Didn't see this posted already...
When it became clear the Indiana Pacers were going to trade Ron Artest, the Los Angeles Clippers had more initial interest than a lot of teams. After a sterling start they have been struggling and a player like Ron Artest seemed to be just what they needed. So they called Donnie Walsh in Indy and asked the same question everyone else did: What would it take to get a deal done?
The Clips even got encouragement from their head coach, Mike Dunleavy. He said he would be able to handle all that comes with Artest, and that in itself is a big hurdle for a lot of teams. But the Clippers, a team that hasn't made a major in-season trade in anyone's recent memory, decided they wanted to pursue Artest - well, at least until they heard the asking price.
LA said no and supposedly that was that...until the last couple days. The Golden State rumor seems to have died down a bit and now the Clippers are considered the front-runners, and they only way that happens is if they are actually considering giving up Maggette for Artest. Let's compare career statistics for the two players - the numbers may be surprising:
Minutes 33.1 27.9
Points 14.6 15.0
Rebounds 4.7 4.8
Assists 2.9 2.0
Steals 2.11 0.71
Blocks 0.6 0.2
FG% 42.1 44.8
FT% 71.6 82.2
3FG% 31.7 32.7
Now, the numbers for both players - who have been in the league the same amount of time - are up across the board in the most recent seasons, but their careers have been very similar statistically. Both seemed to have improved every year they have been in the league and are 20-point a night scorers now and both have the ability to fill up the stat sheet.
Of course, they aren't the same, completely - otherwise Indy wouldn't be interested in Maggette. Artest is the better defender, as he is when compared with any other player in the NBA. Maggette isn't that bad, but he could definitely be better. On the other hand, Maggette is a slightly better, slightly more complete offensive player. His percentages are higher, but what is hidden in those statistics is that very, very few players can draw fouls and get to the line like he can.
In fact, that's precisely why the Pacers want him. They are struggling with scoring with Artest not in the lineup and they need a guy who can step in and give them 15-20 points - maybe more - every night. Very few of the options they have in trade scenarios will bring them back that kind of player - and none of the teams in the rumor mill can offer something more established and reliable than Corey Maggette.
So, if the rumblings are true, the question now becomes one for the Clips: Is it worth it?
That's always relative, but for LA they definitely need some sort of defensive presence on the perimeter. They need this player to get big minutes and make a serious impact on their team right away - and Ron Artest is exactly that kind of player. It's clear the Clippers do want Artest, but they didn't think it through if they weren't willing to give up Maggette initially. Why is that? Consider these points:
*Maggette and Artest play the same position - There was a reason the Clippers let Quentin Richardson go in the first place and they really don't need two 20-point scorers in the same place on the floor. If the Clippers were to acquire Artest, Maggette would suffer anyway.
*Have to give up talent to get talent - They knew when they called Indiana the Pacers would want a player who could come right in and make an impact. They knew that player was not Sam Cassell, Chris Kaman, or Cuttino Mobley, and the Pacers knew they weren't going to get Elton Brand or Shaun Livingston (though they probably asked). That only leaves Maggette as a serious bargaining chip.
*This team needs defense over anything else - Livingston is developing very well as a defender, but he can't be physical because he simply doesn't have the body for it. Cassell will tell you, defense wins championships, and the Clippers do not have that defender currently they can rely on to definitely get a stop.
Given all that, the fact the Clippers wouldn't immediately say okay when Indiana asked for Maggette is for one reason and one reason only: With Artest you never know what's going to happen next and how badly it may hurt your team. Is he going to get himself suspended for something stupid? Is he going to **** off his teammates over some comments in the paper?
It's definitely a valid question - and the fact that it has an answer (though no one knows what it is - they just know it will probably happen) is the only reason Corey Maggette still is a Clipper. Is that good enough?
Probably not. As presently constituted the Clippers are a decent team in the Western Conference, but they don't really scare anyone. Sure, you watch the shooting of Mobley and Cassell, you need to keep Kaman and Brand off the boards, Livingston is a brilliant passer...but as far as actually challenging the top teams it won't happen. Their defense is simply not good enough to last very long in the playoffs.
Add Artest and all bets are off - they immediately become a conference title contender, right up there with Dallas, Phoenix, and San Antonio. That's how much the acquisition of Artest would mean to the LA Clippers. He does that for their team, where Corey Maggette does not. And that makes it worth the risk for that other team in Los Angeles.
Jason Fleming covers the Portland Trail Blazers for Basketball News Services. He also is an executive editor for Total Access/HOOPSWORLD as well as SWISH Magazine.