It’s amazing how so much can change in a short amount of time.
It’s even more amazing when the thing that changes is the reigning defensive player of the year, and a two-time All-NBA third team member.
Following the Malice at the Palace, the world watched as Metta World Peace’s career faced a steady decline and started to fall apart. And while it can be argued that World Peace had a solid three years in Sacramento after leaving the infamous brawl, he wasn’t really the same.
Fast forward eight years since the incident, and World Peace is so degenerated that it’s hard to believe that he was once an All-Star-worthy player. Averaging 7.7 points a game on the season, it seemed as if World Peace was actually living up to his name for once, even winning the Citizenship Award in 2011.
Well, until April 22nd, that is. Hitting James Harden with a ferocious elbow, World Peace was given a seven-game suspension (for now) by the league. Currently in effect, the Lakers will have to play five more games without their 12-year veteran.
When reviewing the elbow, the seven-game ban was actually quite generous, but nonetheless, the Lakers will have to fight their way through without one of their key cogs on defense. It’s well-known that World Peace can score the ball as well—a 26-point outing against San Antonio two weeks ago proves that.
However, World Peace’s value and importance to the Lakers truly starts on the defensive end, especially in one-on-one situations. Opposing players usually find themselves having a tough time trying to score against World Peace; the fact that he’s one of the strongest players in the NBA does nothing but make him more intimidating.
The league may or not extend the suspension of World Peace, but either way, it should be of little significance to the Lakers.
1. Andrew Bynum
When Andrew Bynum wants to, he can be something special on the defensive end. Take Sunday’s game for example.
The problem with Bynum is that, even at 24 years old, he’s still extremely immature and stubborn. If Bynum shows he can play like a grown man during the postseason, let alone the rest of his career, the Lakers will find themselves with the second-best center in the league.
The equation is simple for Andrew Bynum: desire plus maturity equals a defensive presence that will make up for Metta World Peace’s absence.
2. Matt Barnes
Yes, the guy with tattoos all over himself who acts a lot tougher than he actually is—who has proved to be a defensive stopper when he doesn't get caught up on offense. A good defensive performance by Barnes in this year’s postseason will surely fill the void of Metta World Peace.
The Lakers aren’t necessarily a dirty team, yet they find themselves with two players that are: Metta World Peace and Matt Barnes. Both known for their bizarre fouls and trash talking, there will be no loss of toughness or peskiness with World Peace out. Barnes does that pretty well.
3. More Offense
Averaging 7.7 points a game on 39 percent shooting isn’t exactly what the Lakers will need to knock out teams like the Spurs or Thunder. Without World Peace, about seven more shot opportunities will open up for players like, you guessed it, Kobe.
Of the seven shots that Metta World Peace usually takes, only about two will be converted, meaning the Lakers could be more efficient on the offensive end. That is, if Kobe doesn’t decide to take every shot.
When the news of World Peace’s suspension broke out, I wasn’t worried about the Lakers' chances at a title too much, and I’m sure many others felt the same way—including the Lakers organization.