worry about the playoffs."