SI.com's NBA writers analyze the latest news and address hot topics from around the league each week.
(All stats and records are through March 29.)
1. Ron Artest said Trevor Ariza "is a better player," and it's been argued that Ariza was a better fit in L.A. Did the Lakers make a mistake in choosing Artest over Ariza last offseason?
Ian Thomsen: We can't answer that until we see their impact in the playoffs. Ariza is scoring more for Houston, but he's also getting more shots on his depleted team while shooting a lower percentage (38.8 percent) than Artest (41.8 percent). So the numbers don't give Ariza the advantage because he's playing in an entirely different environment. Artest was hired to make a difference in the postseason and help the Lakers win another championship. The Lakers are slightly better defensively this season -- opponents are shooting 44.3 percent, as opposed to 44.7 percent last year -- but it all comes down to the playoff matchups and how he deals with the likes of ManuGinobili, Caron Butler or Carmelo Anthony. I'm not going to call his signing a mistake while the Lakers remain the favorite in the West.
Jack McCallum: Going to Ron-Ron for piquant hoops analysis is like going to Provo, Utah, for a night on the town: It just ain't the place. If you read the entire Artest interview -- "[Ariza's] a role player, a great role player. I haven't been a role player ..." -- I'm not even sure the man was serious or even concentrating on the question. (Artest was probably tweeting as he spoke.) I'm on record as saying that I love Ariza's game, but I'm also on record as saying the virtual trade was a good one, and, during the playoffs, Artest's defense will make a positive difference for L.A. As far as how Artest fits in long-term with the Lakers, well, that's another story.
Frank Hughes: I would have gone with Ariza over Artest. He is six years younger than Artest and he has far less baggage. Plus, Ariza's game just seems to fit better with Kobe Bryant's. In addition, you almost feel like Ariza should have been rewarded for making some of the defensive plays that he did during the playoffs last year. So was the trade a mistake? I guess it remains to be seen whether the Lakers repeat before that can be truly answered.
Chris Mannix: You can't judge the Artest-Ariza question until June, because if the Lakers don't win the whole shebang, then yes, they screwed up. No one has ever questioned whether Artest was a better player than Ariza -- just whether he was a better fit as a role player on a stocked squad. If L.A. wins, it worked out. If it doesn't, let the second-guessing begin.
2. Dallas rookie Rodrigue Beaubois' scoring average more than tripled from February to March as he picked up more minutes. After his 40-point showing against the Warriors, it begs the question: Does the kid deserve more playing time?
Thomsen: All credit to anyone who scores 40 in an NBA game, but let's be real: He did it against the Warriors. Beaubois isn't going to displace their guard rotation of Jason Kidd, Butler and Jason Terry (along with J.J. Barea), but the rookie does give Dallas another option. At 6-foot-4, Kidd's ability to defend opposing shooting guards enables Beaubois to play alongside him at times, and the Mavs will benefit from knowing they have an explosive young scorer who is showing confidence at the right time of year. But there's no way he should take minutes from Terry.
McCallum: Well, the 48-25 Mavs are better than almost anyone thought they would be, so coach Rick Carlisle has had a damn good season. He's a conservative, batten-down-the-hatches kind of coach, who, not surprisingly, doesn't much trust rookies. (And Beaubois did get his 40 against the Warriors; Chris Mannix had 37 against them last week.) Having said that, Beaubois has been pretty spectacular, particularly considering that he's not overly turnover-prone. This may not exactly answer the question, but my strong feeling is that Beaubois will get much more playing time in the postseason.
Hughes: Playing time is a tricky thing. Anytime you give minutes to somebody, you are taking them from somebody else. In this case, those minutes would likely come from Terry, and he's a pretty significant piece from which to take time. The Mavs have such a good thing going, I don't think you want to mess with rotations or rhythm just so you can give a promising player a lot more time. Well, let me take that back: It depends on how promising the player is. I think Beaubois is going to have a nice career. Does he demand that Carlisle absolutely put him on the floor? I have not seen that. He should get plenty of opportunity in the coming years to prove his worth.
Mannix: Sure, and I think Carlisle is going to find it. One of the many benefits of having a big point guard like Kidd is that the willowy Beaubois can play minutes at two-guard. That's critical, because as well as Beaubois has played, you don't want him to eat too much into the minutes of Kidd and Barea. I don't know how much of a factor he is going to be in the playoffs -- he's been like a yo-yo all season and I don't know if Carlisle is going to trust him in postseason games -- but he can definitely be a spark down the stretch.
3. If you could bet on player to have a monstrous postseason, who would it be?
Thomsen: No one is going to approach the numbers LeBron James will put up during these playoffs. The Cavs have a diverse roster and they'll be counting on him to pull it all together, and doesn't he look very much up to the job?
McCallum: Well, I'm thinking that kid James in Cleveland might be OK. But perhaps you were looking for a more creative answer. So I'll go with DeronWilliams, which isn't exactly going out on a limb either. But his Utah Jazz, the team from the Lost Time Conference, has been the best in the league over the last three months, and Williams has been the main reason. As with Steve Nash and Chris Paul, his competitors for Best Pure Point Guard, there is nothing not to like about his game.
Hughes: I'm very interested to see how Kevin Durant responds in what will be his first playoff experience. Defenses will be more focused on stopping him and coaches will design special things to stop him. But the kid has exceeded everybody's expectations -- as high as they already were -- thus far. If there is a casual NBA fan who does not know about Durant yet, this may be his coming-out party. Oh, yeah, and maybe LeBron, too.
Mannix: Smart money is on LeBron, who I think is going to put Cleveland on his shoulders and carry it to the Finals. But a sleeper for me is Durant. I keep hearing how this is going to be OKC's year to taste the playoffs before a longer run next season. I don't buy it. With that D, and with Durant capable of dropping 35 every night, I can see the Thunder winning a first-round series. And I can see Durant putting up monster numbers in it.
4. This year's Hall of Fame class will be announced before the national championship game. Was there anyone you thought should have been among the list of nominees?
Thomsen: I'd like to see more international players recognized. The good news is that a lot of coaches from abroad are in the Hall already. The next phase should be the induction of the most important players from each of the big basketball countries. Their individual stats may not be impressive, but that should not prevent the Hall of Fame from acknowledging the role served by these players in growing the game around the world.
McCallum: Yes. Artis Gilmore (a dominant center whose stats, some of which were compiled in the ABA, dictate that he be in); Rebecca Lobo (a collegiate player of the year whose preeminence in the mid-'90s jump-started UConn's rise to the top of women's basketball); and Spencer Haywood (whose saga is so complicated that you should peruse Scott Price's great recap of it).
Hughes: I saw a story written recently that suggested Gilmore should have been on it. I had never really considered him, but after reading the story, and what he accomplished during his career, I think that is a pretty good name.
Mannix: The Hall generally does a good job of nominating the right people, so I have no problem with this list. There are a few people I'm hoping get in, though. I thought Dennis Johnson's steady hand was a critical element of the Celtics' 1980s juggernaut and he should be honored posthumously. CynthiaCooper has won college titles, international medals and four WNBA championships, all while being one of the highest-scoring women's players in history. If she doesn't deserve the nod, I don't know what woman does.