Reports are that Ron Artest will sign a 3 year, ~$18 million deal (or possibly a 5 year, ~$33 million deal) with the Lakers once the Free Agent signing moratorium ends on the 8th. This news has been plastered all over the interwebs and TV (ESPN mostly). The question is, what does this mean for the rest of the league? Excellent question! Let's discuss shall we?
This means Trevor Ariza is gone (he has agreed to sign with Houston). While this may seem like a lateral move at worst considering Artest's defense and experience, you have to take into consideration the different types of players Ariza and Artest are. Ariza is lanky and quick while Artest is big and (somewhat) slow. Artest is a better defender though and has shown he can guard big shooting guards and most small forwards. His size almost hurts him though as it's not certain he can guard the quicker shooting guards and small forwards. Manu Ginobili, who has actually had trouble against Artest in the past, and Richard Jefferson will likely be the main focuses for Artest next season. Jefferson hasn't really had trouble scoring on Artest but they're both entering new systems. If Jefferson remains a primary cutter instead of a ball handler, where Artest could use his body more, I think Artest will have a rough time staying with Jefferson.
Thanks to 82games.com, we see that Artest's defense was less than spectacular last season. He allowed 45.9% shooting (16 PPG 12.3 PER) from the small forwards he guarded and 50% (18.0 PPG 16.4 PER) from the power forwards he guarded. Since Houston had Shane Battier, Artest was rarely if ever put on shooting guards. It's interesting to note he got absolutely TORCHED by Kobe while Battier did a very good job on him.
Compared to Ariza, Artest's defense was actually pretty good. Ariza struggled against shooting guards (69% FG, 20.6 PPG, 20.1 PER) and to a lesser extent small forwards (48.8% FG, 19.1 PPG, 16.0 PER). The more startling numbers were his stats against power forwards. They were held to 43% FG, 12.3 PPG, and 18.3 PER while Ariza was guarding them.
The thing Ariza did so well was guard quick point guards. 82games doesn't have enough numbers to give an adequate picture of how well Ariza did on guys like Parker. I think all Spurs fans remember how much trouble Parker had getting by and getting a shot off against Ariza. In that area, it's a clear move backward for the Lakers. The only people left to defend the Parkers of the league are Derek Fisher (he only defends with flops) and Jordan Farmar (who might be on the trading block). I expect to see Parker have huge games against the Lakers next season.
I might be in the minority on this but I think this move tightens the gap between the Spurs and Lakers. Artest might do well on Ginobili but it's likely Kobe will guard him mostly. If Artest is put on Manu, all Pop would have to do is bring in Jefferson. Kobe is quick enough to guard RJ, but RJ has a slight height advantage. It would be an interesting matchup. I don't think Odom is good enough defensively to have any kind of impact on Jefferson. Ariza could defend anyone from Parker to (now) Jefferson. The Lakers will miss that versatility.
All in all these might be silver-n-black colored glasses. But there isn't a guy on the Spurs Artest was made to defend. Plus he's a terrible ball handler and takes stupid shots. Oh and he has some mental issues...But good luck with him LA. Every Spurs fan and I hope you'll need it.