Interesting debate: With what the Kings -- and everyone -- knows now, would they still swap Peja Stojakovic for Ron Artest on Jan. 25, 2006?
Artest is the better player but eternally five minutes away from the next crisis, and combustible has no place on a team winning 30something games and playing to an increasing number of empty seats. The Lakers of Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal could make that deal with the devil because L.A. was going deep into the playoffs. Portland in the Jail Blazer days could smile through gritted teeth because it was going deep into the playoffs. The Kings of 2008-09 won't go deep into the regular season.
Stojakovic brings less anguish, at least until the playoffs, but was in line for a major raise much sooner and, as it turned out, had a serious back injury on the way. Who knows how being in Sacramento as opposed to Indiana and then Oklahoma City / New Orleans would have aligned the planets differently and possibly changed the fates of a disc problem, but, again, based on what we now know, back problem.
It's a worthwhile analysis because Artest-Stojakovic is the most debate-stirring deal of the Geoff Petrie era that began in 1994 apart from Chris Webber to the 76ers and maybe even ahead of Webber-Philly. Brad Miller for Hedo Turkoglu and Scot Pollard in a three-team deal is good conversation, but without the passions that surrounded Webber and Stojakovic and now Artest at the time of their departure. Jason Williams had the same thing, except that Mike Bibby for J-Thrill is an easy Kings win, and so is Webber arriving for the popular Mitch Richmond and Otis Thorpe.
I thought at the time that Artest-Stojakovic was a bad trade for the Kings. Not the part about moving Peja. Too many playoff disappearing acts (although, ironically, he was good in what turned out to be his final Sacramento postseason appearance) and five months away from becoming a free agent. There was a credible case for dealing Stojakovic.
Just not for someone guaranteed to create as many problems internally as he solves with a passion for defense and a versatile offensive game. Artest was never going to get the Kings to the future, and that's what was wrong with the move. Stojakovic for Artest was part of holding on to a past that no longer existed.
Bobby Jackson, Donte Greene and a future No. 1 from the Rockets for Artest -- that puts the Kings in position to one day be special again. Artest from the Pacers put the Kings in position to lose in the first round and then drop off the table. That he would wear out his welcome was a no-brainer.
The two-and-a-half seasons after the deal:
Stojakovic in 40 games as a Pacer that 2005-06: 46.1 percent from the field, 40.4 percent on three-pointers, 19.5 points, 6.3 rebounds.
In 2006-07 with the Hornets: 13 games, 42.3 percent, 40.5 on threes, 17.8 points, 4.2 rebounds, back surgery.
In 2007-08 with the Hornets: 77 games, 44 percent, 44.1 on threes, 16.4 points, 4.3 rebounds. (In 12 playoff games: 43.6, 54.9, 14.1 points, 5.4 rebounds).
Artest in 40 games as a King that 2005-06: 38.3 percent from the field, 30.2 on three-pointers, 16.9 points, 5.2 rebound, voted first-team All-Defense.
In 2006-07: 70 games, 44 percent, 35.8 on threes, 18.8 points, 6.5 rebounds.
In 2007-08: 57 games, 45.3 percent, 38 on threes, 20.5 points, 5.8 rebounds.
Two other points to consider:
*Stojakovic is about 2.5 years older.
*Stojakovic got $64 million over five years to sign with the Hornets. There's a good chance the Kings would not have been willing to go $12.8 mil annually, but there's also a possibility he would have taken less to stay a King. He loved it here. So Peja may have been gone in the summer of 2006 anyway, by sign-and-trade if not signing outright with Oklahoma City / New Orleans.
That's a lot to consider, even beyond the statistics. Artest's antics make it so, Stojakovic's health and contract make it so. Two-and-a-half seasons later, does it make the trade worthwhile or regrettable?